Over two thousand janitors marched through Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and Orange County last week, calling on major companies to improve jobs and address the extreme income inequality.
The rallies came just a day after SEIU United Service Workers West (USWW) members voted to authorize the bargaining committee to call a May 1st strike if contractors' final offer failed to live up to good business principles, including dignified wages, affordable health care, and respect for immigrant communities. USWW's statewide contract covers 18,000 janitors who clean the offices of prospering California companies.
"While our families are working harder and sacrificing more, these corporations are sitting on unprecedented amounts of cash," said Rosalinda De Arteaga, a janitor employed by ABM to clean the offices of Varian.
In timing with the rallies, USWW released a new study in a series titled "How Much is The 1% Holding Back Your Family" (PDF), which argues that the economic slowdown is a product of the unprecedented amount 'cash and cash equivalents' corporations are sitting on. Federal Reserve data reveals that despite the so-called Great Recession the amount of cash companies are sitting on has more than doubled since 2000. "Economists at the Political Economy Research Institute very conservatively estimated that if put to work by corporations and banks the idle cash would generate nearly 19 million jobs over three years," the report says. "Yet this cash remains idle and there are currently nearly 13 million unemployed Americans."
"By sitting on this cash, these CEOs are holding us ALL back," noted SEIU Union Service Workers West First Vice President Lauren Jacobs. "This is money that could be putting moms and dads back to work, money that could be giving hard working folks a much deserved raise, money that could be strengthening the public institutions like state and community colleges that helped make these corporations prosperous in the first place."
This year, 30,000 of USWW's members' are renegotiating for new contracts, including office and tech janitors, security officers who help protect downtown high rises, Hollywood Studio janitors, San Francisco apartment workers, and LAX and SFO airport workers. On April 30th the contracts for janitors expire in Silicon Valley, the East Bay and the Sacramento region, in addition to those contracts covering janitors in Los Angeles and Orange County.
They join janitors, security officers and other building and facilities workers in several cities across the country who are speaking out demanding the 1% stop holding back their hard working families.