Democratic Gov. Candidate to Address Service Workers Fighting for Unions on the Job Following Eight Years of Attacks by Michigan GOP
DETROIT – Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gretchen Whitmer will mark Labor Day Monday by meeting with caregivers who are among the 45,000 home care workers and 35,000 child care workers stripped of their union rights by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2012.
In addition to meeting with Detroit-area caregivers, Whitmer will speak with local residents who work in fast-food, healthcare, airports and other service industries who are calling on the next governor to do whatever it takes to grow unions in Michigan and make it easier for workers to come together on the job.
Who: Democratic gubernatorial nominee Gretchen Whitmer, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, Detroit-area service workers in home care, child care, janitorial, fast food, airports and other industries
Where: Lafayette Park, 1500 E Lafayette between Rivard and Orleans
When: 12:30p ET
Stronger unions and higher wages are emerging as top issues for Michigan voters ahead of the election this November.
After vowing to strike, roughly 1,700 janitors who clean buildings in some of the most prominent downtown Detroit buildings won a path to a $15 an hour wage floor in July through their new union contract. Many Detroit janitors were previously paid just $9.45 an hour.
In June, hundreds of workers in the Fight for $15 from the Detroit metro area organized a town hallwith Michigan’s entire Democratic delegation to the U.S. House urging lawmakers to make it easier for working people to join together in unions in order to raise wages and create thriving communities.
The town hall followed a forum in April where hundreds of fast-food workers, janitors, healthcare workers and state and county employees pressed all four leading Democratic Michigan gubernatorial candidates on how they would grow unions in the state and raise wages if elected in November. The April candidate forum marked the culmination of a four-week blitz where Gretchen Whitmer, Shri Thanedar and Abdul El-Sayed spent a day shadowing union and nonunion workers in service jobs across the state.
In January, as Snyder delivered his annual State of the State address, hundreds of janitors, hospital workers and fast-food cooks protested outside his office in Detroit delivering a “Workers’ State of the State” decrying the governor’s record of blocking minimum wage increases and gutting union rights. In February, a mass of workers drowned out Snyder’s annual budget speech at the state capitol as they outlined how the governor’s policies and the economic revitalization he is touting have failed working people throughout the state.
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Resolution comes as janitors prepare to hit the bargaining table tomorrow, June 20
DETROIT – Detroit City Council President Pro Tempore Mary Sheffield announced that the Council unanimously passed a resolution aimed at raising the pay for downtown janitors to at least $15 per hour. The resolution passed the day before SEIU Local 1 janitors hit the bargaining table to fight for the raises and strong new contract they need to support their families and their communities.
The resolution is a clear message that Detroit’s elected city leaders, who approve downtown tax abatements and incentives, support downtown developers placing these workers on a path to at least $15 an hour, a wage that allows them to better support their families.
Currently, downtown janitors earn as low as $9.25 to $12.45 per hour, making them eligible for government assistance despite working long weeks. As a result, in part, Detroit doubles the national average in unemployment and is first amongst the top 20 big cities in terms of poverty.
“There comes a time as elected officials that we stop simply reciting these statistics and do something to change the narrative,” said Sheffield, who sponsored the resolution. “We have seen tremendous growth in our downtown, and today, by passing this resolution, this body is saying that those who clean and protect our growth shouldn’t be left behind.”
Downtown janitors hailed the council’s support for the campaign to pay janitors a minimum of $15 per hour.
“Local 1 janitors look forward to working with the Detroit City Council to raise wages to at least $15 and to guarantee union rights for all of our city’s working people,” said Daniel Bell, a member of SEIU Local 1 and janitor at Chase Tower. “We all need the opportunity to share in the prosperity from Detroit’s ‘rebirth,’ not just the wealthy owners. Making sure all Detroiters make at least $15 per hour and have union rights is a good start. These developments are built with our tax dollars – $15 per hour and union rights is the least they could do in return.”
Today, commercial real estate in Detroit’s downtown is valued at anywhere from $21 to $26 per square foot. Putting things in perspective, the Detroit City Council and the Wayne County Commission have approved more than $1 billion in tax incentives to help developers build and renovate downtown office buildings and entertainment venues in recent years.
Last week, janitors kicked off the One Detroit campaign to make sure all working people benefit from the city’s redevelopment. In addition to urging downtown building owners to ensure that janitors and security officers are paid decent wages, the One Detroit campaign asserts all workers’ right to affiliate with unions to negotiate wages – free from employer interference.
“We commend Mary Sheffield and the entire Detroit City Council for making such a clear statement about our janitors,” said Stephanie Arellano, Detroit City Director of the Service Employees International Union Local 1. “Local 1 janitors are proud of the work they do, and they deserve better for their families.”
Service Employees International Union Local 1 unites 50,000 workers throughout the Midwest, including janitors, security officers, higher education faculty, food service workers and others. Local 1 is committed to improving the lives of its members and all working people by winning real economic justice and standing at the forefront of the fight for immigrant, racial and environmental justice.
