100+ Boston Janitors Rally to Raise Poverty Wages
Workers in more than a dozen cities rally to support Houston janitors striking for fair wages and improved working conditions.
Janitors and supporters in Boston and a dozen other communities across the country protested outside of downtown office buildings in their cities Thursday. The actions served as a nationwide demonstration of support for striking Houston janitors who were met with intimidation from employers when they began to campaign for a better life. Now, the janitors are in their fourth week on strike to defend their rights.
In Boston, more than 100 local janitors mounted a spirited rally at 75 State Street, a building owned by Brookfield Properties. Brookfield owns and manages many of the facilities in Houston where janitors have faced considerable difficulties – and is a key stakeholder in assuring these workers are paid a fair living wage.
“We’re supporting the fight in Houston, because no one should have to earn so little when they work so hard,” said Zuleyma Burley, a janitor in Boston's Financial District and Back Bay neighborhoods. “Like janitors everywhere, our goals are the same-to be able to make ends meet, and raise our families.”
Houston janitors are standing up to some of the wealthiest and biggest corporations in the world for a chance at a better life for their families. Many of them earn only $9,000 a year, which is less than half of the federal poverty line for a family of three. The Houston janitors’ union contract expired more than two months ago on May 31. While in bargaining with their employers, janitors asked for a modest raise from $8.35 per hour to $10.00 per hour to be phased in over four years. Janitorial contractors responded by offering a raise of just $0.50 over five years – an almost certain promise that janitors will continue to live in poverty. When janitors refused to accept this offer, they were met with harassment and intimidation from their employers. This prompted workers to call a city-wide strike on July 11 in response to unfair treatment.
Just like here in Boston, Houston janitors clean the offices of some of the richest corporations in the world, yet they struggle to make ends meet. In Houston that includes profitable corporations like Brookfield, Chevron, Hines, Shell Oil, and JP Morgan. For workers in Boston, this fights hits home.
“Our message is very clear: All workers, from Houston to Boston, deserve a dignified salary,” said Santa Bernabel, a Boston janitor who joined the rally. “And we’re willing to fight to win it.”