FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 15, 2015
As Fast-Food Workers Strike in 200 Cities, Janitors, Adjunct Professors, Home Care, Child Care, Airport, Industrial Laundry and Walmart Workers Come Together in Coast-to-Coast Protests
DETROIT – Janitors in Detroit joined fast food, adjunct professors, home care, child care, airport, industrial laundry and Walmart workers in the most widespread mobilization ever by U.S. workers seeking higher pay.
Detroit once had strong, union jobs for janitors and its workers; jobs with decent wages and healthcare benefits.But now, outside investors are buying downtown real estate and pushing down wages and benefits.
“I used to make nearly $15 and a union,” stated Niya Reed, a Fisher Building janitor who was recently laid off. “Back then, I owned a car, paid my insurance, and raised my kids in a good neighborhood. But now, I’ve lost the car, I had to move my children to a more dangerous neighborhood, and I’m getting by on public assistance.”
Fast-food cooks and cashiers walked off their jobs Wednesday morning in cities from Pittsburgh to Pasadena, setting off a historic wave of protests for higher pay and the freedom to join unions that stretched across industries and around the globe and inspired college students and #BlackLivesMatter activists to join in.
The protests—the most widespread mobilization ever by U.S. workers seeking higher pay— came just days after Hillary Clinton announced she was running for president promising to confront America’s gaping inequality.
“Detroit needs good jobs. We built the American labor movement, and once boasted some of the highest stardards of living in the country,” said Reverend Charles Williams II, Senior Pastor, Historic King Solomon Baptist Church of Detroit and President of National Action Network – Michigan. “But now, minimum wage jobs with no benefits are dragging our economy down. The way to raise Detroit is to raise wages, so that residents can afford the items we need.”
Around the country, workers went on strike for the first time in Albany, NY; Asheville, NC; Greenville, MS; Montgomery, Ala.; and San Jose, Calif. The strikes, which started a day earlier in Boston out of deference to the April 15 anniversary of the marathon bombing, came two weeks after McDonald’s announced it was increasing salaries for a fraction of its workforce by $1. But rather than mollifying employees, the paltry pay move inspired even more workers to join the walkout. All across the country, McDonald’s workers joined strike lines, chanting, “Hey McDonald’s Let’s Be Blunt, Your Raise is Just a PR Stunt.”
In New York City, striking workers and supporters protested at every McDonald’s in Manhattan, while in Berkeley, Calif. Robert Reich, a former secretary of labor, spoke to striking workers at a McDonald’s.
Detroit once thrived when working people joined with local business leaders to transform low-wage manufacturing jobs into middle-class jobs—jobs with benefits and a retirement. These jobs allowed workers to own homes and provide a good life for their families.
But now, even though hard work is generating billions in profits here in Detroit, powerful corporations are using their influence to push down wages and benefits here and across the country.That means hard-working people—including many workers rallying on April 15—are paid so little that they have to rely on public assistance just to provide the basics for their families.
Outside investors continue to come in and buy up more and more downtown real estate as part of our city’s revitalization, and hiring irresponsible contractors set on cutting costs to provide the cheapest rates.
The Fisher and Albert Khan Buildings once had strong, union jobs for janitors; jobs with decent wages and healthcare benefits.Contract Direct has replaced these experienced janitors with poverty-wage jobs, cutting wages by over 30% and getting rid of health benefits.
Workers are rallying on April 15 because they know that companies like Contract Direct can afford to support good jobs that boost our economy, lift our communities, and pave a better future for Detroit.
Workers in 100 cities, from 40 countries, on six continents representing some 50 global unions also protested as the movement around the world for higher pay and better rights expanded. For the first time, workers outside the U.S. coordinated strikes with workers here, with fast-food workers across Italy waging a national strike. Workers occupied a McDonald’s in Glasgow, stormed McDonald’s restaurants in five Brazilian cities and blockaded a McDonald’s in Paris, holding a six-meter long sign that read, “Stop Social Destruction and Tax Avoidance.”
“The fast-food industry is dominated by a handful of multi-billion-dollar global companies, so we need to have a strong, global movement of workers pushing for better wages, better treatment and better rights,” said Massimo Frattini, the international coordinator of the International Union of Food workers, which is coordinating the global protests. “By coming together across borders, fast-food workers have an opportunity to transform the industry all over the world.”
The global protests come as McDonald’s is coming under increased scrutiny for both its treatment of workers and its questionable corporate citizenship around the world. In Brazil, a coalition of trade unions has filed two lawsuits accusing the company of widespread and systematic labor and health and safety violations. One of the suits accuses McDonald’s of “social dumping,” an anti-competitive practice that drives standards down for workers across the country, and seeks to prevent the company from opening new stores unless it complies with Brazilian law. Also, McDonald’s agent in Latin America and the Caribbean, Arcos Dorados, has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, with an investor group asking the New York Stock Exchange to review the company’s corporate governance.
