Local 1 leading the way on the Movement for Black Lives

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This weekend, SEIU Local 1 members and staff from Ohio participated in the inaugural Movement for Black Lives Convening. Over 1,500 people of color gathered in Cleveland for this historic event representing groups including labor, human rights and others.

The SEIU Local 1 members, including Executive Board Member Sandra Ellington, Cleveland Janitor Mary L. Jones and Columbus Security Officer Greg Singleton, along with staff members Yanela Sims, Northern Ohio Coordinator, and Tarik Watson, Organizer, participated in the event, billed by organizers as an event featuring “hundreds of Black freedom fighters from around the country” coming together.

“I was blessed with the opportunity to attend, and I was honored with the invitation to be a panelist along with several other labor representatives,” said Yanela Sims. “We participated in workshops, met new people, and more importantly went out into our community and did some work.”

The event highlighted the issues people of color are facing, including unabated police violence, increasing criminalization, a failed economic system, a broken education system and the loss of communities to gentrification and development.

“It was a beautiful experience…the love was felt,” said Sandra Ellington. “This shows that we can come together as a people and learn from each other and that when we work together, we can accomplish many things. We shared thoughts, ideas, challenges and solutions around the movement. This event inspired and energized u all, and we came out of the weekend ready to move forward in our fight for working people and racial justice!”

As a result of their participation in the weekend event, both Ellington and Sims were featured in this week’s issue of Cleveland Scene magazine. In the article, Ellington and Sims discussed the intersection of the labor movement and the black lives movement, and labor’s role in the on-going conversations.

“In a lot of cases, when we talk about ‘black lives matter,’ we don’t really look at the labor component of that,” Sims said. “Racial inequality is often linked to low wages. They almost go hand in hand. When you’re at the bus stop waiting to go to to work or come home from work, when you’re being harassed by the police, that’s a problem. If you don’t have a job and you have to find other outlets to take care of your family, that’s an issue. SEIU is lending a voice to that, and I think labor in general is kind of moving toward acknowledging that they’re not separate issues. When you talk about race and black lives, you’re also talking about low-wage workers and the disparity between other groups of people. It’s common knowledge that lower-wage workers tend to be people of color and women, so when you have that discussion you have to talk about both of them.”

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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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A Better Future for Cleveland Janitors

Cleveland Janitors Ratify Four Year AgreementRatification Group Shot edited

By an overwhelming margin, members of SEIU Local 1 in Cleveland ratified the Master Janitorial Contract on April 18, 2015. The contract, which covers more than 500 janitors working both downtown and throughout the Cleveland suburbs, increases wages and ensures employer provided health insurance for four years.

This contract, which provides wage increases for both current janitors and future hires in the city and suburbs, is effective on May 1 and benefits both their families and our local economy. The historic four year agreement also strengthens the pension plan and adds non-discrimination language, protecting classes not covered by Ohio law.

“The results are exciting, and proof that SEIU Local 1 members are leading the way for working families in Cleveland” said Sandra Ellington, a Cleveland janitor and SEIU Local 1 executive board member. “The agreement strengthens our union at a time when Right to Work threatens working people in our state.”

The agreement strengthens the union at a time when Right to Work is a possibility in the state, and also demonstrates the union’s solidarity during this challenging time.

“This agreement is proof that when union members stand with one another, they can achieve anything,” said Tom Balanoff, President of SEIU Local 1. “The economic gains in this contract will help our members and the Northeast Ohio community now and over the next four years.”

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3 takeaways from $15 minimum wage rallies, fast-food strikes


About 300 people participated in a march and rally Wednesday calling for a $15 minimum wage. The Cleveland rally was among more than 200 that took place nationally, as part of the Fight for 15 campaign. In this photo, demonstrators march along Euclid Avenue, near Cleveland State University. (photo courtesy SEIU District 1199)
Olivera Perkins, The Plain Dealer By Olivera Perkins, The Plain Dealer
on April 16, 2015 at 9:50 AM, updated April 16, 2015 at 11:09 AM

 CLEVELAND, Ohio – The rally was over, but somehow it felt like a beginning.

The demonstrators, numbering nearly 300, marched along the sidewalks of Euclid Avenue as evening rush hour traffic crawled by. Even though most had walked a mile to the event, which supported increasing the minimum wage to $15, many still had pep in their step for the return trip home.

They chanted with conviction: “I believe that we will win!” An African drum accompanied them as left the rally that had been in front of Cleveland State University. Some demonstrators held signs such as: “Poverty-Wage Jobs HOLD CLEVELAND BACK.”

Cleveland was one of more than 200 cities Wednesday where people had rallies, candlelight vigils, engaged in fast-food strikes and other actions as part of the Fight for 15 campaign, which is part of Service Employees International Union.

