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Commercial office cleaners march in Wilmington for $15 hourly wage

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

Union organizers say the more than 800 cleaners represented by 32BJ SEIU in Delaware clean the offices of billion-dollar bank and credit card companies in Wilmington and New Castle County — but struggle to pay their own bills.


Union officials say most of these cleaners earn $12 to $13 an hour. They hope to make gains through their next contract negotiation, which begins in January.

They marched from Rodney Square to the city-county building in Wilmington Thursday to demand a fifteen dollar an hour wage. 

“These workers, when they [first] organized ... over ten years ago, they were being paid minimum wage,” said 32BJ SEIU Mid-Atlantic Director Daisy Cruz. “These are minimum wage jobs. And we were able to lift up the wages there but now they’re fighting for fifteen. Knowing that nowadays, you have to be making at least $25 to $27 an hour for just a single parent to take care of their basic needs with one child, these workers are fighting for $15 an hour. ”

Delaware’s current minimum wage is $9.25, up from $8.75 earlier this year.  

Movement toward a statewide minimum wage of $15 could resume in the state Senate next year. A bill gradually raising the state’s minimum wage to $15 was introduced by State Sen. Darius Brown this year, but did not come to a vote.  

“It was voted out of the Senate Labor Committee and a fiscal note was put on it,” said Brown. “We look forward to returning in January and working with members of the Delaware State Senate, the Governor’s office, the private sector- private sector employers and also nonprofits on the impacts of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.”

The bill would raise staffing costs in the state budget, as roughly 3,000 state employees currently make below $15 an hour. 

Brown says this means the bill will start in the Joint Finance Committee in January, where funds will need to be appropriated to pay for the increased costs. He expects the bill could come to a vote late in the session. 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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