It appears the weeks long strike for janitors in Houston will be ending in victory, Janitors’ labor deal seen as ‘reasonable’.
A tentative agreement that would give Houston janitors a cumulative 12 percent pay raise over the next four years is a “realistic” outcome amid uncertain economic times, labor and legal experts said Thursday.
“We’ve been fortunate here to have a better economy than other parts of country, but it seems to be a deal that reflects the economic realities of the time and that the economic future remains murky,” said A. Kevin Troutman, an employment lawyer at Fisher & Phillips who represents management clients.
On Saturday, the janitors are expected to vote to ratify the tentative deal made with six of the city’s largest cleaning companies this week. The current top wage for most of the 3,200 janitors is $8.35 an hour. The deal would give the workers a 25-cent-per-hour raise each year for the next four years.
The first-year raise would go into effect Jan. 1, for an initial 2.9 percent annual increase.
A spokeswoman for SEIU Local 1, which represents the 3,200 janitors who clean large office buildings in Houston, said the union’s bargaining team and members are excited about the agreement.
“We’ve begun to take steps in the right direction to bring people to a more stable economic situation for themselves and their families,” said Elsa Caballero, state director for Texas for the union’s Local 1.
Cindy Casares at the Texas Observer explains Why The Houston Janitor Strike Was Historic.
The janitor strike in Houston—which concluded last night with an agreement between janitors and cleaning companies—was historic and rare for many reasons. Texas is a right-to-work state. That means it’s illegal to require a person to join a union to keep or get a job, making the organization of a protest of this magnitude, which lasted more than four weeks, difficult. The right-to-work law also makes it illegal to fire someone for joining a union, but don’t be fooled, the law was adopted because of a long history of anti-union sentiment in this state. Reasons for anti-union leanings are as amorphous as a child’s fear of the dark, mostly driven by the conservative view that unions spawn unwanted social and political agents. But Texas’ anti-union sentiment also has its roots in the very concrete strategy of attracting outside industries to take advantage of cheap labor—a tactic that has worked well in this border state, with Mexico providing us a steady stream of exploitable employees. New York-based companies like ABM, Pritchard and JP Morgan Chase are all contractors of the Houston janitors that, until yesterday, refused to increase the paltry $9,000 a year average wage for janitors.
Regardless, SEIU is succeeding in Texas where few unions have, organizing a strike of this longevity that even managed to get mayoral support. Houston mayor Annise Parker urged contractors, in a press release on July 20, to return to the negotiating table remarking that, “Their unwillingness to talk has left the union with no other choice but civil disobedience. That is not good for the City of Houston or our economy and it is not how we do business in Houston. We work hard, we work together and we treat each other fairly. The union has made good-faith offers. Now it’s time for the janitorial contractors to sit back down at the table to work out an agreement that is fair and just.”
They began negotiating again on August 3, and late last night, the union announced a deal. As DePrang reports, the janitors will receive a one-dollar-an-hour raise in the next four years. That’s less than the $1.65-per-hour increase the union initially sought, but much higher than the paltry 50-cent raise the companies had offered. In that way, this historic strike proved a success.
Congratulations to the janitors!! Let’s hope their victory shows the rest of us what’s possible.
There is a janitor strike going on in Houston.
Houston janitors will strike for the third day in a row. Already this week, janitors have gone on strike against one employer at Greenway Plaza buildings, another at 363 North Belt and tonight the strike will expand to two buildings against the employers charged with cleaning at Four Oaks Place, Wells Fargo Tower and 1330 Post Oak. These contractors have responded to employees’ efforts by interfering with their rights to engage in union activity protected by federal law.
Despite cleaning the offices of some of the richest corporations in the world, including JP Morgan Chase, Chevron, and ExxonMobil, janitors in Houston are paid as little as $9,000 a year, and many work two to three jobs just to survive. A janitor would have to work more than 2,000 years in order to earn what the Exxon and Chevron CEOs make in just one year, and 2,500 years to earn just what JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon took home last year.
