5:07 PM Eastern - Monday, June 14, 2010

Justice for Janitors Campaign: Rooted in the Struggle for Immigrant Rights

America's immigrants are our life blood. From the brilliance of immigrants like Albert Einstein to Ang Lee, immigrants have helped to make this country strong, vibrant and prosperous. Tomorrow, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Justice for Janitors Day and its roots in the immigrant workers struggle, we honor the continued role that immigrants play in strengthening our economy, creating jobs, and making our nation great. We also mark our continued commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform so that we can eliminate the underground economy, level the playing field, and lift wages for all workers.

The Past 20 Years

The Justice for Janitors campaign has come to symbolize the power of the poorest immigrants to take on the richest CEO's and win a fight that benefits the whole community.

Two decades ago in Los Angeles, CEO's had driven down the wages of janitors to a low of $4.50 an hour. As immigrants flowed into Southern California, powerful and wealthy building owners believed they had access to an unending pool of workers willing to work for nothing. But they got more than they bargained for when the janitors, many of whom had risked their lives to come to the United States, took on the industry to win higher wages and benefits and won. Twenty years later, wages for janitors in Los Angeles are now over $12 an hour.

The Justice for Janitors campaign was at the forefront of a larger effort to bring good jobs back to Los Angeles. Mostly Latino janitors and African American security officers worked together to launch "Stand for Security," a Justice for Janitor-like campaign to raise wages and standards for security guards. Both campaigns did more than just raise wages for workers--higher wages also meant that millions of dollars of additional revenue flowed into small businesses and the community.

United, We Rise Together

Today, the Justice for Janitors campaign has also come to symbolize the inextricable link between the fight for worker's rights and the fight for immigration reform. Under today's broken system, an underground economy of undocumented workers who lack basic rights pushes down wages and working conditions for all workers. Men, women and children are being treated unjustly, inhumanely and without the basic dignity and worth that all people are entitled. Until we fix our broken immigration system and level the playing field for workers, we cannot restore fairness for workers.

Despite the myths, a path to legalization for 11 million undocumented immigrants would provide a $1.5 trillion boost to the American economy over 10 years. It would also boost wages for both native-born and newly legalized immigrant workers. And it would increase annual tax revenue by $4.5-$5.4 billion over three years--that's $188,227 every hour.

Once we pass this smart, workable immigration solution, we can unite all working people, work to raise living standards for all workers, and move forward together.

June 15 Actions across the Country

J4J_Strike_livingwage_rallysm.jpgThat is why on June 15th every year, SEIU members and activists around the globe honor the legacy of the Justice for Janitors campaign with events across the country to call for comprehensive immigration reform and a fair, just voice on the job for all workers. At a time when worker productivity is up and wages are down, when immigrant rights are under attack and when our economy continues to benefit a lucky few at the expense of the majority, SEIU members are carrying on the fight for justice and opportunity for the working men and women who sustain our economy.

Over the last two decades, the successes of the Justice for Janitors campaign serve as the most powerful reminder that united we rise together; that united we can recreate the American dream for workers. United we can raise wages and improve working conditions. United we can pass comprehensive immigration reform. And united, we can deliver justice.

Actions on Justice for Janitors Day

  • Seattle, WA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Orange County, CA
  • Sacramento, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Denver, CO
  • Chicago, IL

More information, photos and videos from SEIU's Justice for Janitors campaign here: http://seiu.me/j4j20

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