Hundreds of Janitors & Community Leaders Rally for Good Jobs, a Better Future for Detroit’s 99%

As Detroit-area janitors prepare to bargain a new union contract impacting more than 1,000 workers, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow and Congressman Gary Peters voice their support for the janitors’ contract goals

DETROIT – With their union contract set to expire July 31, hundreds of Detroit-area janitors and community leaders rallied at the SEIU Local 1 Union Hall in Detroit. The janitors and their supporters called on the richest 1% to do their part to create and protect good middle class jobs for Detroit. The convention kicked off the janitors’ contract negotiations, which begin in mid-May and impact more than 1,000 janitors in SEIU Local 1 and their families.

“The richest 1% in Detroit have been helping themselves to bigger and bigger profits while Detroit neighborhoods suffer from poverty wages and neglect,” said Tom Balanoff, President of SEIU Local 1. “Big corporations made billions last year – now is the time for them to create good middle class jobs for Detroit and help build an economy that works for all of us.”

With half of Detroit’s children living in poverty, Detroit’s working families are working harder than ever to secure a better future that seems further out of reach every day. Yet Detroit is home to 92,100 millionaires, and the 15 Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Detroit made $33 billion in profits last year.

“There used to be a time when I could go on vacation, but now I can’t,” says Emmanuel Taylor, a janitor at the McNamara Terminal in the Detroit Metro Airport. “People are losing their jobs. Houses are falling down and no one is doing anything. That is why we all have to stick together and improve working people’s lives.”

Detroit’s janitors clean offices, industrial plants, airports and city buildings. They clean buildings of major corporations such as JP Morgan Chase, General Electric, Ford and General Motors. The janitors make just $22,817 annually on average – an income so low that many qualify for food and housing assistance.

“We will never succeed as a nation unless everyone has a fair shot at achieving the dream that we all hold sacred,” said U.S. Congressman Gary Peters. “But an America without a middle class is nothing more than a nightmare for hundreds of thousands hard working families who just want an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.”

Bargaining a new union contract with fair wage increases will enable Detroit janitors to provide for their families, but that alone won’t restore balance to the economy. That’s why Detroit janitors are joining with workers across the city, with clergy and community leaders, and with the rest of the 99% to call on banks and corporate executives to do their part to fix our economy—to create good jobs, raise wages, and pay their fair share in taxes.

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SEIU Local 1 unites 50,000 property service workers in the central United States, including janitors, security officers and residential doormen.  Together we work to build strength for all working people, on the job and in our communities.

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