Danny Glover, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Rep. Al Green: “We Will Establish Task Force to Protect First Amendment Rights of Houston’s Janitors”

IMAGES ATTACHED: Danny Glover with janitors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 1, 2012
CONTACT: Paloma Martinez, 832.493.4839, martinezp@seiu1.org

Danny Glover, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Rep. Al Green: “We Will Establish Task Force to Protect First Amendment Rights of Houston’s Janitors”

Coalition to Include Members of Congress, Famed Civil Rights Activist Sissy Farenthold –

HOUSTON, TX – Earlier today, following a meeting with three Houston janitors, civil rights activist and famed actor Danny Glover called upon Houston civil rights, faith and elected leaders to establish a task force to protect the First Amendment rights of Houston’s janitors. Glover’s visit to Houston comes at a critical moment as national and international attention increasingly focuses on the plight of Houston’s janitors, the majority of whom make just $9,000 annually.

“We have to decide what kind of country we are going to be. As citizens, it is our duty and responsibility to stand up for a living wage, to make this change and take this country back,” Glover told the crowd. “Yes, we may be talking about just 3,400 janitors, but we know it is much bigger than Houston. At the same time that corporations are reporting record profits, janitors are not making a living wage.”

“The revitalization of unions is vital to the fight for better wages,” Glover continued.

Houston’s janitors, who are paid just $8.35 an hour, have asked for a modest raise to $10, to be phased in over four years. However, despite one of the strongest real estate markets in the country, Houston’s building owners and cleaning contractors have insisted on suppressing the janitors’ wages, offering a raise of just 50 cents, phased in over five years.

“We will not stand by while the first amendment rights of Houston janitors are violated,” Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) told the crowd. “I am here today to announce that we will call upon a task force of observers to protect Houston’s janitor’s right to protest.”

Houston has been named the nation’s “#1Millionaire City” for annual growth in millionaires by Forbes Magazine. Last year, the city’s 15 largest employers reaped more than $178 billion in profits –more than 50% increase over the previous year. Despite this, Texas is tied with Mississippi for the highest proportion of minimum wage jobs in the nation, and in Houston alone, one in five make less than$10 per hour.

“Who would want to work in a dirty office or eat in a dirty kitchen,” Alice McAfee, a Houston janitor, asked the crowd. “We are paid so little that we have to choose between turning on the air conditioning and eating that day. That’s not the Houston we know and love.”

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