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JANITORS ESCALATE AHEAD OF STRIKE DATE (english)
by Dan Keshet
Email: dkesh, channel1, com
27 Sep 2002
Thursday, Boston -- In an escalation of pre-strike tactics, seven
members of the "Justice for Janitors" campaign were arrested in Copley
Square engaging in civil disobedience by sitting down in the middle of
the intersection of Dartmouth and Huntington Streets near Copley
Square. The arrests were the centerpiece in a day of activism that
featured the Janitors campaign joining with representatives of the
Communication Workers' of America (CWA), in town for a marketing
conference, and anti-globalization activists protesting Fleet Bank's
actions in Latin America.
"Janitors" campaign spokeswoman and Service Employees' International
Union (SEIU) Local 615 employee Cynthia Kain hailed the action as a
success, citing the strong show of support from the community.
According to Kain, the main issue on the table dividing management and
the union is the number of janitors covered by health insurance.
Currently, 1 in 4 janitors has any health insurance, according to
Kain, resulting in inadequate care, more emergency room visits, more
illness and difficulty for janitors to receive prescription drugs.
Kain says that the union will only hear proposals that include health
care for a greater number of janitors. Prior to the arrests, the
Janitors' campaign engaged in some street theater, with members
holding up signs saying indicating that they were sick.
All attendees at the rally seem quite prepared to strike. As the
seven campaigners were arrested, the approximately two hundred members
of the onlooking crowd chanted resoundingly "You see it! You feel it!
The union is here!" Afterwards, speakers addressed the crowd, saying
"We'll be back" and "Next week we're on strike. This is just a
taste." Kain said the union had lined up support from other unions,
including the Communication Workers and the Teamsters, so in addition
to the downtown office buildings not being cleaned, they won't receive
UPS or Fedex packages for the duration of the strike.
The day had a strong Latin flavor. Many of the janitors are
immigrants from countries like the Dominican Republic, El Salvador,
Columbia, Brazil, and Cape Verde. To emphasize and accomadate this,
all speeches were in both English and Spanish, and many of the chants
were in Spanish: "El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido!" (The people
united will never be defeated) and "Huelga! Huelga!" (Strike!
When the rally was finished, leaders of the anti-globalization,
anti-Fleet protests took to the microphone, tied this Latin flavor in
with the anti-globalization protests, saying that many of the janitors
had been forced to move here and accept low wage jobs due to the
policies of the IMF, the World Bank, and companies like Fleet Bank in
their home countries.
There were approximately thirty members of Boston's Special Operations
unit on hand for the protests and the arrests. Despite the
law-breaking, the police and protesters had cordial relations, with
one policeman even approaching the protest organizers to wish them
good luck as the rally wound down.