UAF picketing

The UAF janitorial staff, represented by Laborer’s Local 942, pickets outside the university for better wages. Currently, starting pay is $12 an hour. Courtesy John Corbett

Custodial workers in Fairbanks are vying for higher wages as their contract negotiations have carried on throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year, the University of Alaska Fairbanks janitorial staff organized for collective bargaining.

The group has been in contract negotiations since November. Starting pay for these workers is currently $12 an hour, but they’re looking for increases across the board, according to labor organizer John Corbett.

Corbett works with Laborers Local 942, which represents the workers, who are contracted with ABM Industries. ABM provides facility management services to various organizations.

“We’re asking for an acceptable, fair wage for custodial workers. Anywhere else in this town has a starting pay that’s more, where they pay more and have better step increases,” Corbett said.

Some of the first cases of coronavirus were at UAF, Corbett added, noting that the custodial staff are “frontline essential workers” for whom they are seeking higher wages.

They’re also advocating for more benefits such as paid holidays and time off as well as medical care plans

Last week, the ABM custodians gathered to picket outside of UAF. They were joined by labor representatives from four unions in Fairbanks and non-union members who wanted to support the custodians, according to Corbett.

“Well, we just, with everything that’s been going on between COVID-19, having these workers up there as frontline essential workers and not being able to achieve fair wages for them, the support has been growing around the community,” he said.

ABM Industries was unable to respond to a request for comment by press time.

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