Stateside

Premature obits for organized labor

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A big victory for the supposed-to-be-dying American labor movement:

After a month-long strike, demonstrations and nonviolent civil disobedience, janitors in Houston, Texas, have achieved their first union contract, providing higher wages, more hours and health insurance for 5,300 of the city’s office cleaners.

The victory is all the more impressive for occurring in Texas, a state traditionally hostile to unions. Under Texas’s “right to work” law, employers and unions cannot negotiate requirements for all workers covered by a contract to join the union or pay dues.

According to the Service Employees International Union:

The contract will lift hundreds of janitors out of poverty, more than doubling their income within 24 months and guaranteeing secure affordable health care.

The Los Angeles Times reported:

Janitor Mercedes Herrera, 37, worked for five years cleaning 18 restrooms in four hours, for $5.15 an hour, at a downtown high-rise. “No benefits, no raise, no nothing,” she said.

After years of being what she called “an invisible person,” Herrera seemed stunned by the victory.

“I’m so happy, I’m so excited,” said Herrera, her eyes bright with tears. “We got justice. This will change my life for my family…. We worked hard, and janitors won big.”

The union played up the contrast between corporations raking in record profits from high oil prices, and the people who clean their offices living in poverty.

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