Latinos For Texas Blog

2006-Nov-21

Houston Janitors in a historic victory!

Filed under: — site admin @ 10:04 am

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!

Amber

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.

2006-Nov-16

SEIU and Non-violent Civil Disobedience in Houston

An update on the Houston Janitors/SEIU strike for fair wages from major national cleaning contractors.

Up to 50 janitors from Houston and Around the Country to Risk Arrest Today to Challenge Industry to Settle 4-week Old Strike

HOUSTON—Up to 50 janitors and supporters from around the country and in Houston prepare to risk arrest to challenge the real estate industry to settle the strike and agree on a contract that provides the 5,300 janitors in Houston with higher wages and affordable health insurance. Houston has never seen non-violent civil disobedience on this level, and the sheer size of the arrests—as many as seventy over two days—shatter any previous records. For details on actions planned in Houston today, please call SEIU’s Lynda Tran at 202-907-1172.

Yesterday, janitors and supporters in 20 cities staged a variety of demonstrations at Chevron stations and Chevron-owned buildings, including acts of non-violent civil disobedience at Chevron corporate headquarters in San Ramon and Houston, to prompt the oil-giant to intervene and ensure that the janitors who clean up after them are provided with health insurance and decent wages. Twenty-four janitors and supporters were arrested in the two actions.

In Houston, the janitors split up into delegations and visited the offices of various building owners and tenants in the city. Some fanned out to the financial advisors for J.P. Morgan asking them for help in figuring out to raise a family, own a home, and save for retirement on $20 a day.

Support Pouring in As Civil Disobedience Intensifies

Yesterday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Rev. James Lawson, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) of Los Angeles—and one of the civil rights leaders who organized the Memphis Sanitation strike with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—were the latest to sign on to a statement in support of the Houston janitors and the use of civil disobedience. The statement reads in part:

“The goal of these “Freedom Fliers” is to promote workers’ rights, civil liberties, and the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. We applaud the bravery and courage of these janitors, who will be risking arrest to fight for a better future for all American workers. Victory by the Houston janitors will build momentum for a new movement for better jobs and affordable health care in Houston and throughout the southern United States.” To read the entire statement, visit www.houstonjanitors.org.

Janitors in Houston work for many of the same national cleaning firms in buildings owned by the same national commercial landlords as janitors in other cities but earn significantly less and are not provided with health insurance. Janitors in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and other cities make more than $10 an hour, have health insurance and full-time work. In contrast, Houston workers are paid an average of $20 a day, with no health insurance for part-time work.

Last fall, 5,300 Houston janitors made the historic choice to form a union with SEIU (Service Employees International Union). Their decision capped one of the largest successful organizing drives by private sector workers ever in the Southern half of the United States. Since forming a union with SEIU, Houston janitors have been seeking a raise to $8.50/hour, more hours, and health insurance in a citywide union contract.

Nationwide, more than 225,000 janitors in 29 cities are members of SEIU.

2006-Nov-2

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

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 http://houstonjanitors.org/

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 http://houstonjanitors.org/

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

Promoted from the comments for better visibility:

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

MAQUILAPOLIS
[city of factories]
http://www.maquilapolis.com
A film by Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre
90min

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.

THE FILM
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.

THE OUTREACH CAMPAIGN
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.

SPECIAL THANKS
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.

CONTACT
Department of Education MFA: George Ramirez, gramirez@mfah.org or 713.639.7727
The Station Museum: Rosalinda Gonzalez, rosalindagonzalez@gmail.com or 823.213.7428

2006-Oct-20

National Labor Relations Board to investigate five Houston cleaning firms treatment of Janitors

From our friends at the SEIU:

At downtown rally in Houston today…
Janitors to Announce Civil Rights Abuses by Cleaning Firms

National Labor Relations Board to investigate charges that companies illegally fired and intimidated janitors who were active in their union

Houston – Houston’s five largest cleaning firms will face an investigation by the federal labor board over charges the companies illegally fired and intimidated janitors who have been involved in their union. Twenty-two “Unfair Labor Practice” charges, being filed today against the five cleaning companies, will be announced at a rally downtown at 4:30PM today, October 20 outside 1100 Louisiana. After the announcement, janitors will lead a march through Houston’s downtown business district.