“I am paid so little that I have to work two jobs just to make sure my family has what they need. I’m only able to see my two kids about an hour a day,” says Cirilo Solo, a janitor who works for Pritchard. “We spoke up for a better life and now they’re violating our rights.”
This is the second time janitors in Houston have gone on strike—this time to protest unlawful conduct. In 2006, janitors in Houston went on strike and touched off a flurry of activity including multiple days of civil disobedience, marches and rallies that propelled the plight of Houston’s low wage workers into the national spotlight.
Since 2006, the growing gap between the 1% and the 99% has become a pressing political issue as the number of low wage jobs increases, the middle class shrinks and corporations refuse to pay their share of taxes, create good jobs, and reward the hard work of their employees.
The problem is particularly poignant in Houston. Named the nation’s “No. 1 Millionaire City” for annual growth in millionaires; 1 in 5 people working in Houston make less than $10 an hour, and Texas is tied with Mississippi for the highest proportion of minimum wage jobs in the nation.
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa recently released a statement in support of the janitors (via jobsanger).
“If corporations want to be considered people, then they need to accept the belief that we are our brother’s keepers,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, the newly elected chairman of the Texas Democratic Party. “Hard working people in America should not be shamed. Honest work should receive honest pay, but Republicans want to repeal the minimum wage to make people work for $2 an hour. Then Republicans want to whine about paying for heath care for children of American parents who have jobs. It is shameful.”
“Grotesquely overpaid CEOs and upper management expect the men and women who work hard and play by the rules to be forced to beg for public assistance just to support themselves, much less a family. That is a disgrace not only to the America we love, but also to God,” Hinojosa stressed. “These striking workers are seeking a living wage for their work in cleaning the offices of Texas millionaires and one percenters, who not only refuse to pay a decent wage for honest work but are also enlisting Republican support to protect them from paying their fair share of taxes.”
“Democrats, along with labor unions, have been cleaning up corporate messes, both literally and figuratively, for far too long. Corporations are attempting to maximize profits at the expense of the taxpayers who must provide medical care and food assistance for workers’ families, even though the breadwinners are working full time. That is not the America we love,” Hinojosa continued, “and the workers and taxpayers in this country should be enraged about it.”
Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa and The Texas Democratic Party calls upon Texas Democrats and all Texans who support the right to a living wage to make a meaningful stand by helping on the picket line, signing the petition at http://1.seiu.org/page/s/houston-needs-a-raise.
I completely agree with what jobsanger writes:
I may have misjudged the new chairman of the Texas Democratic Party. I had thought he would continue the same old moderate to conservative policies of the last leadership. In the past, the state party leadership avoided any issue that might seem progressive and cost them conservative votes (votes they weren’t going to get anyway). A good example of that would be the union janitor strike in Houston (where the janitors are trying to get a livable wage).
But the new party chairman, Gilberto Hinojosa, has come down squarely on the side of the striking janitors, and he has done so publicly. This is a progressive stand, and one that I wholeheartedly support. I hope this is indicative of future actions Mr. Hinojosa will take. If so, the Texas Democratic Party might once again give Texas voters a real choice (instead of a parade of Republican-lite conservatives that have marked candidates in the recent past).
Texas taxpayer money is regularly given away to corporations that bring low paying jobs to the state of Texas. As Paul Krugman pointed out last year, The Texas Unmiracle. Texas is a cheap labor state, and corporations love that. It increases their profits, which they’re able to hoard because of the cheap taxes for corporations in Texas.
What Texas shows is that a state offering cheap labor and, less important, weak regulation can attract jobs from other states. I believe that the appropriate response to this insight is “Well, duh.” The point is that arguing from this experience that depressing wages and dismantling regulation in America as a whole would create more jobs — which is, whatever Mr. Perry may say, what Perrynomics amounts to in practice — involves a fallacy of composition: every state can’t lure jobs away from every other state.
