15 janitors graduate from first-of-its-kind English language program in Minneapolis

In a contract and personal victory both, 15 janitors graduated from a fully funded English language program Saturday.

The janitors and their families celebrated at Logan Park Saturday after three months of classes learning English. The classes focused on English language skills for janitors working in downtown Minneapolis; they were 1-hour classes, four days a week. That time was all paid.

"They feel less fear of speaking the English," instructor Nadia Smith said. "They feel more power to communicate with others. And also, I think it’s a way to be more immersed in this country."

The classes also empower people to use conversational English outside of work — like at the doctor’s office — an instructor said.

Following negotiations, the SEIU Local 26 union won an employer-management program contract after a 2020 janitors strike that funded the classes.

The paid training program was the first of its kind in Minneapolis.