Union Support


This winter, class struggle is in the air. On January 30, the janitors of Service Employees Industrial Union (SEIU) local 26, many of them immigrants, voted to authorize a strike, in a meeting in which ‘Yes’ was chanted in every language spoken on these streets. Fighting to keep full-time status, and asking for green reforms like the use of less toxic cleaning chemicals, the union is answering management’s bad faith with a show of collective power.SEIU 26 represents over 4000 janitors and custodial workers in the twin cities; the buildings they clean belong to the titans of the local economy-Target, Wells Fargo, US bank. Many of these corporations recently received enormous bailouts from taxpayers, but none of this generosity has made its way down to custodial staff. In fact, janitors are facing pay cuts and loss of benefits, and management wants to turn most of the secure, full-time jobs into part-time employment with fewer legal protections. They are also attacking the workload protections that the janitors now enjoy.

Another point of contention is the green proposals the union has made, which management has ignored-but which would actually cost the companies less money in the long run. The union has campaigned for the abolition of overnight shifts in favor of daytime cleaning, which would save light on electricity as well as improve working conditions. The union also advocates using cleaning chemicals that are less harmful to the environment, and less toxic to the workers who handle them. Management, however, refuses to budge.

SEIU 26 called out to the community for support in the struggle, and their call has been answered. Workers in other unions have agreed not to cross picket lines, and activists from campuses and workplaces have been working closely with the union to organize solidarity. Members and supporters of SEIU 26 have been carrying out daily actions to disrupt the “business as usual” for the corporate elite who continue to reject the union’s demands. With the union increasing pressure, gearing up for a possible strike, and the community behind them, an excited tension is mounting.

As students at Macalester, we support the SEIU janitors and by all those who resist injustice, in the workplace and elsewhere. We condemn the managements’ tactics, which included attempting to divide workers along ethnic lines, and we reject any corporate control over the lives of working class peoples. The problems faced by the workers of the SEIU-faltering wages, longer workdays, unsafe jobs-are not unique or exceptional but are systemic to a capitalist order in which life is organized around corporate profit. We claim the right of all peoples to resist the dominance of capital over life and to fight for economic self determination. We stand in solidarity with the SEIU janitors, and we urge the Macalester community to do the same. Please visit http://www.seiu26.org or email [email protected] to learn how to get involved.

Macalester Peace and Justice Committee-Students for a Democratic Society (MPJC-SDS)