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Denver airport janitors hit the picket line

About 350 airport janitors walked off the job Friday, the Service Employees International Union said.

DENVER — About 350 janitors who work at Denver International Airport walked off the job Friday morning.

The janitors are members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 105. They work for contractor Flagship Facility Services and its subcontractors, not for the airport itself. 

The previous contract between the janitors and Flagship expired Thursday night. The union said the strike comes after weeks of negotiations.

The union said the janitors' pay is too low, and the pandemic made their workloads worse. 

"The janitors, who are a majority people of color and immigrants in our community, say that the low pay is only worsening the staffing shortages at the airport, and the strike is their response to a lack of an agreement to show Flagship their determination for improved wages and working conditions," the union said in a release. 

“We put ourselves at risk every day to keep this airport running through COVID,” said Densley Philbert, a janitor at DIA. “We are sick of being understaffed, overworked, underpaid, and undervalued for our work. We are ready to do what it takes for our families, including going on strike, to get the fair wages and respect we deserve for the services we provide.”

Flagship Facility Services said it in a statement released Thursday that they hoped the union would reconsider the strike.

"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," the company 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."

Denver International Airport, meanwhile, said they are working to minimize impacts to passengers.

"We urge our contractor Flagship, and our janitors’ union to come to agreement quickly," the airport said in a statement. "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 [DIA] and our passengers."

Several companies that provide services at DIA are currently dealing with staffing shortages. A shortage of TSA employees has led to long security lines, and two of the airport's parking lots remain closed due to a shortage of shuttle drivers. 

RELATED: Long DIA security lines: One less PreCheck lane, no way to pre-check wait times

RELATED: DIA's closed parking lots could mean millions in lost revenue in the holiday travel season

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