Detroit Workers Fight for $15 at Nation’s Airports

L1 - DTW action 2SEIU 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.IMG_2425IMG_2424IMG_2422

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Local 1 members in Detroit

Detroit Members Mary Kay

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!

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SEIU Local 1 delivers assistance to Flint, Mich.

IMG_0728When 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.


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Detroit Janitors Ratify Three Year Agreement


By an overwhelming margin, members of SEIU Local 1 in Detroit ratified the Master Janitorial Contract on July 25, 2015. The contract, which covers more than 1,450 janitors working both downtown and throughout the Detroit suburbs, increases wages and ensures employer provided health insurance for three years.

This contract, which provides wage increases for both current janitors and future hires in the city and suburbs, benefits both their families and our local economy. The historic three year agreement also adds non-discrimination language and strengthens standards for members working at the airport.

“This contract campaign has been different than the past – this campaign was about more than just our contract – it was about Raising Detroit with Good Jobs and engaging the wider community to achieve this on a long term basis,” Detroit Janitor and SEIU Local 1 Executive Board Member Pam Owens said. “We knew that our community must come first and in order to improve conditions for working people in the city of Detroit, we needed to come together, so that everyday people, not just developers and millionaires, can have a place at the table as our city moves forward. This contract shows that we deserve a place.”

Detroit janitors held a series of events, including protests, a press conference and a candlelight vigil, with record levels of turnout.

“This campaign was successful because the members took to the streets in huge numbers and stood together in solidarity,” SEIU Michigan Coordinator Jennifer Disla said. “We clearly owned the streets and we also owned the airwaves during this campaign. Both of these things showed our strength to the contractors at the table, and we would not have been as successful without this support.”

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SEIU Local 1 Member Newsletter – Summer 2015

Newsletter2Stay informed on what is happening across your local.

“Our recent wins are exciting, and proof that SEIU Local 1 members are leading the way for working families. The economic gains we make in our contracts not only help SEIU Local 1 members’ families live a better life, but they also promise a better future for our country.”
– Tom Balanoff, SEIU Local 1 President

The newsletter is available in:

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SEIU Local 1 Awards 16 College Scholarships

2015 Scholarship Winners and their Parents, all SEIU Local 1 Members

2015 SEIU Local 1 Scholarship Winners and their Parents

Unions help working families fulfill their dreams in many ways. One way SEIU Local 1 does this is by providing yearly college scholarships.

SEIU Local 1 recently awarded almost $40,000 in scholarships to sixteen members’ children, including a grand prize scholarship of $10,000.

Every year, SEIU Local 1 awards college scholarships to members and their children. These scholarships enable recipients to pursue their educational goals at colleges, universities, labor study programs and technical schools. Scholarships are funded by SEIU Local 1’s annual golf outing.

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As Detroit-area janitors set out to bargain a new union contract that affects 1,500 workers and their families…


DETROIT –Hundreds of SEIU Local 1 janitors kicked off contract negotiations today by rallying for good jobs downtown Detroit.  They rallied at the New Center One Building, the Fisher Building and Albert Kahn.

“We want a Detroit that is thriving and successful for everyone,” SEIU Local 1 Michigan State Coordinator Jennifer Disla said. “Workers must have a place at the table in Detroit’s rebuilding.”

These janitors, whose contract for 1,450 janitors in Southeast Michigan (Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties) expires on July 31st, clean buildings of major corporations and public facilities like Detroit Public Schools. The average downtown janitor is paid a little over $24,000 a year, and many receive public assistance. Some are considered “very low income” according to Federal HUD income limits.

“When people ask what does a union mean to you? I say that the union means having a future,” Janitor Niya Reed said. “I love Detroit. I want my kids to have a Detroit as Detroit should be, and the way to do that is raise wages for workers like me.”

Today’s rally was the first in a series of demonstrations that will highlight the needs for good jobs as Detroit moves forward in its rebuilding. Janitors in Detroit are joining nearly 131,820 SEIU janitors in cities across the country — janitors from Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York — whose union contracts also expire in 2015 and 2016. Detroit janitors’ negotiations begin in June.

BACKGROUND: SEIU Local 1 commercial janitors are covered by the Master Agreement and clean a wide variety of facilities in the Metro Detroit Region including prominent office buildings, factories, government facilities, the airport, and even some Detroit Public Schools. Among the buildings served by Local 1 janitors are:  the Ally Detroit Center, First National Building, Compuware, the Renaissance Center, Ford World Headquarters, Comerica Bank (411 Building), Detroit Edison Plaza, DTE Energy Building,  Wayne County’s Guardian Building and Southfield Town Center. Their contract expires on July 31st, 2015.



On Tax Day, Detroit Janitors Join Largest-Ever Mobilization of Underpaid


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 Background

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.

Tax Day

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.



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Hundreds of Members Gather for Our 2015 Leadership Convention

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.

L1-facebook-sherri-3-2-15-3Chicago’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.

L1-facebook-luisa-3-2-15-2CEOs 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.

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Realize Your College Dreams

scholarship winner seiu local 1Unions 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!

  • SEIU Local 1 offers various scholarships to its members’ children, with a top scholarship of $10,000 – the deadline to apply is Friday, April 3, 2015. Download the two-part application here.
  • Chicago Federation of Labor offers Chicagoland members scholarships based on either lottery or academic excellence for $1,000. The period for submitting applications is January 1 through March 1, 2015. See more information here.
  • SEIU International offers various college scholarships. Applications must be postmarked or filed online by midnight March 2, 2015. See more information here.
  • Union Plus has college scholarships available from $400 to $4,000. Deadline is Saturday, January 31, 2015, 12pm (noon) Eastern Time. See more information here.
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