SEIU Local 1 janitors sweep up effects of low wages, urge veto of minimum wage repeal

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SYMBOLICALLY CLEANING THE MESS left behind by low wages, SEIU Local 1 janitors at a June 15 rally urge Missouri Governor Eric Greitens to veto House Bill 1194, repealing the minimum wage increase enacted in St. Louis. – Labor Tribune photo

By SHERI GASSAWAY

Correspondent

Armed with mops, brooms and buckets, SEIU Local 1 janitors rallying at St. Louis City Hall cleaned up the mess left behind by low wages including crime, poverty and struggling neighborhoods while urging Missouri Governor Eric Greitens to veto House Bill 1194, which would repeal the minimum wage increase recently enacted in the city.

Fast food workers and faith and community allies joined janitors at the rally to ask Greitens to buck the wishes of his dark money donors and protect St. Louis’ $10 minimum wage. The event took place on June 15, the 27th anniversary of Justice for Janitors Day when police attacked and arrested some 500 janitors and their supporters at a peaceful SEIU demonstration in Los Angeles.

The St. Louis minimum wage increase went into effect May 5, raising the wage from $7.70 an hour to $10. HB 1194 nullifies that increase by retroactively restricting cities from raising minimum wages above the state rate of $7.70 an hour. The bill would block a similar minimum wage increase in Kansas City.

If Greitens does not veto the legislation, SEIU estimates the bill would take a whopping $75.6 million out of the pockets of more than 42,000 St. Louis working families annually.

MY LIFE CHANGED 

SEIU Local 1 janitor Sierra Parker is one of the workers who benefitted from the recent wage increase. She spoke at the rally and said her life changed when that increase went into effect, and that it has enabled her to pay the bills on time.

“Governor Greitens needs to stand with the working families instead of his dark money donors,” Parker said.  “He doesn’t know what it’s like to walk in our shoes. Don’t take money out of our pockets.”

STAND TOGETHER, FIGHT BACK

The wage increase also has helped Bettie Douglas, a St. Louis McDonald’s worker and Show Me $15 activist. She also spoke at the rally, urging Greitens to listen to the voices of St. Louis’ working families instead of his secretive big-money donors.

“No one should have to decide whether or not they are going to have their electricity cut off or not to have food on their table,” Douglas said. “Today, on the 27th anniversary of Justice for Janitors Day, fast food workers proudly stand with janitors in St. Louis and across the country. We will stand together and we will fight back.”

UNABLE TO ATTEND THE RALLY

Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) regrettably was not able to attend the June 15 rally because she was participating in the second special legislative session Greitens ordered to push through his Pro-Life agenda.

Greitens asked legislators for stricter laws on abortion clinics and to take action against another St. Louis City ordinance recently approved that prohibits discrimination in housing and employment based on “reproductive health decisions.”

Ironically, Greitens wasn’t even at the Missouri Capitol that day. According to his Facebook page, he was in Washington supposedly speaking with President Donald Trump about the need for quality Missouri jobs.

‘A BAD BILL’

After the June 15 rally, Nasheed called HB 1194 a “bad bill” set to take money out of the pockets of working people. She added that the people of St. Louis have spoken and the state legislature should respect that.

“When a community wants to show initiative and lead on issues – like economic development and workers’ rights – the state legislature should get out of the way,” Nasheed said. “At the end of the day, this is a St. Louis issue decided by the people of St. Louis for the city of St. Louis.”

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