Portland-area janitors took action to stand up for good jobs, as part of a nationally coordinated day of action. Low-wage janitors stood with faith leaders, union members, other non-union workers, and community supporters to demand that Millennium Building Services (MBS) create good jobs for working Oregonians. On a day that marks 27 years since a major turning point in the janitorial industry, Portland janitors are continuing the legacy of the Justice for Janitors! movement.
Workers and their supporters started the day by delivering a letter calling on MBS management to agree to a fair process to form their union. The group then boarded a bus to Daimler’s North American Headquarters, a facility cleaned by MBS janitors, to ask that Daimler do the right thing by all employees who work in their new, state-of-the-art, taxpayer-supported building, not just those they directly employ. In an interview by local press, the group made a public call for profitable companies like Daimler to invest in good jobs, affordable health insurance, and a living-wage economy that benefits the broader Portland community.
For nearly three decades, the Justice for Janitors movement has helped low-wage workers achieve a better life and has earned broad-based support from the public as well as religious, political and community leaders. More than 225,000 janitors in cities across the country have united in SEIU, America’s largest union of property services workers.
On June 15, 1990, a peaceful Justice for Janitors march and protest in greater Los Angeles turned into something more. When striking workers linked arms to cross a street, police officers beat them with batons, injuring dozens. This painful moment only strengthened the resolve of the janitors, galvanizing public support and spurring the main janitorial contractor to sign a union contract that provided workers a living raise with health insurance and guaranteed benefits. That victory has inspired janitors nationwide – including more than 2,000 SEIU Local 49 members in Oregon and Southwest Washington – to continue fighting for justice for themselves, their families and communities, and low-wages workers in other industries.