“This isn’t the end,” said Al Bacon, secretary/treasurer of SEIU District 1199, the rally’s last speaker. “This is a giant step forward.”

In many ways it was. The event was notable because of the number of people who participated locally and because it was the largest national action to date by Fight for 15. The event also stood out because of the cross-section of participants.

Demonstrators had taken different roads to the rally. This could be viewed as a literal statement. The home care workers had begun their march from the SEIU union hall on East 30th Street. The adjunct professors had left from the Cuyahoga Community College Metro campus.

Taking different paths, but ending up in the same place was also symbolic. While some held PhDs and others only GEDs, they all complained of earning less than $15 an hour. The median hourly wage for home care workers is about $9.60, according to Labor Department data. Adjunct professors nationally make about $2,700 per class per semester, according to SEIU. Many adjuncts say that when one considers the non-teaching duties, most of them make less than $15 an hour. The union, which represents many home care workers, is also organizing adjuncts nationally.

In Cleveland, as nationally, this was the first raise-the-minimum-wage rally representing an array of occupations. For many of the demonstrators, this was an indication that the struggle of low-wage workers was not fleeting – something only capable of grabbing headlines with actions — such as one-day strikes by fast-food or Walmart workers — and then being forgotten. For many of them, the scope and size of the tax day actions were proof that struggles of low-wage workers, highlighted with the first fast-food strikes 2 ½ years ago, were expanding and maturing. It was, by most measures, a movement.

“It is significant because it represents workers in general, not just a specific type of worker, coming together,” said Yanela Sims, Northern Ohio coordinator for SEIU Local 1, of Wednesday’s demonstrations. “If workers don’t stand together, we will all crumble.

It is a strong workers’ movement, and it is really exciting for our city.”

Sandra Ellington, a janitor at Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport, said she found a sense of power in marching and rallying with workers from various occupations.

“The working-class Americans are sticking together and they are saying, ‘Enough is enough,’” she said. “No matter who you are, no matter what you do, we are all valued and valuable. It is important that we keep this fight moving forward.”

When Walmart recently announced it would raise its minimum wage to $10 by next year and McDonald’s said it would raise its minimum wage to $9.90 at its corporate-run restaurants this summer, many wondered if such developments would take the steam out of the low-wage workers’ movement. After all, protesters had gotten at least some of what they were looking for.

Harriet Applegate, who heads the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, said bigger victories are yet to come. She said it was significant that nearly 300 participated in the Cleveland rally.

“It symbolizes that there is a huge need for people to make a living wage,” she said. “It is long overdue. People can’t live a decent life. It is a terrible thing.

“I think this is the beginning of a wave that will bring about change,” Applegate said of the low-wage workers’ movement.

Three Takeaways from the $15 Minimum Wage Rallies, Fast-food Strikes, etc.

1. The low-wage workers’ movement is expanding in scope – Wednesday’s protests included participants from several occupations, including: adjunct professors, home care workers, child care workers, airport workers, industrial laundry workers, Walmart and other retail workers. College students also participated. In Cleveland, students from CSU, Kent State University, Oberlin College and Tri-C participated.

David Wilder, an art and art history adjunct who teaches at Cuyahoga Community College and John Carroll University, said the efforts of fast food and retail workers for better pay had motivated him to do the same for adjuncts. Wilder said he is helping to organize adjuncts at John Carroll.

He said he is among those pushing to get John Carroll to adopt the Jesuit Just Employment Policy, which among other things, Wilder said calls for “a living wage” and the right to join a union. He said the adjuncts turned in a 200-signature petition to the university Tuesday. John Carroll did not respond to The Plain Dealer’s requests regarding the matter.

2. Opponents of the $15 minimum wage are increasing their efforts – Seeing the impact of many of the low-wage workers’ actions, some groups opposed to raising the minimum wage have increased their efforts. For example, a day before the tax day protests, the Washington, D.C.-based Employment Policies Institute, which opposes unions, launched facesof15.com. The group says the website “chronicles the real stories of small businesses and how they’ve adapted to drastic minimum wage hikes.”

3. Low-wage workers’ protests fuel research – Think tanks, advocacy organizations and universities often release analyses or reports in the days leading up to national low-wage workers’ demonstrations.

Among those recently released is an analysis of government data by the National Employment Law Project, which showed that half of the 10 occupations expected to grow the most by 2022 will have median hourly wages below $12. These jobs include: personal care aides, retail sales clerks, home health aides, food prep and serving workers (including fast food) and janitors and cleaners.

report by Restaurant Opportunities Centers United found that nearly half the families of full-service restaurant workers are enrolled in one or more public-assistance programs. The reports said these subsidies amount to more than $9.4 billion a year.

