Janitors In Washington D.C. And Seven Other Cities To Honor Houston Janitors’ Strike

Janitors In Washington D.C. And Seven Other Cities To Honor Houston Janitors’ Strike

Washington, DC – Starting today, the Houston janitors’ unfair labor practices strike will spread to 8 cities across the United States, including here in Washington, D.C. SEIU Local 1 janitors are fanning out around the country to establish picket lines against their janitorial contractors in Washington D.C., Seattle, San Ramon and Oakland in California, Minneapolis and Boston, followed on Thursday in Los Angeles and Denver. 32BJ SEIU members are honoring picket lines today at 1300 I Street, NW.

In addition, janitors and their supporters in more than a dozen cities across the U.S. and Canada will rally this week. SEIU represents more than 150,000 janitors in the United States.

As the Houston strike heads into its second week, more than 400 janitors in 18 buildings are on strike and it is expected to grow next week. Already, the strike has garnered local and national support including activist/actor Danny Glover, Rep. Al Green (D-TX), Rep. Gene Green (D-TX), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Fiorenza and NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous. Earlier this month, Glover joined Green and Jackson Lee to announce the establishment of a task force to protect the janitor’s first amendment rights, while Jealous lifted the plight of the janitors’ during his keynote address at the NAACP Convention in Houston on Monday.

“Janitors in Houston are suffering through no fault of their own just like too many workers around our country,” said Jaime Contreras, Capital Area Director for 32BJ SEIU. “The gap between the richest 1% and working families is growing every day. It’s going to take bold action to rebuild our country’s middle class.”

The Houston janitors’ union contract expired on May 31st. While in bargaining with their employers, janitors asked for a modest raise from $8.35 per hour to $10 per hour to be phased in over four years. Janitorial contractors responded by offering a raise of just $.50 over five years – an almost certain promise that janitors will continue to live in poverty. When janitors refused to accept this offer, they were met with harassment and intimidation by their employers. This prompted workers to call a city-wide strike on July 11th in response to unfair treatment.

Just like here in Washington, D.C., Houston janitors clean the offices of some of the richest corporations in the world yet they struggle to make ends meet. In Houston that includes profitable corporations like Chevron, Hines, Brookfield, Shell Oil, and JP Morgan. Despite record profits and inflated CEO pay, janitors who clean Houston’s office buildings are paid just $9,000 a year.

The Houston commercial real estate market is the best performing market in the US in terms of demand. Average commercial rental rates in Houston are higher than rates in Chicago, for example, where janitors are paid more than 3 times as much annually as Houston janitors.

As the largest union of security officers, 32BJ SEIU has raised the industry’s wage, benefit and training standards in New York, Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. With more than 120,000 members in nine states, including 16,000 in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.



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