“I work hard but I was fired when I spoke out for the basic things all families need,” says Margarita Sintillo, a member of the janitors’ bargaining committee and former Pritchard janitor at the Bechtel building. An unfair labor practice charge filed on Sintillo’s behalf by her union, SEIU (Service Employees International Union) charges Pritchard with firing her for participation in union activities protected by federal labor laws. “My co-workers and I have the right to work together to win a better life.”

Contract talks for more than 5,300 janitors ended Tuesday with the five largest cleaning companies in Houston refusing after months of negotiations to propose even modest pay and benefit improvements to janitors making $20 a day. Janitors are now ready to strike in protest of their treatment on the job and the companies’ failure to bargain in good faith.

More than 5,300 janitors who clean the majority of Houston’s office space have the lowest wages and benefits of any major city in the United States—earning an average of $5.30/hour with no health or other benefits for almost exclusively part-time work. Since forming a union with SEIU last year, they have been seeking a raise to $8.50/hour, more hours, and health insurance in contract talks with the city’s five largest cleaning companies, ABM, OneSource, GCA, Sanitors, and Pritchard. On September 23, the janitors overwhelmingly voted to authorize their bargaining committee to call at a strike at any time.

WHAT: Announcement of Civil Rights Abuses / Downtown Rally
WHEN: 4:30 PM, Friday, October 20 - TODAY
WHERE: 1100 Louisiana, Downtown Houston
WHO: Janitors

2006-Sep-22

Houston’s Justice for Janitors and the Contract Convention for the American Dream

Amber Goodwin of the Justice for Janitors campaign of the SEIU sends in an update on their great work fighting for SEIU union janitors’ living wage and health benefits:

The Houston area’s five-largest cleaning companies and the Service Employees International Union are entering into the final stages of negotiations over a contract that will cover 5,300 commercial office janitors. Currently, janitors in Houston make $5.30 per hour, have no health insurance, and on average work four hour shifts, leaving them deep in poverty and forcing them to make nearly impossible choices between food, rent, medicine, and other basic necessities.

Attached you will find a one page document called “Why Not Houston?” [download pdf] detailing clearly what the janitors are fighting for in their efforts to achieve the American Dream. This details the wages and benefits proposal that they shared with their employers in hopes that they can come to an agreement. Janitors believe that after so many years of going backwards, this is what it is will take to win a fair contract for the janitors .

As many of you know, this weekend’s Contract Convention for the American Dream is a critical event for the Justice for Janitors Campaign, and along with hundreds of community, elected and faith supporters we will be gathering to talk about what it will take to win for the janitors.

Please come out and join us this Saturday!

Janitors Contract Convention Details
What: Contract Convention for the American Dream
When: 2PM Saturday, September 23, 2006
Where: Hilton Hotel, 1600 Lamar

All Houstonians need access to quality health care and wages and benefits that support a family—that’s why it’s critical that we take a stand with janitors in their historic campaign for justice.

Amber Goodwin
Houston Justice for Janitors
www.houstonjanitors.org

Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
4299 San Felipe Suite 200
Houston, Texas 77027
(713) 907-0008

2006-Jun-2

TSEU, Carole Keeton Strayhorn - The Past and Future

Filed under: — LaGirlFriday @ 6:56 pm

This is old news, but I am just getting around to it…

On April 24, 2006, the Texas State Employees Union Executive Committee endorsed Carole Keeton Strayhorn for Governor. As many people know the endorsement did not sit well with many members, and had little effect on the AFL-CIO who endorsed Democrat Chris Bell.

The TSEU Executive Committee cited three reasons to favor Strayhorn.

1. Carole Keeton Strayhorn has made commitments on key TSEU issues. Among them: she has opposed the Convergys/AccessHR contract and the Accenture/IEE contract, and will work with us to defeat them, and she will oppose the privatization of state services. She also has committed to work to include university employees in any statewide pay raise while she is governor.

