Talks 'cordial' as janitors weigh Center City strike: Update

Some 2,600 Philadelphia janitors and office-tower cleaners plan a 1 pm vote Wednesday in Dilworth Plaza next to City Hall on whether to authorize a strike that would idle janitorial crews at Liberty Place, the Commerce Center, Commerce Square and 100 more Center City buildings, according to Wayne MacManiman, regional director for Service Employees International Union Local 32-BJ.

Why strike? MacManiman cited a lack of progress on contract talks over the past three weeks in advance of the workers' Oct. 15 contract deadline. Under the current contract, wages start around $12 an hour for workers at ABM Industries Inc., Arthur Jackson Co. and Shellville Facility Services.

A separate contract covering workers in suburban Philadelphia expires later this year, said union spokesman Eugenio Villasante.

UPDATE: Statement from Building Owners Labor Relations Inc. president Robert Martin:  “We have had three meetings to date with union representatives. Meetings have been cordial; both sides have explained their positions and negotiations are underway. Another session is scheduled for October 5th and talks will continue throughout the following week.

"With regard to Wednesday’s rally by members of Local 32BJ, Mr. Martin said, “We understand and acknowledge the union’s right to rally and march. We appreciate that members have support in the community. Wednesday’s events should not affect our contract talks. We remain confident that a contract agreement can be reached, before the October 15th deadline, that is acceptable to both sides."