Latinos For Texas Blog


Houston Janitors in a historic victory!

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:04 am

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Amber Goodwin (fortuitous name!) of Houston Justice for Janitors/SEIU writes in with the good news of the good win in Houston:

More than 5,300 Houston janitors have reached a solid agreement with their employers that will put workers and their families on the road to a better future and pave the way for workers throughout the country to unite to improve their lives. Exact details of the agreement are below in a press release.

Thanks for your continued support, this is a historic victory not just for the janitors but for working families across the globe!


Great news indeed, and it is nice to be reminded that being organized and united really does lead to progress and better opportunity for families and communities! Way to go SEIU and Houston Janitors.


Houston janitors and supporters intensify their efforts for good jobs and health care

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The hard-working folks who help keep Houston clean, and their newly formed SEIU union, send in an update on the on-going struggle for decent and comparable pay for Houston’s Janitors. For the latest on the strike and its national implications and supporters, check

Janitors, Community Supporters Intensify Calls on Hines, Chevron, Transwestern, Crescent, and Brookfield Properties to Ensure Good Jobs with Health Care for Houston Families
Janitors’ supporters block intersection of Post Oak and Westheimer in protest of real estate industry’s stance

HOUSTON—Janitors and community supporters intensified their calls on the five economic powerhouses who drive the commercial real estate industry in Houston to ensure good jobs with health insurance for Houston families. The five landlords have the power to settle the 2-week old strike by directing the cleaning contractors they hire to provide the wages, benefits, and work hours janitors need to support their families. Today community supporters protested the real estate industry’s failure to ensure good jobs with health care in Houston by engaging in an act of non-violent civil disobedience by closing the intersection of Post Oak and Westheimer in the Galleria area.

José Rios spends five nights a week cleaning six floors of Chevron’s downtown Houston office building. For just $20 a night and no benefits he has to clean and vacuum six floors in just four hours. “Chevron can afford to provide more for workers. It’s very hard for someone my age to do this kind of work but what other choice do I have?” said Rios, 70. As a building owner and office tenant, Chevron controls more real estate in Houston than any other company.

At the Westin Hotel today, while Houston’s commercial real estate elite gathered to discuss ways for the multi-billion dollar industry to increase revenues, janitors and community supporters at the hotel invited representatives of the five companies to take a break from the meeting and resolve the strike.

Building owners and managers negotiate and set rates with the janitorial contractors who keep their buildings clean and employ the janitors. Current janitorial service contracts do not allow for higher wages or health insurance for janitors. The janitors are calling on individual building owners and mangers to direct their contractors to meet the janitors’ proposal of $8.50 per hour, more work hours, and health insurance, and to tell their contractors to bargain in good faith with the union as the law requires.

National, International Support for Houston Janitors

Houston’s janitors are receiving national and international support from other SEIU members, sister unions, and community organizations. SEIU janitors in Los Angeles and Chicago have honored Houston picket lines already this week with janitors in other cities expected to follow suit in the coming days. Next week, Houston picket lines could be set up simultaneously in at least half a dozen cities around the country.

Internationally, there have been delegations by union activists in Mexico City, Moscow, Berlin and London calling on Hines—Houston’s largest landlord—to stop standing in the way of Houston janitors’ efforts to move out of poverty. Similar actions have been held at Chevron-owned gas stations in London and Utrecht, Netherlands. This week and next supportive members of labor unions in nine other countries—England, France, Italy, Argentina, Panama, Brazil, Poland, Germany, and Australia—are planning delegations to properties owned by Hines and Chevron in support of Houston janitors.

For the latest on the strike and its national implications and supporters, check

MAQUILAPOLIS (Nov 5, 2-4pm Museum of Fine Arts Theater, Houston)

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Promoted from the comments for better visibility:

The Station Museum of Contemporary Art and The Museum of Fine Arts Houston are pleased to announce:

[city of factories]
A film by Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre

Free film screening November 5th from 2-4pm at the Museum of Fine Arts Theater (1001 Bissonnet Street Houston, TX 77005). Question and answer session with special guests, Dir. Sergio De La Torre and Lourdes Luján, at 4pm.

Carmen works the graveyard shift in one of Tijuana’s maquiladoras, the multinationally-owned factories that came to Mexico for its cheap labor. After making television components all night, Carmen comes home to a shack she built out of recycled garage doors, in a neighborhood with no sewage lines or electricity. She suffers from kidney damage and lead poisoning from her years of exposure to toxic chemicals. She earns six dollars a day. But Carmen is not a victim. She is a dynamic young woman, busy making a life for herself and her children.

