Union Janitors March For Fair Wages, Equal Pay For Women [Progress Illinois]

By: Brandon Campbell

Hundreds of janitors from SEIU Local 1, joined by women’s rights activists and other supporters, rallied outside the Chicago Board of Trade building Thursday afternoon.

In an effort to tie pending contract negotiations with International Women’s Day and women’s equality issues, such as equal pay for equal work, the group is demanding “fair wage increases.”

“Women today are still paid just 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts are paid,” said Aleksandra Figus, who has been a janitor for 28 years. “But unionization raises female workers’ wages by $2 an hour.”

In a press release, the group said they also want Illinois’ corporations to create more jobs, while raising wages and rejecting tax breaks.

At about 4 p.m. after the first of hundreds of supporters came together outside of the Board of Trade building at Jackson and LaSalle Streets, the group, aided by traffic support from the Chicago Police, marched to Willis Tour.

Supporters waved yellow and blue SEIU* flags and carried signs with slogans such as “I will take a pay cut when a CEO cleans my toilet.”
Thursday’s rally came as SEIU Local 1 officials began contract negotiations on behalf of its 13,000 janitorial employees this week.

During the rally, Nell McNamara, an SEIU spokesperson, told Progress Illinois that the union’s contract is slated for renegotiation every three years. She said the union workers typically get the raises in pay and benefits they’re looking for, but those increases pale in comparison to other industries.

“The top CEOs make more in just one day than janitors do in a year,” said Elizabeth Deshazo, who has worked as a janitor at 150 North Clinton for about 18 years.

Across the street from Willis Tower, Deshazo asked the crowd if that seemed fair, to which they responded “No.”

Here’s more form the rally:

This isn’t the first rally the group has held on this issue. The gathering of janitors held similar functions in February, which brought out 3,000 supporters, and back in September, when supporters in 22 cities across the country joined to rally for fair wages.

“We’re the ones who make America work,” said SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff at the end of the rally. “And the janitors are here to say we will not settle our contract until our benefits are protected, and we get a real wage increase with real money in our pockets.”

The janitors’ contract is scheduled to expire on April 8.

* The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors thsi web site.


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