With Wage and Benefit Cuts on the Line for Thousands of Families…
Houston Janitors Unanimously Vote “Yes” to Authorize Strike
Janitors call on all low wage workers to “Take Back Millionaire City”
HOUSTON—Houston janitors who clean the offices of some of the world’s wealthiest companies voted today to give their bargaining committee the power to call a strike. The vote was unanimous. Houston janitors also called on working people across the city to stand with them to restore fairness to our economy and good jobs to “Millionaire City.”
“Like many Houstonians, we are working harder and harder and falling further behind. Every day I see my neighborhood crumbling. Everyone says Houston is doing great, but that’s not the reality for many people,” says Sixta Gonzalez, a Houston janitor.
Despite the fact that Houston is home to more millionaires than any other US city, the city’s 3,200 janitors are struggling to raise families on less than $9,000 a year, a salary below half the poverty level. One in five workers in Houston are paid well below the estimated cost of living for a family of three. Janitors and community supporters are calling on cleaning companies, building owners and the richest corporations in the country to do their part and create good middle class jobs for Houston.
“Before we went on strike in 2006, all the odds were against us. The biggest corporations in the world laughed at us. We lived in the shadows. But we showed that ordinary people can achieve amazing things,” says Elena Delgado, a janitor in Downtown Houston.
Despite the Houston commercial real estate market being one of the healthiest in the nation, cleaning companies are currently insisting on a contract provision that could further impoverish thousands of Houston families. Janitors and contractors reached impasse last week, with both parties walking away from the table with no future bargaining dates set. The contract expires May 31st.
The strong “yes” vote to authorize the bargaining committee to call a strike comes as our country is in the midst of massive public protest over the disappearing middle class and increasing income inequality between the richest 1% and the other 99% of the country. While the U.S. economy has grown by more than 80% in the past 30 years, a majority of those gains in wealth have gone to the richest Americans while income for 95 percent of American households has either stayed the same or fallen.
BACKGROUND: In 2006, tired of working in deplorable conditions, more than 3,000 janitors went on strike for a better future for their families with dozens arrested in acts of civil disobedience. The five-week strike captured national attention and the support of religious leaders, elected officials and Houstonians alike, winning the janitors their first union contract.