2. As Comptroller she has already shown her willingness to stand up for state employees by forcing HHSC and its contracted HR system to honor the procedures established in state law for state employee organization membership. AccessHR had stopped accepting TSEU membership forms until Comptroller Strayhorn got involved.

3. WE NEED A NEW GOVERNOR! Carole Keeton Strayhorn is our best chance to move Rick Perry out of the Governor’s Mansion. She is the only challenger who has a real statewide campaign and a campaign fund that will allow her to take on the Perry machine.

Strayhorn has stood up for state employees, but so far she has not been successful. AG Abbott disagreed when she sought to restrict the release of personal and identifying information after the DMN filed a request for the names, birth dates, and salaries of the state’s employees.

In response to TSEU’s endorsement Strayhorn said in a press release, “State employees are the unsung heros of the state. They stay on the job year after year with their pay stagnant, with cuts in their health and retirement plans, with skyrocketing workloads as their agencies are downsized and their assignments are upsized.”

However, her previous actions show that she’s pro-privatization the Grandma of privitization and has stepped on some state employees a time or two. She seems to have been most brazen during her run for and freshman year as Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander.

In September of 1998, the SAEN reported:

Rylander said she would target the comptroller’s audits to districts that need the most help, such as those that are low-performing academically and financially.

She said these audits should be a catalyst for school districts to provide its taxpayers the best cost savings.

To achieve cost-effectiveness and quality, she suggests districts use the “yellow pages test” for private services to save taxpayer dollars.

“Government should do no job if there is a business in the yellow pages that can do that job better and at a lower cost,” Rylander said.

And in October of the same year, the AP ran a story by Renae Merel:

Ms. Rylander wants to apply the “yellow-pages test” to every state function. “If you can look in the yellow pages and find someone to do it better for cheaper, then that’s the way you should go,” she said.

[Opponent Paul] Hobby says privatization can sometimes be misguided. “What she says is the politically easy answer. Privatization is an intelligent decision in some circumstances, but it’s not a default buzzword,” he said.

In January of 1999, Rylander laid of 60 people with the intention of making her office more efficient and Democrat-free (she denied that part). The Statesman reported:

Boone Taylor, an organizer for the Texas State Employees Union, said the union isn’t surprised by the additional cuts. He added, though, that people who have done a good job in the past should be allowed to stay if they want.

“Unfortunately, TSEU expects more layoffs,” Taylor said.

That same month The Dallas Observer pointed out that Rylander bypassed state hiring laws to bring on the wife of her Chief of Staff and long-time associate John Colyandro. Helena Colyandro was hired directly out of college as the funds marketing manager of the Texas Tomorrow Fund. No one else was interviewed for the position. The Colyandros both resigned months apart. The Weekly also critiques Rylander’s e-Texas initiative:

“It’s time for government to stop competing with the private sector,” she told her Heritage Foundation audience. “E-Texas will be a true public-private partnership using new strategic tools such as activity-based costing, outsourcing, managed competition, and benchmarking the best practices… E-Texas, a medley of 14 task forces of 10 to 15 people each, will recommend to the Legislature areas of government that can be outsourced to the private sector. In that way, Rylander is making good on her campaign promise to apply the Yellow Pages test across state government.

The e-Texas task force to focus on outsourcing is chaired by Bill Hammond, who says his committee will take a thoughtful approach in recommending which services should be shifted to the private sector. Hammond, an advocate of outsourcing, has been president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business and Chambers of Commerce since April 1998… Hammond says he expects his so-called competitive government task force to get help from Bill Eggers, a top Rylander aide. Eggers co-authored the 1995 book Revolution at the Roots, which offers glowing accounts of privatization efforts nationally. The book is a bible for outsourcing proponents. Hammond sounds like he prefers that representatives of state employee unions, who have been the most vocal critics of privatization, do not become members of his task force.

