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Unionized Janitors Sign 4-Year Contract With 3.5% Raise

Unionized janitors who picketed in recent months in downtown San Diego and University City announced today the ratification of a four-year contract that will give them a 3.5 percent raise.

One of the job actions by the janitors blocked La Jolla Village Drive for a short time a few weeks ago. The protests came during protracted negotiations with contractors who put janitors to work cleaning businesses around San Diego, including biotech firms.

Sandra Diaz, a coordinator with Service Employees International Union, United Service Workers West, said janitors who work in suburban buildings will receive health care for their families beginning in the final year of the deal.

That will put them on par with those who clean downtown facilities, who already receive the benefit, she said.

Diaz said the contract will cover around 1,800 janitors.

Lorena Gonzalez, chief executive officer of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, said it was difficult to reach an agreement because of the three-way nature of negotiations between the workers, contractors and businesses where the janitors do cleaning. Heads of the companies where the janitors work generally don't have contact with them and were unaware of the issues, she said.

Letters and telephone calls from San Diego Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, and City Council members David Alvarez and Marti Emerald "provided the extra push we needed at the end to complete this contract,'' Gonzalez said.

Fletcher, who developed numerous contacts within San Diego's biotech industry during his unsuccessful mayoral campaign, was particularly helpful toward the end of negotiations, according to Gonzalez.

The labor leader said the janitors authorized a strike, if necessary, on June 2 but negotiators for the two sides began to pound out their tentative agreement two days later.

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