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News ::
Janitors' Strike Continues (english)
04 Oct 2002
Modified: 06 Oct 2002
October 4, Boston--Last night, more than one thousand janitors from
the Service Employees' International Union (SEIU) local 615 (formerly
local 254) marched from Copley Square to the Prudential Center in a
festive, celebratory action. It was the fourth day of their city-wide strike against UNICCO and other cleaning service providers.
The action, similar to marches the union has held leading up to the
strike, and every day of the strike so far, featured loud
Spanish-language chants of "Si se puede" ("Yes, it can be
done"), "Que queremos? Justicia! Cuando? Ahora!" ("What do
we want? Justice! When? Now!"). Janitors, dressed in bright purple and yellow SEIU shirts, beat rhythyms with their wooden pickets against their cardboard signs, blew whistles and noisemakers. Passing trucks honked their horns, and crowds--some of them non-striking maintenance workers from nearby buildings--gathered along the streets to cheer the janitors on.

Some of the crowd had attended a rally earlier in the day organized
by the Boston Student Labor Action
Project, an organization of students active in labor issues. At
that rally, eighty students, unionists, and activists marched from the
MIT-owned University Park development outside of Central Square in
Cambridge to 77 Mass. Ave in the center of the MIT campus.

The rally was intended to pressure MIT into taking a stand in favor
of the janitors' demands, and to pressure UNICCO, which service some
of the University Park buildings, into accepting the demands. Rally
attendees included members of Carpenters' Local 40, AFSCME-represented
library workers from Harvard University, the Cambridge Eviction Free
Zone, students from Northeastern University and MIT, as well as
members of the Harvard Living Wage campaign. In 2001, the Living Wage
campaign engaged in a high-profile occupation of Harvard
administrative offices demanding a living wage for Harvard janitors
and other workers.

The rally featured speeches by a "who's who" of local politicians,
including Cambridge City Councillors Marjorie Decker, Brian Murphy,
and Tim Toomey (also a state representative), State Representative and
soon-to-be-State Senator Jarret Barrios, Boston City Councillor Chuck
Turner, and gubernatorial candidate Jill Stein.

MIT official Ken Campbell emerged during the rally to read a
message from MIT President Charles Vest. The statement assured MIT's
support for the janitors, but emphasized that MIT has leased
University Park to Forest City, and is thus absolved of responsibility
for the treatment of workers at that site. The crowd reacted
negatively to the message.

The strike is part of the SEIU's nationwide Justice for Janitors
campaign, which has had successes in Los
Angeles and around the country.

The union's main demands revolve around health care, full-time
employment, and wages. Under their current contract, janitors must
work twenty-nine hours per week in order to qualify for health care.
However, only one in four janitors receive health insurance. This is
due to a deliberate policy of maintaining workers below the minimum
necessary to accrue benefits, according to John Shea, political
director of SEIU local 615. He says one UNICCO official described
himself as "ideologically opposed" to full-time work. Cynthia Kain,
spokeswoman for the Boston Justice for Janitors campaign and employee
of local 615, says the union will only negotiate if management puts
forth an offer that increases the number of janitors with health care.

Shea says that the strike is the result of a change in the
leadership of the local. The former leader of then-local 254, did not
represent the membership, Shea says. About a year ago, the local was
taken into receivership by the national SEIU leadership. When it
emerged from receivership a few months ago, it was more aggressive
and, according to Shea, more responsive to the membership. One of the
clearest indications of this is the presence in union literature and
demonstrations of the Spanish language, which along with Portuguese is
the prevailing language of the immigrant-heavy union.

The strike has drawn support from many different sectors, including
major unions like the Teamsters and the Communication Workers of
America (CWA), and the UFCW, local politicians, students and
anti-globalization protesters, who say the policies of the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) are the reason
so many of the janitors had to flee their countries for low-wage jobs
in the US.
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More Jobs! (english)
06 Oct 2002
More jobs! Longer hours! Less efficiency! Less automation! More corrupt union "leadership"! More banksters! More third-world folks cleaning toilets for guilty white progre$$ives!
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