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Janitors rally for better pay, hours

Contract is set to end Aug. 31

The estimated 500 unionized janitors who marched yesterday also demanded better healthcare benefits. The estimated 500 unionized janitors who marched yesterday also demanded better healthcare benefits. (JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF)

A long line of several hundred men, women, and children snaked through Downtown Crossing and the Financial District yesterday afternoon. The marchers waved purple and yellow flags and chanted "yes we can" in Spanish as they passed the shops and businesses where some of them work.

They were janitors, accompanied by friends and loved ones, and they were pushing for higher wages, more hours, and better healthcare benefits, before their contract expires Aug. 31.

The janitors are members of Service Employers International Union Local 615, which represents approximately 10,000 janitors in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

Antonio Barbosa, 55, a janitor at the State Transportation Building in Boston for five years, is given four hours of work a day, hardly enough to support his family, he said.

"This contract is important to me, because we need more hours, better pay, and more benefits, so we can feed our families," Barbosa, who was born in Columbia and has lived in Roxbury for the past 11 years, said through an interpreter.

Marching with a small flag in one hand and a messenger bag slung over her shoulder, Rosalia Minas, 41, said she is barely able to support her two children on her part-time job cleaning a building in the Financial District and had to pick up a second job.

"They pay us too little, and the hours are not enough," said Minas, a janitor in Boston for 17 years. Born in Guatemala, Minas lives in Chelsea. Echoing the opinion of other marchers, she said she would be willing to strike if contract negotiations fall through.

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