As you can see from SEIU's press release below, the fight against Servicemaster is heating up. Come to the rally on Thursday--together, we can send a message that it's time for Justice for Janitors!
SEIU 49 Press Release Jan. 31, 2005
more info: www.seiu49.org
Downtown Janitors Vote to Strike Over Cleaning Company's Allegedly Illegal Threats, Harassment
Servicemaster Swan Island Janitors who earn about $26 a day blow the whistle on allegedly illegal practices at Melvin Mark Buildings
Janitors working in luxury high-rises of powerful downtown developer Melvin "Pete" Mark voted Sunday to authorize a strike in protest against cleaning company Servicemaster Swan Island, alleging intimidation, coercion and being forced to work "off-the-clock."
On the heels of an historic $22 million dollar legal settlement for janitors in California in which several corporations who outsource their cleaning were held liable for their contractor's rampant legal violations, downtown Portland janitors are taking steps to address their cleaning company's alleged lawbreaking, authorizing a strike against unfair labor practices. Many of the janitors coming forward to testify work in buildings owned by Melvin "Pete" Mark's company.
"We are protesting the unfair, illegal tricks Servicemaster is trying to pull to stop us from blowing the whistle on poor working conditions," said Juana Guerrero, one of the striking janitors. "They think they can intimidate and harass us into keeping quiet about earning only about $26 dollars a day."
Servicemaster of Swan Island, the cleaning company employing the janitors, last week agreed to settle two pending charges with the federal National Labor Relations Board regarding allegedly illegal threats made to janitors. More charges are to be filed this week alleging instances of coercion and intimidation. Additionally, some surveyed Rose Garden janitors have also reported instances of having to show up to work and wait "off-the-clock," in apparent violation of Oregon state law and are weighing options to recoup back wages that Servicemaster may owe them.
Last week, janitors in California celebrated a class-action victory, following a court's finding several supermarket chains liable for illegal underpayment of overtime and minimum wages. The case, which has set a national precedent, could spur dozens of similar lawsuits across the country. Though the supermarket chains were not the janitors' direct employers, the courts found that the grocers exercised enough control over the working conditions to be held liable for their subcontractors' practices.
"Increasingly courts and the public agree that corporations and powerful businesspeople can not hide behind their contractors when workers do not receive basic legal protections," said Alice Dale. "Melvin Mark Companies are very much aware of the legal issues surrounding their cleaning company, yet they wash their hands of responsibility."
The Servicemaster janitors in the Melvin Mark properties went on strike in December to protest similar violations but now claim Servicemaster's allegedly illegal activity has only increased. The strike has been authorized for this week.
SEIU Local 49 represents over 6,200 private sector building service and health care workers in Oregon and Southwest Washington, including over 2,000 janitors who clean commercial buildings, city, county, state and federal buildings, the PDX airport and the Portland Public Schools.