DETROIT –Hundreds of Detroiters – including city and county elected officials, community and labor leaders and working people – gathered for a rally in front of the Spirit of Detroit and marched through downtown today, urging downtown building owners to ensure that building managers raise janitors’ pay to at least $15 an hour. They also urged building owners ensure contracted workers are able to come together to join unions and negotiate better wages without interference from their employer.
While downtown is booming, the janitors who keep buildings safe and clean every day are forced to raise their families on wages as low as $9.25. A strong new contract would help guarantee the janitors who keep Detroit running every day can support their families and their communities. While the fight starts with Detroit janitors, it will not stop until all workers across the city of Detroit, including airport, arena, fast food, and others, are sharing in and experiencing the real benefits from the resurgence of Detroit.
“I see the billions of dollars, and the millions of taxpayer dollars, going to new condos, hotels and restaurants. But just 15 blocks out of downtown, our neighborhoods are full of boarded-up houses, empty storefronts and hundreds of empty lots.” said SEIU Local 1 Janitor Pam Owens. “We are leading the fight for One Detroit where every working family can make ends meet with at least $15 an hour and a union.”
Organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1, speakers at the rally called for “One Detroit,” a city that ensures janitors who clean downtown’s newest commercial office space as well as all working people share in the city’s newfound prosperity and resurgence.
“We, as elected leaders can easily recite the dubious stats about Detroit doubling the national average in unemployment and leading the nation in poverty, but we must actually do something to change the narrative,” said Detroit Council President Brenda Jones. “The Detroit City Council and Wayne County Commission have been very generous in approving $1 billion in tax incentives for new projects, and we believe downtown business owners should want to ensure those who pay the taxes that partially fund their projects should be able to raise their families.”
Wayne County Commissioner Irma Clark-Coleman expects to introduce a resolution similar to the one recently adopted by the Detroit City Council, supporting wages and collective bargaining efforts.
“We believe it is our responsibility to consider the needs of our citizens in every decision to offer tax incentives for any new development projects,” said County Commissioner Clark-Coleman.
ST. LOUIS: The following is a statement from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 St. Louis Lambert Janitor Lasean Smith in response to the St. Louis Board of Estimate and Apportionment vote today against awarding a $13.5 million contract to irresponsible contractor ATALIAN Global Services and its local affiliate, Centaur Building Services:
“By coming together and speaking out for good jobs and standards at our airport, Local 1 St. Louis Lambert janitors won a big victory today.
“We are glad that our elected leaders agree: A company that has a history of racial discrimination has no place at a world-class airport like St. Louis Lambert.
“The janitors of St. Louis Lambert urge the Airport Commission to pick a responsible cleaning contractor who will ensure working people have a voice on the job. Doing so will make sure our airport is an economic engine for our entire city.”
BACKGROUND: Last month, the Riverfront Times outlined how the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found “reasonable cause to believe” ATALIAN affiliate Centaur Building Services violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act after discharging an employee, an African-American woman, due to her race. Despite this, on May 3, the St. Louis Lambert Airport Commission voted to award the contract to the company.
Service Employees International Union Local 1 unites 50,000 workers throughout the Midwest including nearly 10,000 commercial janitors, higher education faculty, food service workers, state workers in the Division of Probation and Parole, school custodians, patient care professionals, and more in Missouri. 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.
CHICAGO – SEIU Local 1 window washers, joined by Chicago Latino Caucus Chairman Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) outside Trump Tower, announced Monday afternoon they have voted overwhelmingly to strike, if necessary. A strike could occur anytime after their current collective bargaining agreement expires on June 30.
“Any strike we have would disrupt the industry for the entire season,” said Cruz Guzman, a Chicago window washer with Service One. “We’re ready to do whatever it takes to help support our families, even go on strike. Because too many of us are barely making ends meet. We’re asking our employers: come to the table and offer us a fair wage for the dangerous work we do. And we’re asking the people of Chicago to support us.”
Every day, Chicago window washers hang hundreds of feet in the air and put their lives on the line to clean iconic buildings like Trump Tower, the Willis Tower and 875 N. Michigan but are struggling on low wages and a healthcare policy that forces many to rely on public assistance.
