OAKLAND, Calif. — Green cleaning standards, including safer cleaning products, have become a key focus of ongoing negotiations over labor contracts for 650 supermarket janitors working at Save Mart and Safeway stores in Northern California.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1877, which is negotiating with Save Mart Supermarkets and four service contractors employed by Safeway, cites an internal survey showing that conventional cleaning products used by the supermarket janitors have caused them to suffer from a variety of ailments, including skin irritations, respiratory difficulties and possible long-term health problems.
The union has proposed that employers commit to the use of “environmentally friendly chemicals” certified by non-profit group Green Seal. Last week, about 50 janitors staged demonstrations outside of two Safeway stores here, calling on Safeway’s janitorial contractors to implement green cleaning standards.
The janitors “marched, chanted, distributed face masks and leaflets to customers, and talked to them about the dangers of conventional cleaning chemicals,” said Rachele Huennekens, Northern California communications specialist for the SEIU United Service Workers West, which includes Local 1877.
In an email response, Teena Massingill, a spokeswoman for Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway, said, “SEIU is trying to use secondary pressure on the customer, rather than the employer, in their current contract negotiations with the janitorial companies.” Save Mart declined to comment.
ABM Janitorial Services, New York, one of the Safeway contractors, said in a statement, “There are no claims filed by ABM Janitorial Services employees relating to unsafe chemicals under the collective bargaining agreement.” But Huennekens pointed out that the SEIU has not been able to file a grievance because there has been no green cleaning standards provision in the contracts.
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