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News ::
Janitors Settle; Supporters Reflect (english)
25 Oct 2002
After four weeks of walkouts, nightly parades, civil disobedience, and
mass demonstrations, Service Employees' International Union (SEIU)
local 615 (formerly local 254) has settled on a new contract with
cleaning maintenance companies. The new contract, announced October
23, increases the number of janitors with health benefits by 1,000,
provides sick days for all janitors, and increases wages by 30% over
the five-year life of the contract.
The strike was marked by strong community participation. The
janitors' campaign won the endorsement of many local politicians,
fellow unions, student organizations, and religious organizations. On
October 9, acting governor Jane Swift announced that she was
unilaterally terminating UNICCO's contract to clean the State House,
if there was not an improvement in the conditions of the janitors who
worked there.

Many people, including Cambridge State Representative Jarret Barrios,
were arrested in various acts of civil disobedience during the
campaign. The Boston Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), an
organization of activist students who have been helping the janitors'
campaign, had planned and announced a "Day of Chaos" for Thursday,
October 24. The "Day of Chaos," called off due to the settlement, was
to include unpermitted marches and other forms of civil disobedience
designed to disrupt business in Boston. Plans to bus in additional
protesters from other cities for the event were also cancelled.

Instead, students from Boston SLAP gathered at Northeastern for a
closing rally. Most of those gathered seemed relieved and qualifiedly
happy about the terms of the settlement. James Hare, a student at
Harvard Divinity School, said that the contract was "not enough to
provide for dignity," but the best that the union and its supporters
could do under the circumstances. Rob Laurent, an undergraduate
student at Suffolk University, said that although the deal was not
everything that could be hoped for, it represented progress for the
janitors and also a boost for the student left. Jayd Gardinia, an
Emerson undergrad, added that the Boston SLAP mailing list grew from
one-hundred fifty to two-hundred fifty members during the campaign.

The students seemed particularly excited about the concept of the "Day
of Chaos." Hare, who still faces charges stemming from a September 13
act of civil disobedience on behalf of the janitors, said he believed
that UNICCO was scared to think that student activists would fight
them with the same intensity as they fight the World Trade
Organization. Gardinia believed that the "Day of Chaos" invigorated
people because it sent a message that people are willing to fight for
what they believe in. Many of the students present said they are
going to take some time to regroup, then join in anti-war activities
on campus.
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