TSEU is right about one thing, we do need a new Governor; but Carole Keeton Strayhorn is neither the answer nor the best choice. People can change, but voters are not naïve. Who really thinks a politician will walk away from the trough regardless of her “independence” when she’s already sold out for that last bit of election cash?

TSEU members are right to call this endorsement what it is – unfortunate and short-sighted. In fact, outside of these three promises and her crowing over Perry’s perils, we don’t know what her plan is for all Texans – even the person that answered at her campaign headquarters wasn’t sure.

TSEU also pointed out that Strayhorn’s war chest is bigger than Chris Bell’s and that makes her more viable as a candidate. Texans can’t afford to role the dice because she might have more money. There are just some principals that you don’t walk away from and they are best represented by Texas Democrats all over the state. TSEU and some big Dem donors may have abandoned the party, but I think (hope) they’ll be surprised come November because there’s a Texas Democratic state takeover brewing.

2006-Mar-29

Immigration and action in Houston

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!

2006-Jan-31

Justice For Janitors Rally in Houston

Filed under: — site admin @ 9:45 am

Amber Goodwin writes into tell us that newly formed SEIU Texas union for Houston Janitors is working for health care for low-wage janitors. A cleaning contractor named Professional Janitorial Service (PJS), does not offer health insurance to their workers. Get informed about the situation!

PJS Workers Rally
Wednesday, February 1 2006 2:00pm
Arena Towers, 7322-7324 Southwest Freeway Rte 59S and Fondren

Support PJS Workers! Come to Our Rally, because…
Every Worker Deserves a Chance at the American Dream

Without health coverage, the hard-working janitors who clean buildings have to choose between putting food on the table and a visit to the doctor.

Their employer, cleaning contractor Professional Janitorial Service (PJS), does not offer janitors health insurance—and the low wages PJS pays workers mean even basic medical care is out of reach.

PJS’s stance is the wrong direction for Houston and the wrong prescription for health care in our city.

Support health care for working families in Houston.

Questions? Please contact Amber at (713)907 0008

Amber Goodwin
Houston Justice for Janitors
www.houstonjanitors.org
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
4299 San Felipe Suite 200
Houston, Texas 77027
(713) 907-0008

2005-Nov-16

Day Laborers at risk in Austin

Read the following message below that I got from a friend at the Equal Justice Center:

Support Day Laborers!
City Council is proposing to expand a city wide anti-solicitation ordinance that would make it illegal to look for work at informal corners in Austin. This would violate day laborers constitutional rights to free speech, and criminalize honest workers. We need your support: come to the hearing, wear white to stand in solidarity with Austin day laborers.
November 17th 6pm Public Hearing at City Hall (S. First and Cesar Chavez).
December 15th City Council will vote on the proposed Amendment.
If you can’t come to the meeting on the 17th you can still take action: tell City Council to vote NO! on the proposed ordinance amendment by registering your opinion at the kiosk at City Hall: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (Nov 15, 16, 17) between 8am and 6pm.

Essentially police would have the power to fine/ticket/arrest anyone “loitering” around Home Depots (or other locations) in Austin where they have traditionally found day labor jobs. The official day labor site in Austin, First Worker’s, is run by the city and operates on a lottery system and usually only the first 75 people get work on any given day.

This is a big middle finger to the immigrant labor force that keeps Texas running. Record your opposition to this proposition.

And for the record, I think that people who stand on street corners with signs asking for money are usually not in need. There are plenty of resources in Austin to feed, clothe, shelter and help lift up the least among us.

2005-Jul-21

Houston janitors need your help.

Passed along from Amber Goodwin (713-907-0008) and goodwina@seiu1.org:

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:
http://www.facts-online.org/campaign/abmunfair

For more info about janitors’ fight to create good jobs and affordable health care:
* Press release on Houston janitors: http://www.seiu.org/media/press.cfm?ID=1234

* Information about the campaign:
http://www.facts-online.org/campaign/abmunfair/explanation
http://www.houstonjusticeforjanitors.org/

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

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

* 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:
SEIU LOGO http://www.seiu.org/building/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.
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