Workers Push Corporate America to Save Our Chicago Homes

June 14, 2011

As the middle class continues to struggle in an economy that many consider to be unbalanced and unfair, one important group of workers is speaking out this week: Janitors.

Wednesday, June 15 is the 21st annual Justice for Janitors Day. All week, janitors will lead or participate in protests calling for economic justice in 15 U.S. cities.

One of those is Chicago, a city with the second highest foreclosure rate and the third highest poverty rate in the country.

On Tuesday, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce is hosting an Executive Summit of CEOs and CFOs from some of America’s richest companies. According to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the most profitable of those companies made $200 billion in profits last year. But instead of investing that money into our neighborhoods, they paid their executives more than a billion dollars.

Hundreds of janitors will join thousands of protesters at Daley Plaza Tuesday to push for good jobs, excellent schools and an end to home foreclosures.

June 15 is the 21st anniversary of the terrible scene in 1990 in which Los Angeles police officers beat low-wage janitors protesting in the city’s ritzy Century City district. Violent images of police quashing the protest were seen around the world, pushing the public opinion in favor of the janitors, who subsequently won their first union contract.

Their movement, “Justice for Janitors,” lifted thousands out of poverty. But with rising prices in recent years, janitors, like many Americans, have seen their standard of living erode.

“The middle class in this country is under the gun,” says Martha Martinez, a janitor employed by ABM at the Century City Towers in Los Angeles. “While big corporations are getting all the money, a lot of people don’t have jobs. And even more people are working for a living but not making a living.”

The other cities that will be hosting protests this week are Baltimore, Boston, Denver, Florham Park, N.J., Hartford, Conn., Irvine, Calif., Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Stamford, Conn., Washington DC, and White Plains, N.Y.

Cleaners are hosting their own events, speaking out for fair wages, affordable healthcare and family sustaining jobs for their communities. Those protests will be held in Australia, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.

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