In a sea of purple signs and T-shirts Local 1 janitors in Detroit today kicked off their contract campaign and the One Detroit movement.
Local 1 janitors, joined by Detroit 15, Detroit Council President Brenda Jones, Scott Benson, Detroit City Councilman District 3, and Wayne County Commissioners Alisha Bell, Irma Clark-Coleman and Martha Scott, rallied at the Spirit of Detroit and marched through downtown to fight for a strong new contract and for #OneDetroit, where all working families can benefit from the city’s resurgence!
Click the image above for the full PDF
Enjoy photos from the One Detroit event below!
On May 1, Local 1 joined hundreds of labor, community and faith allies across the Midwest to mark May Day, or International Workers’ Day.
In Chicago, a coalition of allies rallied to resist the racist, anti-immigrant policies of the Trump and Rauner administrations. Demonstrators held marches and rallies throughout the day, during which they called for demilitarization of our borders in order to protect immigrant families.
Democratic Illinois gubernatorial candidate JB Pritzker joined Local 1 for the May Day festivities. Check out photos from Chicago:
Here’s a look at the May Day actions in Chicago:
Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Local 1 members joined community groups in the city’s Buckeye neighborhood to demand that communities like this one not be forgotten.
“We know that unions are the answer to these problems. The turning point in my life was getting a job with a union because one of the best ways to lift low-wage workers out of poverty is to join a union,” said Sandra Ellington, Local 1 Executive Board member and Cleveland janitor.
And in Detroit, Local 1 members rallied with dozens of community allies at Clark Park. They were joined by Democratic Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed. Local 1 member Maria Jackson spoke about the importance of building unions and the fear experienced by immigrants in joining together.
Together, we rise against hatred, racism and bigotry and urge all Americans to stand up for the protection of all our communities!
DETROIT – As janitors, security officers, healthcare workers and public sector workers across Detroit are in the process of choosing the candidate who deserves their vote in the primary, Gail Stiger, a member of Service Employees International Union Local 1, was joined by former State Senator Gretchen Whitmer for a day in her life. Ms. Whitmer walked a day in this janitor’s shoes and heard about the issues she faces each day, while working a low wage job in the McNamara Terminal. Ms. Whitmer heard what it takes to not only survive on low wages, but also what is needed to ensure that all of Detroit’s neighborhoods can thrive.
“If I were to talk to the next Governor, I would tell him or her that they should think about what their life would be like if they didn’t make as much – if they made as little as me,” said Stiger. “I would ask them to think about how much they would struggle to make ends meet, deciding which bill to pay or how they were going to get to work. I’m tired of struggling. I would ask them to be compassionate and to help us by working to raise wages and build our unions because that is how you can help.”
Service workers are calling on their next governor to raise wages, support the right to join together in a union, build our communities and keep the people of Michigan safe. More than 1,000 janitors in Detroit, including the janitors at McNamara Terminal, will kick off negotiations for their Master Janitorial Contract this summer, with the current agreement expiring on July 31. SEIU Local 1 is also working to bring workers across the Detroit area, including janitors, airport workers and arena district workers, a voice on the job as they are standing together for a $15 minimum wage and union rights.
“Working with Gail today has sharpened my focus and eliminated my patience for anyone who stands in the way of a fair wage for Michiganders who work hard and play by the rules,” said Whitmer. “We can build an economy that works for everyone by raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and making it easier, not harder for workers to organize unions starting with repealing right to work. I stand with the hardworking men and women who keep our airport clean and safe, and I’ll never stop fighting for workers in Michigan.”
SEIU Local 1 members in Detroit joined hundreds of hospital, healthcare and fast food workers to deliver a “Workers’ State of the State” in front of Governor Snyder’s office at Cadillac Place on Tuesday, January 23. The event outlined the ways the governor has attacked working people and their unions over the past eight years, and enumerated the demands of Michigan’s workers of their next governor.
“Working people in this state need a path to higher wages,” said Darrel Bonner, a janitor for U.S. Metro at the Detroit Public Schools. “We need home rule so that we can have a say in those wages. And we need to know our children will be safe from things like lead in our water. We need access to basic services. And we need a Governor who will support our unions! Unions are the best way to get our state back on track.”
After eight years of Snyder’s failed policies, workers are sticking together and fighting back to let their fellow citizens know the true state of Michigan, after eight years of lowered standards, low wages and, in some places, a lack of basic standard of living, including poisoned water. The number one job of our elected leaders should be to raise the standard of living for working people.
“When I was asked how Governor Snyder’s policies have impacted me, I thought back to the disaster in Flint,” said SEIU Local 1 Executive Board Member and Detroit janitor Pam Owens-Moore. “I was never prouder to be a member of Local 1 than when we delivered that semi-truckload of water to Flint, and I believe that unions make our state stronger. What happened in Flint is a horrific disaster. But it teaches us a valuable lesson that who we elect and what they believe makes a real difference in people’s lives.”