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We are Moving

The SEIU Local 1 office in Columbus is moving. As of February 23, 2015 our new address is:

225 East Broad Street, Suite 106
Columbus, OH 43215

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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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Martin Luther King Rally for Workers’ Rights in Cleveland Recall’s

Unions rallied in downtown Cleveland on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day recalling his roots in organized labor. The focus of the rally Monday also included support for janitors, whose contracts are scheduled to expire in the spring. (photo courtesy Deb Kline, Cleveland Jobs with Justice)

Unions rallied in downtown Cleveland on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day recalling his roots in organized labor. The focus of the rally Monday also included support for janitors, whose contracts are scheduled to expire in the spring. (photo courtesy Deb Kline, Cleveland Jobs with Justice)

CLEVELAND, Ohio – They rallied in front of the Halle Building on Monday during the holiday honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with some carrying this sign: “I AM A MAN”.

For many, the link between the sign and King is inextricable. Striking sanitation workers in Memphis carried that sign in 1968. King had gone to that city to support those workers in their struggle for higher wages and safer working conditions, when he was assassinated. Those who rallied Monday in Cleveland sought to invoke his spirit as a champion of workers’ rights in their present day struggle to ensure that working class workers here hold on to “decent” pay and benefits, which they say are threatened with being eroded.

At center of the rally were the contracts of janitors in the Service Employees International Union, Local 1, that are scheduled to expire in the spring.

“In commemoration of MLK and all of the work that he did with labor, we felt that it was fitting to make sure that the voices of the working people of our city are heard,” said Yanela Sims, Northern Ohio coordinator for the union. “We want our voices heard. Our objective is to gain fair contracts with good wages and benefits, so that people are able to take care of their kids and live productively.”

Participants in a downtown rally Monday focused on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's involvement in organized labor (photo by Deb Kline, Cleveland Jobs With Justice).

Participants in a downtown rally Monday focused on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s involvement in organized labor (photo by Deb Kline, Cleveland Jobs With Justice).

She said the Halle Building downtown on Euclid Avenue was chosen as the rally site for a reason. Sims said the building is being converted to housing, and the owner has no interest in keeping unionized janitors. As a result, six janitors lost jobs, she said.

The building is owned by the K&D Group. Doug Price, the company’s CEO, has not returned The Plain Dealer’s call regarding the matter.

Sims said firing unionized janitors as downtown commercial buildings convert to housing is becoming more common. In fact, she said K&D got rid of the four unionized janitors last year when the company bought the Leader Building in Cleveland to covert it to housing. Sims said the MLK Day rally served to put building owners with such intentions on notice.

“The next time a building owner decides they want to sweep up another building, and kick out the folks that work there, we are going to fight it,” she said to the cheering crowd of about 40. “We are going to fight to make sure good jobs stay in Cleveland.”

Sims said contracts for SEIU janitors are not just up this year at downtown buildings, but also at Cuyahoga Community College, John Carroll University and ArcelorMittal.

Angelique Tolbert, a janitor at ArcelorMittal, told those at the rally that the working class would have to fight back to keep from losing ground.

“It is easy to defeat one man, but with an army the fight is much easier,” she said. “I hear a lot of shouting about change. My question to you is, ‘When will you be tired? What are you ready to do for change?’

The rally focused on the expiring contracts of Cleveland area janitors in SEIU, Local 1 (photo by Deb Kline, Cleveland Jobs With Justice).

The rally focused on the expiring contracts of Cleveland area janitors in SEIU, Local 1 (photo by Deb Kline, Cleveland Jobs With Justice).

“I know I am tired now,” she said. “I am ready to fight for better wages, paid holidays, vacations and any other necessities that any other job would offer.”

Among the paid holidays Tolbert said she would have to fight for is MLK Day.

Gilbert Santos, a janitor at the Cuyahoga County building, who also spoke at the rally, echoed Tolbert’s call for unity.

“I am here because I believe in better wages and better working conditions,” he said. “If we stand together, we can definitely succeed together.”

After the rally in front of the Halle Building, participants marched along Euclid Avenue. They chanted, “We’re fired up. Won’t take it no more.” Many held signs with images of King or those with variations on the “I AM A MAN” sign, such as “I AM A WOMAN” and “I AM A JANITOR”.

Harriet Applegate, who heads the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, said such a rally was a great way to celebrate the federal holiday.

“He died supporting workers in their attempt to get a voice at work and a better contract,” she said at the rally. “Because of these things, and because of his strong stand against right to work, he is every bit a labor hero as he is a civil rights hero. It is fitting to have this demonstration on this very, very important labor holiday.”

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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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Statement From Mary Kay Henry On Grand Jury Decision In Ferguson

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; beau.boughamer@seiu.org; 202/765-9143


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