Friday, November 17, 2006

Justice for Janitors

More than three weeks ago now, cleaners in Houston went on strike, in an attempt to get the big cleaning companies to negotiate a union contract. Most cleaners are paid on, or close to, minimum wage and don't get sick-leave, paid vacations or health insurance.

you should Read these women's stories

I'm going to quote from Idalverta Vega, not because her story is the most dramatic, but because it is one of the least.

"The children had Medicaid but they no longer qualify," says Idalverta. She was told her husband's income is too high, but says the money they make is not enough to pay for a health plan. "When my kids get sick I don't take them to the doctor and I can't take them to a dentist either. According to them we're making 'too much' but it's not true, the money is not enough--we can barely make ends meet."

Idalverta and her husband are doing their best to make sure their kids have a brighter future. "All of my kids go to school. Sometimes they're missing some supplies but we do what we can to provide them with what they need."

Idalverta's 18-year-old son would like to go to university, but the family can't afford to send him. Like many other young men and women growing up in working-class neighborhoods, he felt he had few options. "He signed up for the Army so that he can study. But they're saying he'll be shipped off to war--it makes me very nervous," she says.

Winning a good contract would mean many things for Idalverta's family. "We'd be able to live better. Someday we'd be able to buy a house. That's one of my dreams-being able to own our home."

"Everyone comes to this country searching for a better life. Many never make it -- they die on the way in the desert," says Idalverta. "We will go out and march again if it's necessary. We have to continue the struggle."

This is a vital feminist struggle, and the cleaners of Houston need your support. Houston Jantiors page has suggestions about how to Get Involved and Labourstart has an e-mail campaign.


  1. For the type of job they do, isn't minimum wage appropriate?

    I do think the minimum wage should be raised slightly (to around $6-$7/hour), but in terms of the skill level required to do their job, isn't it appropriate how they are paid?

  2. "Everyone comes to this country searching for a better life" - well go home if being an immigrant is too tough. why should US consumers be forced to pay more?

  3. Anonymous8:25 pm

    Minimum wage to clean up after your lazy ass?

    Obviously life, in terms of superficialities, is "better" here. It, however, is not much easier when you consider the emotional struggles many of these said immigrants must go through.

    Many immigrants come over knowing little to no english making a job like a custodial worker very appealing. Plenty of these people are educated, but overcoming such a great language barrier can be quite the strife.