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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — They clean the toilets, vacuum the floors, and take out the garbage. They are janitors. And on Thursday the Kansas City Council passed a special resolution urging building owners to include paid sick days as a part of an upcoming union contract.

The lack of paid sick time has been a huge issue, highlighted during the height of the pandemic.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 is also pushing for higher wages and meaningful benefits, but that paid sick time issue is a real sticking point to these employees who have hygiene as a part of their job description.

SEIU Local 1 represents about 1,200 workers in Kansas City, including Sandy Hinson, who described herself as an “old firecracker” at the podium of a rally event outside City Hall.

“We’re not worried about the heat cause we’re cool right now cause we’ve got good stuff coming at us, okay?” Hinson said.

“I do the work that a lot of the young people wouldn’t do because it’s cleaning bathrooms,” she said, laughing. “And sweeping floors and picking up nasty debris off the sidewalks.”

“I remember the last past winter I was one of two people there doing everything,” Hinson said.

“Right now we don’t have the full staff we had before the COVID,” she said.

She works at Crown Center. She said she has been there more than 20 years. And the COVID-issues she describes are a reality for all of the workers assembled at the event.

“Not one janitor in Kansas City was able to take a paid sick day. Not one. That is criminal and we’ve got to change it,” Chris Rak, Missouri Director of SEIU Local 1, said.

Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas and Council Members Kevin O’Neill and Ryana Parks-Shaw also spoke in support of the unions demands.

“It’s time for us not to just say that we’re happy to meet with you. It’s time for us to pass ordinances that support you, laws that support you, money that supports you, and a city and a state that supports you,” Lucas said.

The resolution — unanimously approved by the city council — supports the union in-spirit. However, it is certainly no guarantee that demands will be met.

“If you say, ‘Oh, I’m nothing because I do this and I do that,’ that’s not true. You the best there is,” Hinson said.

“Better pay will help me and will also help my co-workers. I make $11.50 an hour. I’ve been there for 25 years. So what does that say?” Hinson said.

Hinson said she currently has to sell baked goods on the side to make ends meet.

Union leadership said contract negotiations will be moving forward as the janitor contracts are ending in June.

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