As Carmen and a million other maquiladora workers produce televisions, electrical cables, toys, clothes, batteries and IV tubes, they weave the very fabric of life for consumer nations. They also confront labor violations, environmental devastation and urban chaos — life on the frontier of the global economy. In MAQUILAPOLIS, Carmen and her colleague Lourdes reach beyond the daily struggle for survival to organize for change: Carmen takes a major television manufacturer to task for violating her labor rights. Lourdes pressures the government to clean up a toxic waste dump left behind by a departing factory. As they work for change, the world changes too: a global economic crisis and the availability of cheaper labor in China begin to pull the factories away from Tijuana, leaving Carmen, Lourdes and their colleagues with an uncertain future.

We are currently seeking funding to implement a binational Community Outreach Campaign, designed and implemented collaboratively with stakeholder organizations in the U.S. and Mexico. The campaign utilizes a high-profile public television broadcast, top tier film festivals and community screenings of the film to create meaningful social change around the issues of globalization, social and environmental justice and fair trade. Our outreach team includes dedicated activists on both sides of the border, mediamakers committed to social change, and most importantly a group of women factory workers struggling to bring about positive change in their world.

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Department of Education at the Museum of Fine Arts and George Ramirez. Rosalinda Gonzalez, Curator of Frontiera 450+, Ann Harithas, and James Harithas, Director of The Station Museum.

This film was supported by a grant from the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund. It is a co-production of the Independent Television Service (ITVS) and a project of Creative Capital.

Department of Education MFA: George Ramirez, or 713.639.7727
The Station Museum: Rosalinda Gonzalez, or 823.213.7428


Janitors take it to the Courts in Austin and San Antonio

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Amber Goodwin, of Houston Justice for Janitors and SEIU writes in with lots of good information and links to the now-not-front-page issue of how some corporations (and/or their contractors) deal with immigrants’ labor. I personally find it hard to believe (and i wonder if the Ken Lay, Jeff Skillings, Bernie Ebbers, et al precedents will prevail) that corporate chieftains dont really know what is going on with their underlings and/or contractors. Is ‘willful ignorance’ an excuse that works under the law??

Janitors sue Target in Austin and San Antonio over wage violations

The exploitation of hard-working immigrants throughout Texas and nationally has received a lot of news coverage lately. But a lawsuit filed on June 29 against Target department stores and their cleaning contractor in Austin and San Antonio suggests the problem may be particularly rampant among major corporations and the companies they hire to provide janitorial services. Janitors in Target stores say they were required to work up to 70 hours a week without overtime pay and often worked seven days a week with only one day off every other week.

In fact, the lawsuit in Target stores is the latest in a growing number of lawsuits and investigations by federal agencies into similar practices—including cases involving janitors who clean national supermarket chains Safeway, Vons, Albertsons, and Ralph’s, United Parcel Service (UPS) facilities, and Wal-Mart stores.

In Houston, the company that cleans the offices of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, Professional Janitorial Service (PJS), violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act by instructing janitors to work “off-the-clock” and unlawfully withholding—and in some cases failing to pay—wages due to janitors upon termination of employment, according to a new class action lawsuit filed on June 15.


Immigration and action in Houston

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Please pardon the wholesale link action, but Stace at Dos Centavos has an excellent round-up of press and personal observations that are well-worth a read,

Houston Chronicle Reports…
How Students are involved
Guest Workers, a Permanent Second Class, and AFL-CIO

I grew up in Houston, but i dont stay as connected as i should, so its does me good to read about the on the ground action. Thanks for the info, Stace!


SAEN: More Texas Children Giving Birth

Filed under: — LaGirlFriday @ 8:24 am

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That wasn’t really their title, but somehow I think it can be inferred. Go read the article covering the increase in teens giving birth since the Texas Lege passed the parental notification law.

Which reminds me - how many Dems were a little perturbed at the TDP resolutions promoting a “culture of life” offered at Tuesday’s precinct caucuses? I’m down with the abolition of the death penalty, stopping domestic abuse, and promoting a woman’s automony over her own body, but since when did the TDP lift verbage right out of the GOP platform?

Is this the pro-choice party or not?

Lie to me Jerry. Lie. To. Me.


Immigrants and Health Care - Who benefits?

Filed under: — site admin @ 8:39 am

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Margie sent this excellent discussion about immigrants, the taxes they pay, and the care the do (or do not) receive in return, with additional comparison to overall insured’s VS uninsured’s costs to the system and taxpayers.

This article seems to indicate a Health care system fiscal surplus from the immigrant sector, which, if reports of social security pay-in vs pay-out to immigrants are true (and i havent seen strong evidence to the contrary) combine to make immigration an economically good thing. And thats not even considering the “Day without a Mexican” scenarios of labor, construction, textiles, and the like.

The comments are well worth reading, as well.

thanks margie!


