Yesterday marked the 44th anniversary of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The bullet brought him down in the midst of a sanitation worker’s strike in Memphis, TN and cut short the life of a man set on changing much of the world.
In a small way to honor him and to bring attention to their current struggles, janitors marched with signs saying “I AM A MAN”, “I AM A WOMAN”, and “I AM A JANITOR”.
Contracts in eleven cities, including Chicago, expire for janitors in the Service Employees International Union. The contract expires on April 8 for Chicago janitors. Earlier this week they voted to go on strike if an agreement could not be reached.
The Local 1 contract, which will continue to be negotiated Thursday for suburban janitors and Friday for Chicago-based janitors, will affect about 22,000 members in 11 cities, with about 13,000 of those custodians currently working in Chicago.
The group, including SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff, did not to give specific numbers regarding what they’re looking for in a wage increase, but laid out its position in a press release. According to the release, Local 1 janitors in Chicago average earn about $31,000 annually. The average yearly cost of living for a family of four in Chicago, according to the Economic Policy Institute, is about $48,800.
“Some 13,000 janitors who clean downtown and suburban commercial buildings, Chicago Public Schools, City of Chicago facilities and Chicago’s airports are fighting for wages that would enable them to pay their bills and the health care needs of their families,” said Nell McNamara, a spokesperson for SEIU’s Local 1. “As the janitors struggle to keep their families out of poverty, building owners and office space tenants like Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase are making huge profits.”
The stark contrast of a janitorial salary and what it takes to live in Chicago should seem appalling. Critics might note that another parent could work as well and bring the family up to the EPI estimate mentioned above. But that estimate does not do the costs of Chicago justice. The calculator used by EPI is for the whole Chicagoland area. To rent can easily run $1,500 to $2,000 in a decent Chicago neighborhood for a two or three bedroom. You want your kids to go to a good school or live in a safe area. It will cost you.
Why should a janitor not be able to provide that for his or her family?
Large corporations continue to leverage their enormous power and vast sums of money to influence their tax rates. They use the economic recession to push wages lower and lower for their employees. Yet, the balance sheets show them flourishing.
The slowness in the economic recovery shows the real hurt happening in American families.
© Aaron Krager 2008-2013 | Have any questions? Send me an email.