Members of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 6,500 Twin Cities janitors and security guards, vote to authorize a strike at SEIU Local 26 headquarters in Minneapolis on Saturday. Matt Sepic | MPR News

Thousands of janitors and security guards who work in Twin Cities retail stores and office buildings may go on strike amid protracted contract negotiations with multiple employers.

At a meeting Saturday in Minneapolis, members of the Service Employees International Union voted to authorize a walkout if the two sides can't reach a deal — however, that does not mean a strike is certain. The two sides continue to negotiate.

SEIU Local 26 President Iris Altamirano said a key issue is sick time.

City ordinances in Minneapolis and St. Paul mandate six sick days a year. But Altamirano said workers elsewhere in the metro get half that under their recently-expired contract.

"A worker who has more than one year on the job gets three sick days. And so when you're trying to find the difference, it's really three days that the companies need to come up with," she said.

Altamirano said negotiators also remain far apart on wages. For security guards, she said the union is seeking a $2-an-hour annual raise in each of the contract's four years, but the employers are proposing an 81-cent raise over that entire period.

Attorney John Nesse represents the cleaning contractors, and he said Saturday that they're disappointed with the vote.

"We have been meeting with the union since November," he said. "They have over 100 proposed changes to the contract that remain open at this point. We do expect to make significant progress in the near future."

Nesse said four bargaining sessions are scheduled in the next two weeks.

Saturday's vote follows a separate strike vote on Friday by about 1,800 SEIU members who work at HealthPartners facilities.

They voted to begin a seven-day strike if a contract agreement is not reached by Feb. 19.

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