“The working people who do some of the most dangerous work in our city should not struggle to make ends meet. Their families should not be forced to rely on public assistance for healthcare,” said SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff. “That’s why window washers are demanding a fair raise and a better healthcare plan to help them support their families and communities.”
Window washing is an important and historic family industry in Chicago, yet many workers struggle to make ends meet on wages as low as $11 cleaning the skyscrapers of billion-dollar corporations. Window washers cannot afford employer-provided healthcare, with many of their families forced to rely on public assistance just to have health coverage.
While billion-dollar buildings like Trump Tower enjoy massive tax breaks, the window washers who scale them are barely making ends meet. Meanwhile, in other markets like New York, window washers start at $21 and enjoy employer-provided healthcare, giving them the ability to support their families and communities. Chicago window washers deserve the same opportunity.
Victory shows Missouri working families reject GOP’s anti-worker agenda
KANSAS CITY – The following is a statement from SEIU Missouri State Council Treasurer Lenny Jones regarding Rep. Lauren Arthur’s decisive victory in today’s special election for Missouri Senate District 17:
“After a hard-fought campaign, the SEIU Missouri State Council congratulates Senator-elect Lauren Arthur on her special election victory today. The janitors, school custodians, higher education faculty, state workers, patient care professionals and more of SEIU look forward to working with Senator-elect Arthur to make Missouri a better state for all working families.
“Senator-elect Arthur’s victory shows that the Missouri GOP’s electoral problems go far beyond disgraced ex-governor Eric Greitens. Our state’s working families reject the party’s radical anti-worker agenda.
“Working people are bringing their frustration to the ballot box and are ready to put Missouri back on track towards a brighter future. That starts with repealing the state’s harmful ‘right-to-work’ law on August 7.”
Alex Rosado has worked as an Agency for Community Transit (ACT) driver for more than 12 years. He’s currently a member of the bargaining team working to negotiate a new contract for more than 150 drivers.
Alex works hard and loves his job. One of his favorite parts is getting to know his riders. “I recognize our regulars,” he says. “We develop a rapport with riders.”
But right now, Alex says, morale among drivers is low and turnover is high. A major issue is that even if drivers get a doctor’s note and give proper four-days notice, they still may be forced to drive sick. The first sick day counts as an unexcused absence, meaning they lose a day’s pay, something very few can afford. They want to fix these issues in their new contract. “We just want a contract that helps us enhance the company and service,” says Alex.
Drivers are ready to do whatever it takes to win a strong new contract that helps make transit better for everyone. To support drivers and a better transit system, call Jerry Kane at 618-797-4600 and tell him you support the working families of ACT!
ST. LOUIS – The following is a statement from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 St. Louis Lambert Janitor Lasean Smith in response to the St. Louis Board of Estimate and Apportionment postponing a vote regarding a $13.5 million airport cleaning contract involving irresponsible contractor ATALIAN Global Services and its local affiliate, Centaur Building Services. The board reconvenes on June 20:
“An irresponsible contractor with a troubling record on racial discrimination has no place at a world-class airport like St. Louis Lambert International Airport. St. Louis Lambert janitors will continue to fight to ensure our airport is an economic engine for our entire city and a place where working people feel valued and respected.
“St. Louis Lambert janitors showed up to today’s Board of Estimate and Apportionment meeting, and we will continue to show up until the board makes the right decision for working families: rejecting this contract.”
BACKGROUND: Last month, the Riverfront Times outlined how the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found “reasonable cause to believe” ATALIAN affiliate Centaur Building Services violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act after discharging an employee, an African-American woman, due to her race. Despite this, on May 2, the St. Louis Lambert Airport Commission voted to award the contract to the company.
ST. LOUIS – Ahead of the Express Scripts shareholders meeting, janitors who clean the company’s North St. Louis County facilities are set to win higher wages, quality health care and a brighter future by joining the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1. More than 50 contracted janitors who clean the company will become SEIU Local 1 members on June 1, raising standards and wages for working people across St. Louis County.
“We came together, spoke out, and won higher wages and a voice on the job,” said Vertiece Bryant, a janitor at Express Scripts. “This isn’t just a victory for janitors at Express Scripts. It’s a victory for all North St. Louis County working families.”
