As Silicon Valley, Bay Area Janitors Strike Continues Into Second Week... Striking Silicon Valley Janitors to Take Their Struggle for Justice to the 2 Million-Member SEIU Convention.
Silicon Valley janitors will strategize with national union leaders, elected officials and clergy and community groups in order to generate a national strategy to help win justice in Silicon Valley. Many of these leaders have fought and won victories similar to those the Silicon Valley janitors are seeking; decent wages and improved access to family healthcare. Silicon Valley janitors will meet with janitors active in the national "Justice for Janitors" movement that, over the last twenty years, has helped thousands of janitors in more than 30 U.S. cities win better wages and healthcare.
In other cities across the country, including Houston and Miami in 2006, Boston in 2002, and Los Angeles and Chicago in 2000, janitors and their allies have led strike-related activities including massive public marches, picket lines outside major office buildings, prayer vigils, hunger fasts, and other forms of non-violent protest.
Rafael Ramos cleans Stanford University, but because janitorial services are subcontracted, janitors earn more than $2 less per hour than the "living wage" standards that apply to direct employees of the University. Rafael wants to be able to afford decent housing for his wife and 9-month-old daughter, but right now they live with Rafael's brother and his family in a two-bedroom apartment; six people total. "I want to be able to save money, to put my daughter in a good college so she can be something other than a janitor, I want her to be a professional."
Maria Lopez cleans the offices of high-tech industry giant Cisco Systems, but earns just $11.04 an hour, not nearly enough to care for her four sons. Maria and her family must share housing with two other families, just to be able to afford the rent. She feeds her family with food donations from her church every week. "My salary is so low we can't even think of saving money for the future. We worry just about the day to day."
Eloisa Gonzales cleans offices at Oracle. With two young children at home -- Alejandro, 5-years-old, and Selena, 18-months-old -- Eloisa and her husband work very hard and make sacrifices, such as working different shifts to save money. Though Eloisa only sleeps four hours a night, she makes sure to encourage her children to work hard and go after their dreams. "My son tells me he will work hard so that I don't have to work the night shift anymore."
Hard-working Silicon Valley janitors earn $23,000 a year -- less than one third of what the Center for Economic Policy reports it takes to survive in California. Yet they live in the nation's most affluent enclave. Santa Clara County has just surpassed Manhattan as the area of the United States with the highest median income, $1,585/week. It takes Bay Area janitors nearly a month to earn this much. Meanwhile, state figures show that five Bay Area counties - Santa Clara, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Alameda and Marin lead the state in median incomes.
More than 800 Silicon Valley, Bay Area janitors have been on strike since May 20. Contract talks for more than 6,000 janitors collapsed on Thursday, May 15 when the Bay Area's largest cleaning companies refused, after months of negotiations, to propose even modest pay and benefit improvements to janitors. In addition, the cleaning companies are facing an investigation by the federal labor board over charges they illegally attempted to silence and intimidated janitors who have been speaking out for justice.
For more info about SEIU Local 1877 Justice for Janitors visit: www.seiu-usww.org.