By SERGIO SALINAS
(June 9, 2016) — They work at night after you’ve gone home from work. They are invisible to many. They are the 3,000 SEIU Local 6 janitors who clean commercial buildings throughout Seattle/King County, as well as in Pierce County, Bellingham, and Spokane. In addition to office buildings, they clean hospitals, schools, and some of Washington’s most prestigious buildings.
Janitors’ wages have not kept pace with other jobs in the region. During the recession janitors made concessions in their contract, recognizing that commercial buildings had high vacancies. The Puget Sound area is booming now, but the prosperity has not been shared with the janitors. In fact, they are working harder for less money.
Janitors are in the top 10 of Labor & Industries claims paid out due to workplace injuries. Many janitors point to recent work speedups as the cause, having to clean more areas during their eight-hour shifts. Janitors are also increasingly exposed to toxins, bodily fluids, and hypodermic needles in office trash.
“I thought I was going to die; I was aching all over my body. We had to go to court on that one,” she said, adding that the union supported her all the way.
In her 80’s, Visi can still be seen at labor struggles with her fellow retiree, Catherine Pottinger.
“We need to support the workers and their struggles. It’s just been a part of my life forever. They need a tolerable workload.”
In her 80’s as well, Catherine takes the bus to SEIU6 to phone bank for their actions. A few years ago, she was the first person arrested at an Our Walmart rally!
Show your solidarity. Join Catherine and Visi on Friday, June 17 at 1:30 p.m. in Westlake Park to stand with the janitors as they fight for a fair contract. SEIU6 janitors’ contract expires June 30.
For a schedule of solidarity events around Justice for Janitors, go to www.seiu6.org.
This column originally appeared in PSARA’s newsletter The Advocate, and it posted here with the author’s permission.