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DENVER (KDVR) — Denver International Airport custodial workers who walked off the job to demand livable wages will return to work Saturday and continue negotiations.

The Service Employees International Union Local 105 announced its 350 members on strike would be back on the job starting Saturday at 6 a.m.

The union said it would also resume negotiations with Flagship Facility Services, the airport contractor who manages their work.

The workers launched the strike on Friday morning after 99% of its union membership voted Wednesday in favor of the action.

Staffing shortages blamed on unfair wages

The workers said they need more money for the jobs they have upheld during the entire pandemic, but their company said they already made the janitors a deal that turned down.

Janitors at Friday’s demonstration told us they get paid about $17 an hour. However, they say that is not enough for the work they do to keep the airport up and running.

“It’s been extra work, but we still have extra jobs so we still have a lot of workload. We don’t have enough people because we don’t get a fair wage,” said Tikdem Asacbaha, a janitor who’s been working at the airport for 18 years.

The company wouldn’t confirm the number of shortages they have or an average worker salary, but they did tell us they are disappointed the union rejected their final offer.

“We’re disappointed that the union has turned down our final offer for an agreement that would have protected and improved wages and provided very generous fringe benefits for our valued employees,” Flagship said in a statement. “We hope the union will reconsider. In the meantime, we are prepared to serve the public at Denver International Airport to uphold a clean and safe environment and quality service for travelers in the interim.”

Their final offer included:

  • a 4% raise over the next three years;
  • a $350 bonus paid to workers this upcoming February;
  • covering 100% of the health care premiums for workers;
  • and an extra floating holiday.

A 2021 report found Coloradans need to make $27.50 an hour in order to spend no more than the guideline 30% of net income on rent in Colorado.

The airport has stayed neutral through the strike, saying in a statement:

“We urge our contractor Flagship, and our janitors’ union to come to agreement quickly. We believe they can resolve their differences. In the meantime, we are working closely with Flagship to minimize any disruption in service and impacts to DEN and our passengers.”

Janitor strike inspires other airport workers

Janitors aren’t the only ones striking. Their boycott is inspiring airport workers to raise their voices too.

“United we stand. That’s why we are here today. United we make a difference. United we move mountains. And united we help each other,” said Gail Tipton, a Global Airport Parking employee. She said their contract expires in 15 days.

“We are here supporting the janitors, hoping that when our time comes if we have to do the same thing, they will be here supporting us,” Tipton said. “We are here trying to make a difference and let the airport know that we are essential workers. And we are underpaid, under-respected, and the 2% they are offering us won’t pay our rent.”