Immigrants Subsidize Our Health Care

Filed under: — kevin @ 3:36 pm

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The current issue of American Journal of Public Health includes the results from a recent Harvard/Columbia study that turns the conventional wisdom on it’s head: Latino immigrants receive less health care than Anglos and actually end up subsidizing health care for all Americans through payroll taxes, etc.

For the study results go to the Physicians for a National Health-Care Policy website and type in password “Carrasquilo” (case sensitive).

Imagine two different families: a rich, middle-aged couple who go to see specialists several times a year, gets expensive prescriptions covered by their insurance, and pays very little out of pocket vs. a large Latino family who gets free vaccinations for their kids, sporadic dental and doctor visits at community health centers, and who, through lack of regular check-ups are forced to visit the emergency room when an illness gets out of hand.

Now you can see how the study is correct.


Houston janitors need your help.

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Passed along from Amber Goodwin (713-907-0008) and

Houston Janitors Fighting for Better Jobs

Janitors at the First City Tower in downtown Houston went on strike this week to protest illegal threats by the nation’s largest cleaning company, ABM, against workers trying to secure better jobs and affordable health care. Houston janitors, who are paid an average of $5.25 an hour and receive no benefits, are uniting in an historic effort to win better jobs and affordable health care by forming a union with SEIU.

In a show of unity not seen in years, janitors in the Chicago area, New York, DC, Connecticut, and California who work for ABM, also are refusing to cross the picket lines and not go to work this week to support striking janitors in Houston as well as Indianapolis. Now Houston janitors need your help.

Please ask your blog’s readers to tell ABM to stop threatening janitors and instead provide good jobs with health care:

For more info about janitors’ fight to create good jobs and affordable health care:
* Press release on Houston janitors:

* Information about the campaign:

* The low wages Houston Janitors live on and what it means in the life of one janitor, Ericilia Sandoval:

* Community groups, religious leaders, politicians and others who support the Houston campaign:

* The actions by Houston janitors are part of a broader campaign by SEIU to raise standards for janitors nationally. For more information about Justice for Janitors:

If you’re interested in learning more about the campaign or want to learn about more ways to help out, please contact Amber Goodwin at 713-907-0008.


Carlos Guerra: “Rationing through inconvenience”

Filed under: — LaGirlFriday @ 9:03 am

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I meant to post this yesterday, but did not get a chance. Express-News columnist Carlos Guerra continues his critique of the state’s ineptitude in dealing with the neediest of Texans. His Sunday column starts with a review of former Rep. Arlene Wohlgemuth’s HB 2292 (Leave Every Texan Behind). The bill passed last session and resulted in a complete, if not cruel, overhaul of the states social service agencies. Jovonie Ochoa and Sophia King aside - slashed funding, fewer state employees, and a heartless call center now serving YOU.

Read Guerra’s Tuesday column and find out just how shallow the state’s competence runs in their determination of just who will run that call center.

Can’t wait to see what he’s got to say tomorrow. “Stay tuned for more.”


Latinos and CHIP Advocacy

Filed under: — kevin @ 1:05 pm

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Via Quorum Report :

Debate expected on House floor on CHIP Advocacy Day

Today is CHIP Advocacy Day at the Capitol. In an op-ed, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) said he would like to see two things happen to greatly improve the CHIP program’s effectiveness. First, that the assets test for eligibility be lifted. Second, extension of the six-month eligibility period.

“Without adequate funds for CHIP, the cost of health care will continue to shift to local communities, and we will continue to see children in this state who are critically ill but have no health coverage at all,” Hinojosa said. “In a state so rich in resources working families should not have to choose between health care for their children or food on their tables.”

Meanwhile, House Democratic leaders have called for the full restoration of CHIP benefits to the 176,000 Texas children who were cut from the program last session. CHIP funding will be debated on the House floor today as the Appropriations Bill comes up for a vote.

“We want CHIP restoration for every eligible child,” said Rep. Pete Gallego (D-Alpine), chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. “How can we look a mother in the eye and tell her that her child isn’t good enough to get health coverage.”

For links to Hinojosa’s Op-Ed piece and a press release from the Democrats, follow the link above to the Quorum Report.
Now this is great leadership from Latinos on a moral issue that all Texans care about. Again, let’s see if the Republicans follow.


CHIP this session

Filed under: — kevin @ 2:11 pm

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This is just a quick note to let people know that I will be tracking CHIP restoration bills in the Texas Legislature this session as an intern for Texas Impact. The prospects for restoring state funds for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (and thereby drawing down un montón de federal dinero) are pretty good. There is substantial bipartisan support now from the significant public outcry in 2004.

All of my findings, in exciting narrative form, can be found on the Texas Impact website on my blog: . I will also post here on LFT periodically about the intersection of religion and Latino politics here in Texas.


Categories? Categories!

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What categories would you like to see?

hit the comments link below and let us know what area and issues and languages you would like.


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