Community Supporters of Striking Columbus Janitors Take Arrest in Act of Civil Disobedience

***For IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Contact: Leslie Mendoza Kamstra 773-896-7815 or mendozal@seiu1.org

After repeated violation of workers’ rights under Federal law…

Community Supporters of Striking Columbus Janitors Take Arrest in Act of Civil Disobedience

CDColumbus, OH—In the midst of an expanding Columbus janitors’ strike, community supporters, including academics, concerned residents and labor activists, were arrested in an act of civil disobedience in the lobby of Fifth Third bank in downtown Columbus today. Arrestees called the city’s attention to illegal retaliatory activity by janitorial contractor ABM and others reported by janitors who have been standing up for decent wages, affordable health care and full-time hours.

“I was a business owner and my employees had a union. I know what it means to be a responsible employer,” said David Girves, a concerned Columbus resident. “I understand that contractors want to cut janitors’ hours back so they don’t have to provide health care. Their employees are facing retaliation for standing up. That’s not right and that’s why I got arrested today.”

With the Columbus janitors’ rolling, city-wide strike entering its third day, the community is rallying together to call on contractors to cease all retaliatory activity and support good jobs for Columbus working families. While janitors have been seeking decent wages, affordable health care and full-time hours, they have been met with threats and intimidation from their employers—especially ABM, a multi-million dollar national corporation that refuses to support full-time, family sustaining jobs for Columbus workers. Janitors employed by ABM, Aetna Building Maintenance and Professional Maintenance are striking to protest this conduct.

“This is the first time I’ve been in a union and at first I wasn’t sure which side I should be on, the union side or my employer’s side,” said Arturo Lopez, a Columbus janitor employed by ABM. “But now that I’ve been working with my union and the community, I see the importance of coming out together to create justice and fight for our families.”

As Columbus’s poverty rate rises, janitors are calling attention to the income inequality that’s plaguing our city. Despite helping the Fortune 1,000 companies headquartered in Columbus to profit over 5 billion dollars, the janitors who clean their buildings are paid just $18,000 a year—far less than it takes to raise a family here. The contractors demand for a majority part-time workforce would drastically cut incomes and force hundreds more janitors to rely on taxpayer programs to meet basic needs such as healthcare, food, and housing.

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




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