The current cleaning contractor at Express Scripts, irresponsible contractor ATALIAN Global Services and local affiliate Centaur Building Services, are set to lose the account, their largest in the St. Louis area. The company is the finalist to win a $13.5 million cleaning contract at St. Louis Lambert International Airport despite facing a serious Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) finding for racial discrimination after Centaur discharged an employee, an African-American woman, due to her race. The loss of this major account calls into question the company’s fitness to clean a world-class airport like St. Louis Lambert International Airport.
ST. LOUIS: The following is a statement from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 St. Louis Lambert Janitor Chloe Collins in response to the St. Louis Lambert International Airport Commission’s vote today to award a $13.5 million contract to irresponsible contractor ATALIAN Global Services and its local affiliate, Centaur Building Services:
“It’s disappointing the St. Louis Lambert Airport Commission refused to listen to our concerns about awarding a major cleaning contract to a contractor that faced a serious EEOC finding for racial discrimination.
“A large majority of janitors at St. Louis Lambert are workers of color. Awarding $13.5 million in taxpayer money to a company with a history of racial discrimination disrespects all of us who keep the airport running and is an insult to working families across St. Louis.
“The SEIU Local 1 janitors of St. Louis Lambert urge the St. Louis Board of Estimate and Apportionment to reject this contract. The board must send a message: There is no place for discrimination at our airport.”
BACKGROUND: Last month, the Riverfront Times outlined how the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found “reasonable cause to believe” ATALIAN affiliate Centaur Building Services violated the 1964 Civil Rights Act after discharging an employee, an African-American woman, due to her race. Despite this serious issue, the St. Louis Airport Authority recommended awarding the contract to the company.
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!
Living with uncertainty, graduate workers kick off series of actions
ST. LOUIS – With only 23 days until graduation, Washington University graduate workers, students, faculty and community allies rallied at the University’s 2018 Arts & Sciences Distinguished Alumni Awards Dinner on Wednesday, April 25. The rally, which is part of a series of planned events leading up to graduation, raised awareness of issues facing the entire Washington University community — and specifically graduate workers, who are students at the University.
While the administration reached out to graduate workers just before the rally to announce guaranteed funding for summer work, nothing is guaranteed and graduate workers request to sit down with administration to discuss specific implementation.
“I am joining together with my colleagues to join in the fight for better funding because of the outsized impact that our inconsistent pay has on international graduate students like myself,” said Augusto Medeiros, PhD Candidate, Physics. “As international students, we are completely reliant on the university to support us because our F1 visas do not permit us to work outside the university. Because of this, international students face the possibility of being forced to return home, pause our research, and face undue hardship simply because our nationality.”
With summer looming, graduate workers are not yet guaranteed they will be paid for work done during those months. Graduate workers cannot afford to go another summer living without pay while still being expected to work and produce research for the university.
“WashU refuses to guarantee pay over the summer even though our research doesn’t stop in June and July; when they do come through with payment, it’s not enough to live on,” said JB Duck-Mayr, a graduate worker in the Political Science department. “That means throughout the year I have to work extra hourly gigs to make sure I can support my family, which takes away time from my research, my students, and my children. A university with $12 Billion in assets should be able to guarantee a living wage to its workers twelve months of the year. WashU administrators have refused to meet with us about these issues, so that’s why I’m protesting with WUGWU to make our voices heard by the university administration.”
This uncertain future is why graduate workers and their supporters are standing up to build power on campus and resistance through events over the next several weeks, including this rally.
“I am taking action to guarantee summer funding and dignified funding year round for grad workers because it is wrong that I make less than $900 a month and receive no pay during the summer at a $12 billion university,” said Sarah Crosley, a teaching assistant in Classics. “I have made more money working as a kindergarten teacher reading books to toddlers in the summer than I do teaching undergrads who pay $50,000 a year to attend WashU.”
Graduate workers, along with their supporters in SEIU Local 1 and the wider community, will continue to fight for power at work and on campus and look forward to making meaningful improvements at Washington University. SEIU Local 1 has been working with graduate workers, college and university professors throughout the Midwest to give them a voice on the job; address the low compensation for their work; and to ensure greater benefits and job security.