Workers launch 2-day strike at 7 of the biggest condo buildings in the Twin Cities

By: - October 13, 2022 8:13 pm

Brahim Kone, secretary treasurer of SEIU Local 26, announced a strike vote by desk attendants and caretakers at Twin Cities condos in downtown Minneapolis on Sept. 27, 2022. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Desk attendants and caretakers at seven of the largest condo buildings in the Twin Cities launched a two-day unfair labor practices strike on Thursday night as they seek to unionize with the Service Employees International Union Local 26.

Workers had set an Oct. 11 deadline for their employer FirstService Residential — one of the largest property management companies in North America — to come to the table to negotiate a “fair process” for workers to hold a union election free from interference or harassment.

The union hopes to avoid a lengthy and expensive election with the National Labor Relations Board and wants the company to commit to recognizing the union if a majority of workers sign union cards through a process called “card check.”

“People keep saying we should ‘get a better job,’ but this can and should be a good job. Someone has to do this critical work supporting our residential communities in Minneapolis,” wrote Lena Roth, a Minneapolis desk attendant, in a statement.

The union gave little notice of the strike, announcing on Thursday evening that the walkout would begin later that night.

Calls to FirstService seeking comment were not returned.

The strike will affect the following buildings:

  • 1200 on the Mall
  • Centre Village
  • Grant Park Condos
  • Bridgewater
  • The River Towers
  • Riverview
  • Gallery Tower

If successful, the union could cover as many as 300 workers at condo buildings across the Twin Cities metro area. The workers intend to unionize with SEIU Local 26, which represents 8,000 property service workers across the Twin Cities, including janitors, security guards and high-rise window washers.

FirstService workers launched their campaign to unionize in June, joining a national wave of labor organizing. Desk attendants and caretakers complain of meager wages, worsening benefits and poorly defined job responsibilities.

A shift can include removing trespassers, inspecting mechanicals, cleaning common areas or responding to medical emergencies, even though they’re not trained or equipped to be security guards, maintenance workers or first responders.

Most earn less than $20 an hour with only part-time hours and expensive health benefits.

Last month, workers voted to authorize a strike, saying FirstService has ignored their requests to meet and discuss a process to hold a union election.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Previously, he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.