In Europe, McDonald’s is being accused by a coalition of trade unions and the UK-based NGO War on Want of avoiding more than €1 billion in taxes over the last five years. Last month, the European Commission’s Directorate of Competition launched a preliminary investigation to find out whether McDonald’s entered into an illegal deal with Luxembourg that allowed it to avoid taxes.
Meanwhile, in the United States, the federal government recently launched a case against McDonald’s, accusing the fast-food giant of rampant labor-law violations, and arguing that the corporate parent, and not just franchisees, are responsible for the illegal actions. This is all on top of suits alleging wage theft and racial discrimination in the US; more than two-dozen complaints filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration alleging McDonald’s workers are being burned on the job, with many told to use condiments like mustard to ease the pain; and the more than $1 billion in public assistance taxpayers spend to subsidize low wages here.
It isn’t just McDonald’s that is digging into taxpayers’ pockets. The tax day protests, held Wednesday both because the date, 4/15, is the workers’ demand and because they wanted to highlight the fact that they are paid so little that too many are forced to rely on public assistance to get by, came just days after researchers at the University of California-Berkeley released a report showing that persistent low wages are costing taxpayers nearly $153 billion every year in public support to working families.
In Connecticut, a proposal currently moving through the state legislature would fine large companies that pay low wages in an effort to recoup the cost these companies impose on taxpayers. Congressional Democrats’ Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal unveiled last month included a provision that would roll back tax breaks for large companies that fail to raise pay on pace with inflation.
Changing How America Thinks About Wages
What seemed two years ago like a far-fetched goal—$15 an hour—is now not so crazy. In February, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio called for an increase in New York City’s minimum wage to $15 by 2019. In Chicago, the Chicago Teachers Union asked the Board of Education to pay $15 an hour to all workers in schools and in December, Chicago lawmakers voted to raise the minimum wage to $13. In Washington, workers won $15 in Seattle, where Bloomberg News said the city adopted “the rallying cry of fast-food workers,” and in SeaTac, where local low-wage airport workers played a leading role in winning a historic wage increase.
And in November, San Francisco became the third city in the U.S. to adopt a $15 minimum wage. Since the first fast-food strike in 2012, 9 million low-wage workers have gotten raises through local ballot measures, city and state legislation, contract negotiations and employer policy changes—more workers than are in private sector unions in the entire country.
Slate said the Fight for $15, “managed to completely rewire how the public and politicians think about wages;” MSNBC said it, “entirely changed the politics of the country;” and Fortune said it, “transformed labor organizing from a process often centered on nickel-and-dime negotiations with a single employer into a social justice movement that transcends industry and geographic boundaries.
The urgent need for solutions to America’s low-wage crisis is already emerging as a key issue in the run-up to the 2016 election. In The New York Times, David Leonhardt wrote, “[a]s the 2016 presidential campaign begins to stir, the central question will be how both parties respond to the great wage slowdown.” And Democrats and leading economic experts are increasingly looking to restore Americans’ rights to form unions as a way to bring balance back to the economy and create jobs that enable more communities to thrive.
On January 31st, hundreds of SEIU Local 1 member leaders from across the Midwest gathered in Chicago to make a plan to win better wages and benefits for their families, and to ultimately raise America with good jobs.
Contracts expire on April 5, 2015 for nearly 12,000 janitors in Chicago including Chicago Public School custodians and other city and county buildings along with janitors working in office buildings in downtown Chicago and across Chicagoland. Similar janitorial contracts are expiring for approximately 130,000 janitors around the country throughout 2015 and 2016; Chicago is the first city to negotiate.
Chicago’s janitors work hard to keep our offices, our schools and our city clean and healthy. They clean the equivalent of nearly 33,000 miles of office space every night, vacuuming our floors, emptying our trash, and sanitizing our bathrooms. They clean build ings of major corporations—such as JP Morgan Chase, McDonald’s, AT&T, Kraft, CME Group, United and Boeing—and public facilities like Chicago Public Schools and city, county and federal buildings.
CEOs of Chicago’s largest public corporations brought in more than $650 million in 2013. It would take a janitor in downtown Chicago more than 200 years to make what one CEO is paid in a single year. Those corporations raked in $678 billion in revenue, but as many as two thirds of all Illinois corporations are not paying any state corporate income taxes. These corporations are using their power to get millions in tax deals from the city and state.
We know that rich corporations can afford to support good jobs that boost our economy, lift our communities, and pave a better future for Chicago and the Midwest. That’s why we’re taking action to win better jobs for janitors and all workers. Raising pay will put money into the hands of working moms and dads so they can put more money back into our communities and help create more good jobs.
