Pittsburgh – An important time in Pittsburgh’s history and for the labor union was commemorated today. It was 30 years ago: janitors in the city took a stand for themselves and pushed back against building owners and contractors who tried to cut their wages and benefits. That fight resembles that of nearly 1,000 security officers in the city who are bargaining for their first ever contract and fast food workers who are fighting for $15 and the right to organize. The three groups came together in a powerful show of solidarity this afternoon at the City County building as they all remembered the historic fight that started in the Steel City.
“It was critical for us to win that fight,” said Billy Joe Jordan, a strong supporter of the 1985 lockout, former janitor and former President of Local 29. “These big businesses were trying to knock the union out completely. We couldn’t have that happen because it could have spread across the country.”
“At the time, I didn’t know what the union was. I just got hired on the job. After that historic lockout, I understood why people must fight. You have to stand up and fight for what you believe in or no one else will,” said Hermaine Delaney, former Western Pennsylvania Area Leader, 32BJ SEIU.
The fight 30 years ago was a turning point for the labor movement. It helped create good jobs, professionalize the commercial cleaning industry and allowed people to make family sustaining wages. As Pittsburgh served as the starting point for this movement, security guards and fast food workers are just as determined to do the same.
“The right to organize started with a handful of security officers last summer. Now, it’s close to 1,000 of us at the bargaining table. This fight will lift us up and allow us to support our families and our communities. I do it for my two daughters,” said Maria Centeno, a security officer.
“We are making strides in this fight. People thought when we started demanding more we wouldn’t get this far. But look at the movement in New York with today’s wage board hearing, they are so close to earning $15. It’s almost a reality for them and for Pittsburghers who work in the fast food industry,” said Lolene Germany a fast food worker.
During the program, a proclamation was also presented from Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak (D-4th) proclaiming June 15th-18th Justice for Janitors week.
“I am proud to support the commitment and hard work of these janitors and applaud them for their leadership 30 years ago,” said Natalia Rudiak (D-4th). “Today, I am proud to stand with them, and those still fighting for good wages and a union, like security officers and fast food workers. I stand with the fast food workers in their fight for $15. It’s the right thing to do and it will raise up our entire city and our communities.”
With 145,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 22,000 in Pennsylvania, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.