Janitors and supporters in 22 cities across the country rallied for fair wages and good jobs in preparation for new contract negotiations as the agreements are set to expire in the next year.
SEIU Local 1 gathered more than 300 people at the Thompson Center drawing attention to the plight of low wage workers in this unrelenting economic recession.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Elizabeth Starr, a janitor with the Chicago Public Schools, said layoffs have caused the workload to nearly double while wages remain the same.
The work lives of more than 160,000 janitors are up in the air with contracts nearing their end; locally, they expire in April. Illinois poverty rates stand at 14.1 percent. Living wages would help draw many of these workers out of poverty or further above the poverty line.
Urszula Domaradzki, a Chicago janitor for 25 years commented on yesterday’s action: “Too many workers in our community and across the country are working hard every day but are not able to make ends meet. That’s why I’m here, to speak out for good jobs for our communities.”
Negotiations between SEIU Local 1 and the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago will begin in March. According to Laura Garza, vice president of SEIU Local 1, these talks set the tone for contract negotiations with the city.
Much is at stake for the workers and the livelihood of their familes. The economic recovery could also play a role in negotiations. If the economy is progressing, then workers would have more leverage. If the nation is in a continued economic downturn, employers can claim a lack of financial resources for better wages.
Other cities to participate yesterday included: Chicago, Houston, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Denver, Seattle, Portland, Boston, Providence, Los Angeles, Orange County/Irvine, San Diego/La Jolla, San Jose, Sacramento and San Francisco.