DIA janitors will launch strike Friday as contract expires without a deal

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The canopy over Denver International Airport’s Jeppesen Terminal, reflected in the Westin Hotel’s windows on June 4, 2021.

Updated Sept. 30, 2021, at 5:48 p.m.

About 350 Denver International Airport janitors will officially go on strike after their union failed to negotiate a new contract with their employer by the Thursday night deadline.

The strike begins Friday at noon. It's unclear how long it will last, but it's contingent on the union reaching some sort of agreement with Flagship Facility Services. Airport officials have not specified whether they will staff the airport with non-union janitors during the strike.

The union voted Wednesday to authorize a strike if negotiations faltered. About 99 percent of the ballots cast voted in favor.

Our original story follows below.

A group of 350 janitors at Denver International Airport may authorize its first strike as contract negotiations with their employer falter. Their current three-year contract with Flagship Facility Services, a city contractor based in California, expires Thursday, and the bargaining committee has yet to agree on a new contract.

A union representative said Flagship isn’t meeting the workers’ demands for a higher salary. The janitors, who are organized under the Service Employees International Union, currently make $17 an hour.

“We’ve built our lives and our careers at these jobs, but putting yourself at risk every day for wages that can’t even pay the rent isn’t what most people would consider a good job,” Guillermo Booz said in a statement.

They said they deserve a higher wage after over a year of working during a pandemic, which has fueled a more intense focus on sanitation at the airport and the connected Westin hotel.  

Union members began a three-day strike voting process Monday. If a majority of the union votes to authorize a strike, they can launch one once the contract expires Thursday. The two parties have until then to reach an agreement. 

“Flagship has agreed to bargain during that day as well,” David Fernandez, a spokesperson with the SEIU said. “So if an agreement can be reached on Thursday, a strike is not necessary. It's obviously the last thing these janitors want to have to do.”

Even if union members vote for a strike, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll immediately walk off the job. The vote will also act as a bargaining chip on the final day of negotiations, which may impact how Flagship responds to union demands. 

CPR News reached out to Flagship for a comment, but has yet to receive a response. DIA officials urged the company and union to reach an agreement soon.

“We believe they can resolve their differences. In the meantime, we are working closely with Flagship to minimize any disruption in service,” a DIA spokesperson said in an email. The airport did not say whether they intend to bring in non-union labor if a strike occurs. 

A janitorial strike would add to growing staffing issues affecting DIA. Two parking lots at the airport have been closed for over a year due to a lack of shuttle drivers, and a national shortage of security workers has caused long delays for many travelers.