And the cheap labor lure is just too strong as this editorial points out, A ‘Texas Miracle’ on less than a living wage.
Thankfully, the local debate over whether to grant Maruchan Inc. of Japan millions of dollars to pay people very little money to make noodles has transcended the mere question of how many workers it would employ.
And it’s heartening — in a depressing sort of way, of course — that some of us are actually worried.
We are worried because the people making the noodles would earn minimum wage: $7.25 an hour, less than a living wage.
At the risk of dampening anyone’s good cheer, here are a few more reasons for us to be worried.
Texas already ranks first in the nation for jobs at or below the minimum wage.
(Go Texas! We’re No. 1!)
In fact, 37 percent of all jobs added in Texas in 2010 paid minimum wage or less. Overall, about a third of all jobs in Texas fail to support a family of four.
Also, the gap between the rich and the poor in Texas is greater than the gap in 40 other states, and it’s increasing. Perhaps this is because Texas workers are more productive than the average American worker, yet they’re also less well-paid.
What are the consequences of a low-wage economy?
Here’s one: Texans carry more credit card debt, ranking among the highest in the nation in 2009 and 2010.
The American city saddled with the highest average credit card debt in 2010?
It was San Antonio, at $5,177
To be fair, Bexar County commissioners preparing to shell out $5.8 million in incentives to Maruchan Inc. are not purporting to lead a pep rally.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Paul Elizondo conceded the deal amounts to a “dilemma,” although he said, “A job is a job. We need to get as many of them as we can.”
And here’s where the American Dream — or the “Texas Miracle” — collides with reality.
“Everybody needs to work, particularly in Texas because the social safety net is so thin,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. “And one of the reasons it’s so thin is so when jobs like this become available, there’s a lot of competition for them because Texans have no choice but to work, and to work at whatever job’s available.”
In other words: Low taxes not only create jobs, but also result in low services and low wages.
But low wages, low taxes, (on the wealthy that is), and low services also keeps poor, working, and middle class Texans fighting amongst themselves for an ever-shrinking piece of the pie. Which is an old trick.
Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.
- “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Janitor Who Cleans JP Morgan Chase Offices to Confront Dimon at House Hearing.
Multi-national company eyes possible expansion into SA.
First some context via Firedoglake on the need to reclaim May Day in the US, Labor Not Loyalty on May 1st.
Two key steps are helping to restore May Day to us. First, recent immigrants from the rest of the world — which has continued to celebrate May Day even as we who began it have forgotten it — have brought it back as a day to demand rights for immigrants. Second, the Occupy movement is building a broad movement combining demands for civil rights, economic rights, and peace. And as part of that process, we are studying people’s history instead of the sort of history approved by the Texas School Board and other big buyers of lousy text books.
May Day in year 126 since May Day began is showing signs of out-shining the May Days we’ve seen for many years. May Day is the commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre and the struggle for an 8-hour day in Chicago. [Emphasis added]
May Day had a long history in Europe as a seasonal celebration of rebirth and hope. It was also the first of a month, an ideal time for strikes in industrialized nineteenth-century America where workers tended to be paid at the end of the month. At its 1884 convention the American Federation of Labor adopted a resolution that all labor would strike on May 1, 1886, to demand an eight-hour day. The media, which in this country has always been completely fair and balanced, predicted a violent Communist insurrection. The Chicago Tribune reported oh so responsibly: “Every lamp-post in Chicago will be decorated with a communistic carcass if necessary to prevent wholesale incendiarism or prevent any attempt at it.”
There were 62,000 workers in Chicago who committed to strike on May 1st. Another 25,000 demanded an eight-hour day without threatening to strike. And 20,000 were given the eight-hour day before May 1st. Meanwhile, the Armours, Swifts, Medills, Fields, and McCormicks (Chicago’s royalty, people who would have adored Loyalty Day) mobilized the National Guard, the Pinkertons, and specially deputized police. Rahm Emanuel would have been proud.
