Thousands of Cleaners in New York City Commemorate Historic Fight for Janitors

Amity Paye (617) 504-4492; Carolina González (929) 287-4263

Thousands of Cleaners in New York City Commemorate Historic Fight for Janitors

Justice for Janitors events across the country highlight and support struggle of low-wage workers to improve their lives.

 New York  – Thousands of 32BJ SEIU commercial office cleaners in New York and along the East Coast — from Stamford, Connecticut to Washington, D.C. – rallied today to commemorate a key moment in the historic Justice for Janitors fight that took place 29 years ago. The Justice for Janitors campaign has transformed the janitorial industry by raising wages and benefits for hundreds of thousands of cleaners across the country. The cleaners were joined by fast food workers and elected leaders.

The nationwide rallies commemorated a protest on June 15, 1990, in which a group of Los Angeles janitors took on the fight for fairness on their jobs. They were severely beaten by police during a peaceful protest, and the event strengthened the resolve of janitors and cleaners to improve their lives and uplift their communities, improving wages and conditions in other industry and similar industries.

“We are America’s janitors. We are of all races and from all places. We work hard day after day to make sure that millions of offices, schools and hospital rooms are safe and clean for all who use them,” said Richard Velasquez, who works as a cleaner at 11 West 42nd Street and has been a union member for 25 years. “We are proud to come out together for Justice for Janitors Day, and for 32BJ’s week of power, fighting so all workers can see their contributions recognized and so we all share the same freedoms to work hard and join a union without fear of deportation or losing our jobs.”

In New York, nearly three thousand cleaners dressed in purple and carrying signs and balloons with union insignia marched on Sixth Avenue from Rockefeller Center and Herald Square to Bryant Park, and from Zuccotti Park in the Financial District to Bowling Green.

“Every year, it’s very important for us to remember those who have sacrificed to advance the Justice for Janitors movement,” said Héctor Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU. “The women and men work hard, often unnoticed, and they were the original Fight for $15 warriors, fighting tirelessly for better wages and working conditions to sustain their families. We want to show that we can win similar struggles, in fast food, in health care and in security industries.”

Up and down the East Coast, some 75,000 men and women who are members of 32BJ SEIU work hard, often unnoticed, maintaining downtown and suburban office buildings at many iconic landmarks like Philadelphia City Hall, the Empire State Building, U.S. Steel Headquarters, and the Pentagon.

“Janitors are the unsung heroes of our city. They keep our buildings clean and safe but they don’t always get the respect they deserve. Thankfully, 32BJ is fighting for their rights in contract negotiations to guarantee a fair wage. I am proud to stand with 32BJ and with all labor to fight for the working women and men. Together we are stronger,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“I stand with our hard working janitors as we commemorate the Justice for Janitors movement,” saidCouncil Member Adrienne Adams. “We must continue to come together in the fight for fair pay and proper working conditions for workers across all industries.”

“Our hardworking commercial cleaners are the foundation of the local economy and most importantly, they have the right to equal pay and benefits that allow them to support their families,” said Council Member Mathieu Eugene. “Our cleaners deserve a new contract that is fair and reflects the dedication they have to their jobs and the great city of New York.”   

Commemorative events are taking place in more than 30 cities nationwide during the week to celebrate decades of building justice. More than 134,000 janitors, in 33 cities, will bargain contracts over the next two years across the country.

Cleaners in New York are scheduled to begin negotiations with employers this summer. Their contract expires December 31, 2019.


With 175,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.

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