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Friday AM September 25th, 2009

Members of Service Employees International Union marched in downtown Houston in advance of wage negotiations. Ed Mayberry reports.


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Service Employees International Union logo for Houston Justice for JanitorsAfter their strike in 2006, union janitors in Houston gained wage increases and vacation time, as well as access to a primary-care physician.  Houston business and elected leaders supported the collective bargaining agreement emerging from the strike that provided wage increases to $7.75 an hour.  The coordinator for the Justice for Janitors campaign, Beverly Ortiz, says that agreement expires in November.

“What we’re doing is we’re preparing to negotiate this new contract, right, that will determine the wages and working conditions of more than 3,200 janitors.  The members do not have access to be able to talk with us in the buildings.  You know, they want to be able to have conversations about what’s going on in the contract, be able to talk to other member organizers and the union organizers about what’s going on, and be able to communicate with them about improving their lives.”

Ortiz says landlord associations haven’t been allowing janitors to talk with the union.

“And as the landlords are cracking down, you know, on our free speech, we would hope that the business leaders, as many here in Houston have shown support for the janitors, but there’s a powerful minority, you know, that’s trying to line their own pockets by denying the workers not only the freedom of speech, but also their right to be able to have better, better living conditions and better working conditions.”

Services Employees International Union has some 50,000 members, including security officers, food service workers and janitors.  Ed Mayberry, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.