Houston, TX-- Support for Houston janitors is spreading across the country following the Tuesday arrests of seven people, including 5 janitors, who participated in an act of peaceful, nonviolent civil disobedience at a protest in support of a living wage for Houston janitors.
Today, hundreds of janitors and human rights activists in 17 cities are protesting in front of office buildings cleaned by the same cleaning contractors that employ Houston janitors--who are now on their fourth week of an unfair labor practices strike.
The cities where solidarity actions are taking place are Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York City, Portland, San Diego, San Ramon, Seattle, St. Louis, Toronto, and Washington, D.C.
"I cannot imagine the impossible decisions that Houston janitors must make earning only $9,000 a year," said Denver janitor Celia Guizado Gomez who is rallying today. "My union job as a janitor allowed me to raise three children in a stable and loving home. I'm out here today because no working parent should be forced to choose between spending time with their family and working a second job just to put food on the table and clothes on your kids' backs."
Houston janitors are paid just $9,000 annually, often clean 90+ toilets every night and work in some of the most exclusive real estate in the city. So far the cleaning contractors they work for, such as New York based ABM, have rejected paying the janitors a higher wage, claiming that $9,000 a year is a good wage. Recently, another cleaning contractor, New York based Pritchard has come under fire for terminating janitors that have supported the union.
Janitors are standing up to some of the biggest and wealthiest corporations in the world for a chance at a better life for their families. When janitors in Houston began to campaign for a better life, they were met with intimidation from their employers.
"We're striking because we have no other option," says Houston janitor Lidia Aguillon. "We can't make ends meet on what we are paid, and when we stand up for ourselves, we're punished and harassed."