Unions help working families fulfill their dreams in many ways. At SEIU Local 1, this includes yearly college scholarship opportunities. These scholarships enable SEIU Local 1 members and their children to pursue their education goals at colleges, universities, labor study programs and technical schools.
Make sure to research the following opportunities for SEIU Local 1 members and your children – the deadlines for applications are coming up!
Today, the grand jury’s decision deepens those wounds and amplifies even more the disproportionate and disparate injustices experienced by communities of color.
“For months, families across our nation have experienced collective grief and outrage over the taking of Michael Brown’s life and the resulting turmoil that has upended the community in Ferguson, Missouri. Today, the grand jury’s decision deepens those wounds and amplifies even more the disproportionate and disparate injustices experienced by communities of color. These injustices reverberate through all communities and take our nation another step away from a fair and just society.
Our disappointment in today’s decision does not extinguish the hope in our hearts for a better America for all our children regardless of where they were born or in which zip code they live.
Black lives matter. Brown lives matter. All lives matter. The dream of America can never be fully realized until justice and safety prevail in every community across our country. The Department of Justice must prioritize the investigation into the murder of Michael Brown.
SEIU members stand with our brothers and sisters in Ferguson and across the nation in expressing our grief and frustration. We join them in calling for something better for all neighborhoods and communities and joining together in peaceful demonstrations at federal courthouses across the country.
More information can be found here (http://nationalactionnetwork.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/HANDS-UP-JUSTICE-RALLY-FLIER-11-21.pdf). We encourage all involved law enforcement to honor the rules and the rights of people to protest and speak out.
We will not rest in these efforts until America is a more just society where every human being is respected and every community has equal opportunity to thrive.
For Immediate Release: November 24, 2014
Media Contact: Beau Boughamer; firstname.lastname@example.org; 202/765-9143
At the September 6, 2014, membership meeting, a new SEIU Local 1 Executive Board was elected and sworn in. The slate of nominees was uncontested and the new board members were voted in by acclamation at every SEIU Local 1 membership meeting across our six states. We look forward to the new Executive Board’s leadership. You can read the list of the current board officers and members.
We also celebrate the years of service that the outgoing board members dedicated to their SEIU Local 1 brothers and sisters. Be sure to thank these leaders for all that they have done for working families in the Midwest.
“We need a strong economy that works for all—not just the wealthy few. Chicago should be the next big city to pay workers the wages they need to provide a decent life for themselves and a better one for their children.” Tom Balanoff, SEIU Local 1 President
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More than 700 SEIU Local 1 members and supporters shared what was important to them and how our union can improve in our 2014 Member and Supporter Survey.
The most important issues to participants were creating good jobs that can support a family and reducing income inequality in our country. The aspects of their jobs they most want to improve are their wages, your retirement benefits and your healthcare.
Local 1 members and supporters are fighting to achieve all of these goals.
Participants – mostly members – described the SEIU Local 1 mission in their own words, but many used the same ones. Words like lead, fight, help, strengthen, organize, advocate and build. SEIU Local 1 members and supporters do all of those things every day without tiring.
As a union and as a country, we face a lot of challenges. Working together is the only way to win better wages and benefits and start addressing income inequality in our country. SEIU Local 1 understands that we are all striving for the same goal and together we can realize it.
Check out the survey results—and thank you for staying connected.
View our annual report to see what Local 1 has accomplished in 2013:
Fast food workers began organizing a little under one year ago, kicking off a national movement with strikes in New York City and Chicago in April of 2013. Other cities quickly followed suit, with fast food and retail workers walking off the job in Milwaukee, St. Louis, Detroit, and more, demanding a higher minimum wage and the right to organize a union. Less than a year later, on December 5, 2013, the largest fast food strike in history occurred. Workers in over 100 cities walked off their jobs, picketed their employers, and called for a $15 minimum wage.
“It’s okay! We got your back!” Local 1 members from Chicago called out to workers at the McDonald’s at Chicago & Damen. The call has become a rallying cry for the movement, which seeks to empower long-ignored fast food workers. Local 1 Members stood side-by-side with the striking McDonald’s workers, many of who are paid just $8.25 after years of dedicated service.
“I am involved with the fast food campaign to better the economy for everyone,” says St. Louis member Wesley Reed. “[To fix the economy] we have to start from the bottom, not from the top.”
Members from Detroit, St. Louis, and Milwaukee all took part in the nationwide day of action, standing in solidarity with fast food workers across the nation. History was made last week, and it came less than a week after the massive Black Friday protests staged at Wal-Mart locations throughout the country. These monumental actions have brought income inequality to the forefront of the national conversation—an important step in repairing our damaged economy.
Stay informed on what is happening across your local.
“ABM is a national, multi-million dollar corporation. But SEIU is national too. Every SEIU city across the country is help to win this fight, not just for Columbus but for all hardworking people everywhere! “
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