Workers packed into the crowded Logan International Airport in Boston on Wednesday, June 15, where SEIU Local 32BJ brought together a large swathe of minimum-wage employees who often go unseen to hurried travelers. Baggage handlers, cabin cleaning staff and others who go through contracting companies were rallying together under an organizing banner with a history of struggle dating back 30 years.
While the Fight for $15 raises headlines and wages across the United States, June 15 saw a national day of action in cities around the country for the annual anniversary of the Justice for Janitors campaign. For SEIU Local 32BJ, which handles 155,000 property service workers along the East Coast from New Hampshire to Florida, this was a chance to reclaim the history of a campaign that did the unthinkable in the early 1990s.
“It has become a symbol for how labor unions and workers, working together and exercising their power, can establish standards in all sorts of industries,” said Eugenio Villasante, regional communications manager for SEIU Local 32BJ.
The rally brought together traditionally employed janitors with other airport workers who have been fighting for years to organize a union in their own workplace. Just as with other low-wage positions that were thought to be beyond the scope of unionization, the Justice for Janitors campaign is a reminder of what is possible through strong public campaigns that organize the community as a show of solidarity. With SEIU’s Raise America campaign, which looks to raise the standards for union janitors across the country, the Justice for Janitors legacy holds critical lessons for how public campaigns win concessions.
¡Sí Se Puede!
Although the earliest planning for the campaign can be traced back as far as 1986, Justice for Janitors came to life in Los Angeles in 1990. Grounds-care, cleaning…