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Justice For Janitors Campaign

Two days of events are scheduled to bring about a living wage and decent working conditions for Janitors in Portland.
(Type a title for your page here)Justice for Janitors is a national program to raise the wage floor of all janitors. Local unions use the campaign in varying degrees throughout the country. In San Francisco, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., for instance, Justice for Janitors actions have stopped downtown traffic and blocked bridges in order to get their message heard.

The campaign in Portland is under the auspices of SEIU local 49. Maria Damaris Silva, an experienced and energetic labor organizer familiar to many Portland labor activists, in on point for the local campaign. All of the energy and creativity that she can bring to bear, and more, are needed to effect the goals of this campaign. Service employees tend to be invisible, and the society at large is in deep denial regarding the degree to which their own quality of life depends on the labor of these workers.

While this long-term struggle for justice was moving forward, a proposal was brought to the Multnomah (comprising Portland) County Commission which would replace union janitors in some County facilities with prisoners guarded by armed deputies. I contacted the five commissioners, and I received an answer from Serena Cruz and Lisa Naito, stating their opposition to the plan. Bill Farver, Pauline Anderson and Lonnie Roberts did not respond.

It is self-evident that no worker can compete with the unwaged. This plan was a reaction to a severe shortfall in County revenue collections, in other words, the failure to plan for contingencies. Some county officials proposed to solve this crisis resulting from governmental incompetence on the backs of the workers. A rally was held on 5/23/2001 protesting against this plan.

The National Day for Justice for Janitors will be celebrated in Portland on June 15th, with a gathering at the Terry Schrunk Plaza, SW 4th and Jefferson. The following events are scheduled:

10:30 a.m. An Ecumenical Service
11:30 a.m. A working peoples' forum, giving voice to those who labor silently. Workers will tell of their struggles to obtain the rudiments of justice, and of the aggressive tactics of employers to prevent them.
12:00 p.m. A march to demand a living wage, health care for all, and the opportunity of citizenship.

On the day after, June 16th, there will be a cultural event, a Pe?a Cultural, from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. This is an opportunity to show solidarity with Janitors and their families. The event will benefit the Justice for Janitors campaign, and the family of Jose Mejia Poot, who was killed by Portland police.

For more information, or to offer your help contact:

Service Employees International Union local 49
3536 SE 26th Ave.
Portland, OR 97202