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Hunger Strikes, Marches and More as Los Angeles Service Workers Make Their Presence Felt on May Day

L.A. janitors and airport workers have been building momentum for a possible strike for weeks -- and they have big plans for May Day.

Photo Credit: Melissa Chadburn


If you ask Mike Garcia, president of SEIU, United Service Workers West, he will tell you, “We have a jobs crisis, not a budget crisis. We have a crisis of the right-wing conscience.”

He gave this speech atop a stage at Pershing Square, in the financial hub of Los Angeles, the afternoon of tax day, April 17, 2012--a day when 2,000 janitors and workers took to the streets to let the large corporations know we would not stand for their corporate tax dodging. He went on, “The janitors are here ready to march for justice, not just for janitors, but for all workers in this country. They tell us there’s no money for healthcare in this economic recession, for wage increases, there’s no language to give us justice as immigrants in this country! We say no. We don’t believe it. There is not a scarcity of money, but there is a scarcity of justice.”

This was part of a build-up for a larger action: on May 1, International Worker’s Day, thousands of working people, their families and allies will gather from every corner of Los Angeles to tell these employers we mean business.

Los Angeles’ streets have been overcome with janitors, security workers, airport service workers, and other property service workers, and they are chanting “Strike! Strike! Strike! Huelga! Huelga! Huelga!” The janitors are sick and tired of cleaning up after the 1 percent. The Building Owners Managers Association (BOMA), happens to be made up of some of America’s biggest land barons. They are currently in negotiations with Los Angeles janitors, as it is time for them to renew their contracts. Yet some of the members of BOMA are threatening to cut back on their healthcare benefits. The janitors have let these building owners know they’re prepared to put up a fight. This slow rumble could progress to a startling halt in work if these large corporate employers don’t start to clean up their act.

It would have been announced on midnight, May 1, whether or not the janitors would go on strike. On April 25 they received the full support from the LA County Federation of Labor should they strike. JP Morgan called police to escort the bargaining committee from the Century Plaza Towers after they returned from a break from negotiations to join janitors in a rally through Century City.

The chant was that janitors are being treated like the garbage they throw out every night. Enough is enough!

If this sounds familiar it’s because it is. On April 3, 1990 there was an official strike of the Justice for Janitors campaign that went on for three weeks. The janitors in Los Angeles stayed on strike until April 22. By that time, they had reached a contract that guaranteed them at least a 22 percent raise over the next three years. The Los Angeles strike was significant to the future of Justice for Janitors, as it spurred a nationwide campaign involving over 100,000 SEIU janitors in 2000. The campaign sought to raise wages for all janitors as well as improve overall working conditions.

Justice at LAX

SEIU USWW also represents another class of workers, those who work at Los Angeles airport. However, the airport continues to hire these positions through a private firm that exposes workers to unsafe working conditions every day. Even when we’re mindful of worker’s rights we still may be guilty of forgetting about some of the jobs that exist and what their working conditions might be like. For example, recently I became apprised of the working conditions of a class of workers I rely on frequently but don’t often think about: airport cabin cleaners and cargo workers. GoodJobsLA conducted a survey of over 350 of these workers at LAX and here’s what they found: