The number of striking workers continued to swell today as janitors at 9 more buildings joined the strike. The workers have called the strike to protest employer’s unfair conduct. The strike is expected to continue to escalate and could possibly spread to other cities.
“We’re striking because we have no other option,” said janitor Lidia Aguillon. “We can’t make ends meet on what we are paid, and when we stand up for ourselves, we’re punished and harassed.” Aguillon and her coworkers from Williams Tower joined the strike today.
The janitors’ campaign has already generated a great deal of local and national support, including activist and actor Danny Glover, Congressman Al Green (D-TX) and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous, among others. On Wednesday, delegates to the NAACP’s national convention heard testimony from Houston janitor Alice McAfee; they were so moved that they held a collection for the janitor’s strike fund on the spot and donated more than $3,200 to striking workers and their families.
“Our country was built by people who risked everything to fight for freedom,” said Clayola Brown, National President of the A. Philip Randolph Institute and NAACP National Board member. “The janitors in Houston are fighting for something more than themselves; they are fighting for our country and our future.”
Houston janitors clean the offices of some of the richest corporations in the world, including profitable corporations like Chevron, Hines, Shell Oil, and JP Morgan. Despite record profits and inflated CEO pay, janitors who clean Houston’s office buildings are paid less than $9,000 a year—less than half the poverty level.
The Houston commercial real estate market is the best performing market in the US in terms of demand. Average commercial rental rates in Houston are higher than rates in Chicago, for example, where janitors are paid more than 3 times much annually as Houston janitors. Even in Detroit—where vacancy rates are higher and rental rates are lower than Houston—janitors are paid more than $2 an hour more than Houston janitors.