Workers marched down Michigan Avenue in Chicago instead of working on May 1, 1886, and 340,000 did the same nationwide.
Leading activists Albert Parsons and August Spies spoke at the rally in Chicago, which ended peacefully. The Communist insurrection proved as real as Saddam Hussein’s long-range missiles.
But two days later, Chicago police shot striking workers outside McCormick Harvester Works, and labor leaders organized a protest in Haymarket Square for the next day. In the meantime, thousands of workers all over the country were winning the eight-hour day and returning to work. If you have an 8-hour day today, you have them to thank for it. Freedom is not free, as the saying goes. It’s not created by wars. It’s created by productive struggle. And if you’ve lost the 8-hour day, you have our collective failure to keep up the struggle to blame.
As the relatively small and peaceful meeting at Haymarket Square was wrapping up, 180 policemen marched on the crowd, and a bomb went off — which many believe was thrown by an agent provocateur. The Chicago Tribune demanded that Parsons, Spies, and two others, Michael Schwab and Samuel Fielden, be hanged for murder.
The police began smashing up labor offices and beating up innocent people. “Make the raids first and look up the law afterwards,” said Julius Grinnell, Chicago’s State’s Attorney.
The four men named above were indicted for murder, along with George Engel, Adolph Fisher, and Louis Lingg. Parsons, who had escaped, became a modern Socrates and turned himself in to face certain death. Testimony from “witnesses” who had been threatened with torture and others who had been paid turned out so contradictory that the prosecution shifted to a focus on the defendants’ thoughts and politics. Fielden and Schwab ended up with life sentences; Lingg died in his cell; the others were hung. Parsons left behind a note to his children that included this:
“We show our love by living for our loved ones. We also prove our love by dying, when necessary, for them.”
In 1888 the AFL set May 1, 1890, as the next major day of action. Workers all over Europe joined in, and a holiday worthy of the name was born.
This May Day, do what you can for Albert Parsons, for those you love, and for those who will come after us. Do not work. Do not be loyal. Do not be silent. Be the change you want to see in the world.
Here’s three reasons why it’s important,MAY DAY CHARTS: We Don’t Currently Reward Our Workers.
1. The 99 percent are extremely productive workers, but aren’t compensated for their productivity.
2. Corporations don’t notice income inequality, but workers sure do.
3. Workers who don’t organize are getting the short end of the stick.
And last a few things we all need to know about Taxes and Economic Growth.
- In the 1950s and 1960s, when the highest marginal tax rates ranged from 70 to 92%, America built the interstate highway system, put a man on the moon, made our education system the envy of other countries — and had a thriving middle class and an economy unparalleled in the world.
- In the 1990s, when President Clinton told millionaires and big corporations to pay their fair share, we got millions of new jobs and strong economic growth.
- We tried “trickle down” tax giveaways for the richest few and they failed: The Bush tax cuts exploded the deficit while failing to create jobs.
- The Romney-Ryan budget for America would not only gut the investments that make America competitive in the world, it would also make the debt worse by providing $3 trillion in corporate and millionaire tax giveaways — with an average of $150K for the richest 1%.
- The average tax rate paid by the richest of the richest few — the wealthiest 0.1% — is at nearly the lowest rate in over 50 years.
- Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Mike Bloomberg, and hundreds of “patriotic millionaires” say the wealthiest Americans like them should do what’s right and pay higher taxes.
- Poll after poll after poll shows that most Americans support proposals like the Buffett Rule to have millionaires and wealthiest few pay higher taxes. More than two-thirds of Americans also think the federal tax system benefits the rich and is unfair to ordinary workers.
Will Latinos Get it Done For Texas Democrats?
And a listen from Smiley and West, The Conversation: Richard Wolff.