SEIU Local 1 janitors fighting for a new contract and a $15 wage join MLK Day March in St. Louis
By TIM ROWDEN
[UPDATE: SEIU Local 1 janitors have reached a tentative contract agreement after voting to authorize a strike. The strike vote was announced on Jan. 30 as contract negotiations for the 2,100 janitors entered the final scheduled day. On the evening of Jan. 31, the SEIU Local 1 bargaining team announced they had reached a tentative agreement, pending ratification from the membership.]
SEIU Local 1 janitors fighting for a fair contract and a minimum $15-an-hour wage in St. Louis City and County joined in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday observance at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis Monday, Jan. 20.
Among them was Eugene Hubbard, a veteran janitor and familiar voice in the janitor’s campaign for One St. Louis – a region equitable across racial lines, where everyone can support their families with a minimum $15 wage and a good union job.
“I’ve worked as a janitor nearly 20 years,” said Hubbard, 70. “Today is about more than celebrating the progress we’ve made, it’s about continuing the work we must do. While we clean some of the most notable buildings in the region like U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and county offices, we’re struggling to put food on the table for our families. When we march in these streets for equality, we do so in the spirit of Dr. King.
“Janitors may take out your garbage,” Hubbard said, “but we are not your trash. We do physical work, respectable work… it’s time that we be respected as such.”
Some 150 people turned out for the annual rally and march between the Old Courthouse and Harris-Stowe State University, organized by the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Committee of St. Louis.
FIVE YEARS AFTER
Five years after the Ferguson protests and Gov. Jay Nixon’s Ferguson Commission, which recommended the state raise the minimum wage to $15 to address racial and economic inequality, major employers and institutions including Washington University, BJC HealthCare, Target and St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones’ office, have announced plans to raise wages to $15 for employees.
St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, one of the speakers at the rally, signed an executive order Jan. 17 establishing a new $15-an-hour new minimum wage for all St. Louis civil service employees.
Pointing out the “Fight for $15” and “$15 NOW!” signs several held in the crowd, Krewson said “As I look around this rotunda today, I find inspiration in all of us with an embrace of the uncomfortable action it takes to make change.”
‘ASK THEM FOR THIS CHANGE’
Other speakers included the Reverend LeSean Tarkington of St. Peter AME, Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, Comptroller Darlene Green, License Collector Mavis T. Thompson, Public Safety Director Jimmie Edwards and Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed, who spoke about the victims of gun violence the city and the need to push one another to have the difficult conversations needed to make change.
“When you’re burying 4-year-old kids and 7-year-old kids, fathers, aunts, uncles, brothers and cousins, those people are real,” Reed said. “Someone loved them. That was someone’s mother, someone’s aunt, someone’s uncle, someone’s daughter, someone’s child that was buried. We have to make it real.
“After serving as long as I have, I really don’t care if I hurt someone’s feelings, because their feelings are going to heal,” he said. “We have to move people from where they are to a better place…. I’m asking everybody, call somebody you know, ask them for this change. Call, text or whatever you do. Make sure that people show up to make sure that we have some justice…. I’m asking you to put your voice out for $15-an-hour everywhere.”