This event was the first of many throughout 2018 in Detroit and across the state of Michigan in which SEIU and Fight for $15 workers are fighting to make politicians listen to working people and take action on issues that matter, including leading on raising wages by increasing the state and local minimum wage and ensuring workers have rights to strong unions.
The officers gathered outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center alongside members of Service Employees International Union Local 1 for a news conference announcing plans to organize to seek improved standards from the contractors who employ them.
The rally was part of SEIU’s nationwide campaign to join with security workers in the fight for better working conditions. SEIU has already organized groups in Columbus, Chicago and Indianapolis and is working to do so in Milwaukee, said Kathleen Policy, a union representative.
For Detroit, about 300 to 400 security workers contracted by various firms for several buildings downtown, including DTE Energy and the Detroit Medical Center, are signing up to organize with the SEIU local, said the union’s Detroit coordinator, Vas Jacobs.
“They are the first responders and they need better working conditions. We’re trying to get better standards for them. They need better pay, better training and a voice on the job,” he said. “We want to see these changes for these workers. As Detroit is coming back and turning that corner, we need to make sure these neighborhood jobs, like security, also get enhanced and get better working conditions for those workers.”
Workers taking part Wednesday are employed by various contractors, including Advanced Security/USSA, which the SEIU contends has been an “irresponsible” contractor that they have been trying to work with. A representative for Georgia-headquartered U.S. Security Associates could not be immediately reached Wednesday, nor could an official with the Southfield-based Advanced Security offices.
Close to 100 union members, security staff and several Detroit City Council members gathered for the brief rally in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue on Woodward Avenue. The group played music and blew whistles, while some chanted “if we don’t get it, shut it down” and “no justice, no peace.” Others carried signs that read, “Good Jobs Safe Detroit.”
SEIU Local 1 members in Detroit joined thousands nationwide rallying in support of airport workers. On November 29, workers rallied to support striking workers at O’Hare and their brothers and sisters at airports across the country.
SEIU Local 1 members in Detroit hit the doors for SEIU-endorsed candidates on October 22 with SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry and U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence. Members Pam Owens Moore, Markita Blanchard, James Ushery and Paulette Compass, along with several other members, knocked on doors with their fellow members from SEIU Healthcare Michigan.
Go Team Detroit!
When SEIU Local 1 heard about the water crisis in Flint, Mich., they looked for a way to make a difference and bring justice to the lives of the people of Flint – including the nearly 9,000 children poisoned by lead and the thousands of others impacted by the crisis.
On Saturday, January 30, Local 1 members delivered 860 cases of water, as well as a pallet of baby wipes to aid in washing children, to two churches in Flint — Our Lady of Guadalupe, which works closely with the undocumented immigrant community to ensure they have clean drinking water, and Eternal Life Ministries. This donation was made possible by the support of more than a hundred contributors to a Local 1 generated Go Fund Me page.
The Detroit members were especially committed to this project because they too are experiencing the impact of the political decision by Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI) to circumvent the democratically elected officials of predominantly African American cities in Michigan and appoint Emergency Managers to cities and departments. From the beginning, Emergency Managers, like Darnell Earley, who made the decision that ruined the lives of thousands of Flint residents, were sent to mostly-poor, mostly African-American cities in Michigan, like Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Highland Park, stripping them of their rights to self-representation and local rule.
“By allowing our children to be poisoned and the education system to be degraded, the Governor has put our state and our future at risk,” said SEIU Local 1 Executive Board Member Pam Owens. “Local 1’s mission is to raise up our cities and our states so we must work to help Flint and to fix the Detroit Public Schools, and we must hold the Governor, the emergency managers and our other elected and appointed officials accountable.”
The generosity of the contributors will allow Local 1 to have an on-going presence in Flint, and the Local has promised to help as the city move forward from the crisis. The Local will join together with other labor and community groups to make sure that the people behind the crisis are held accountable, including the Governor, but to also end the misguided cost cutting measures that led to the crisis in Flint and are damaging Detroit’s children in the public schools.
Background on Flint and Detroit Public School Crisis:
The appointed decision-maker in Flint, Darnell Earley, who chose to cut costs at any cost to the citizens of Flint in 2013, is now doing the same to the Detroit Public Schools, where Local 1 members work.
Since last January when Earley was promoted to Emergency Manager of Detroit Public Schools, he has aggressively pushed for more cuts to schools, teachers, and student services – including janitorial services — in order to pay down the district’s debt.
Detroit Public Schools had a surplus of $80 million dollars prior to state emergency management. That surplus has turned into a deficit of $515 million dollars, driven by state mismanagement, school closures, and students leaving the district. Vermin now infest the city’s schools and teachers recently walked off the job to protest. This is unconscionable. Earley’s tenure at both institutions has been to cut budgets at any cost, and the results have been disastrous.