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Janitors Strike, Citing Unfair Labor Practices

Roughly 3,000 Houston janitors with the Service Employees International Union are on strike downtown this morning, days after their contract expired.

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Houston janitors currently earn less than $9000 a year and have been pressing for a pay increase. But the union says the decision to strike came only after management violated federal labor law by harassing and threatening its members.

Elsa Caballero is state director for SEIU Local 1.

“Anywhere from having one-on-one meetings [with employees] and asking them specific questions about their union activity and telling them not to do them or that they will be fired for doing so, to actually being fired as a result of their union activity.”

Richard Carlson is a professor of labor law at South Texas College of Law. He says casting the strike as a protest against unfair labor practices is a strategic move

“If it’s an unfair labor practice strike, the employer cannot permanently replace the employees. Once the strike is over, the employers would be required to give the employees their jobs back.”

Houston janitors last struck in 2006. The five-week walkout ended with the janitors winning their first union contract.