A strike by thousands of member of the Connecticut and New York State building cleaners union has been averted, said Franklin Soults, senior communications associate for Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union.

Soults said in an email that a union bargaining committee representing more than 3,000 janitors in Fairfield County and the lower Hudson Valley, New York, reached a tentative contract agreement Monday with an industry group representing cleaning contractors and building owners, therefore averting a strike after Dec. 31.

“We are pleased and proud to have reached a strong tentative agreement today,” said Lenore Friedlaender, assistant to the president of 32BJ SEIU and head of the union in the Hudson Valley, in a statement. “This four-year deal gives 3,000 men and women a solid wage increase, maintains their high quality, employer-paid benefits, and makes important rule changes that will improve communication and respect on the job, including providing clear language on prohibiting sexual harassment.”

Demanding better pay and pensions, some 400 Fairfield County workers had turned out and voted to authorize a possible strike at a Dec. 14 meeting in Stamford. Votes for workers in Hartford and New Haven counties yielded the same results, but the union ratified a new contract covering those counties Saturday, Soults said.

The strike could have affected any of almost 90 percent of large office buildings in the region, including Westchester Financial Center, IBM, and Pepsi Cola in the Hudson Valley, and 1 Landmark Square, the Stamford Government Center, and Sikorsky Aircraft in Fairfield County, according to the union.

A call seeking comment was placed with Matt Ellis, spokesman for the contractors negotiating with the union.

The day the strike was authorized, Ellis shared a statement on the bargaining process.

“The association [of contractors] is seeking a fair and reasonable agreement with the union for its employees and customers,” Ellis said. “The association is hopeful that it will reach an agreement before Dec. 31, 2019 through good-faith collective bargaining negotiations with the union.”

More than 100 members turned up at a rally in Stamford last Wednesday to make speak out for their cause, said Soults.

“This agreement will make a real difference in the lives of our members and is reasonable for the employers in the region,” Friedlaender said. “Our members proudly work hard to make Fairfield County and the Hudson Valley a great place to work, study, shop, and live.”

The union sought better wages and pensions in the new contract, said union Vice President Juan Hernandez, adding earlier Monday that he was happy with the result of negotiations for New Haven and Hartford.

The cleaning contractors agreed to raise wages by 50 cents an hour for New Haven County workers, and by 40 cents an hour for Hartford County workers, Hernandez said. Those raises will recur each year for the four-year duration of the contract, he said.

Pay for workers in New Haven County had been lower than for those in Hartford county, which accounts for the discrepancy in the upcoming raises, Hernandez noted.

Members of Local 32 BJ service hundreds of buildings across Connecticut.

“Their [the workers’] daily efforts are essential to the extraordinary prosperity of our entire state, helping corporate headquarters, major office buildings and commercial centers shine,” Hernandez said in a statement issued prior to the Dec. 14 strike votes. “These men and women themselves, however, often remain invisible...But on (at the rallies would) raise their voices to let contractors and building owners know that they will not be shut out of the economic success they helped build.”

Hernandez said the union’s members are happy with the New Haven and Hartford agreement.

But he said earlier Monday that for workers in Fairfield County and the Hudson Valley, “If we don’t get an agreement today, then we go on strike.” Hernandez said that the bargaining committee had the right to call the strike any time next year.

“We’re ready to go,” he said early Monday.

Connecticut Media Group