10 arrested in Downtown protest supporting striking janitors

By
  • Tom Dodge | Dispatch
    Columbus police officers arrest Kenyon College professor Edward Schortman after he and other demonstrators staged a sit-in inside the lobby of the Fifth Third Center on E. State Street.
  • Tom Dodge | Dispatch
    Columbus Police escort Claire Pollard out of the Fifth Third Center, 21 E State St., following her arrest during a protest in support of striking central Ohio janitors.

October 17, 2013

Ten people were arrested in the Fifth Third Center Downtown yesterday while protesting in support of striking central Ohio janitors.

The 10 — none of whom was a janitor — chanted in the lobby of the building for about 15 minutes before Columbus police arrived. Officers explained to the protesters that they were being arrested on charges of criminal trespassing, and they allowed themselves to be detained with plastic zip-ties.

The protesters were issued citations with court dates and quickly released outside the building. About a dozen janitors on strike cheered outside.

Janitors at the Fifth Third Center, at 21 E. State St., and at the School Employees Retirement System of Ohio, 300 E. Broad St., walked off the job on Tuesday afternoon.

Their union, the Service Employees International Union Local 1, has been trying to negotiate a new contract with the Columbus Area Service Contractors Association, which represents seven cleaning companies. The union represents about 1,000 janitorial workers in central Ohio.

The companies, led by New York-based ABM, stopped negotiating on Sept. 30, said Tyler French, a union coordinator. The current contract guarantees that 80 percent of janitorial positions are full time, and full-time employees receive health insurance, according to the union.

The companies propose changing the full-time guarantee to just 15 percent of janitorial positions, according to the union.

The workers who walked off their jobs on Tuesday will be back at work today, French said.

“We have hopes that after this, we’ll get a contract done,” he said.

The Service Contractors Association said in an email that it is committed to reaching an agreement in the best interest of all parties.

“Over the last two years of the collective bargaining agreement, many of our employees have received wage increases totaling over 18%, as well as paid vacation and holiday time and other benefits,” the statement read.

“The union’s latest proposal failed to recognize these prior substantial increases received by employees. We recognize that, in these economic times, customers need to manage costs very carefully.”

jeb.phillips@dispatch.com