In a Week of Victories, We Must Keep Fighting
For working people in this country, this week was a good week.
On Monday, the Supreme Court invalidated most of Arizona’s hateful, draconian, anti-immigrant law, SB1070. For fair-minded people everywhere, the highest court in the land’s reaffirmation that we cannot have a patchwork system of 50 different state immigration laws was an important victory. While the most damaging part of the law – the ‘show me your papers’ provision – was not overturned, it remains enjoined for the moment and we should take heart that we are making strides towards fixing our broken immigration system.
In Seattle and Portland late Wednesday night, thousands of janitors averted a strike and took one step closer to earning a living wage, arriving at an agreement with their employers that protected access to decent healthcare coverage and offered a modest, well-deserved raise. For these janitors, the journey to justice is far from over, but this agreement represents an acknowledgement on the part of the 1% in Seattle and Portland that respecting the dignity of workers is, in fact, a good business practice.
Thursday’s announcement from the Supreme Court – the decision to uphold key provisions of the Affordable Care Act – is, arguably, the most critical victory for working people in more than a decade. While Republicans like John Boehner, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney have shamelessly put their political careers ahead of working Americans struggling to afford healthcare, the law’s benefits – which will touch the lives of more than 100 million Americans – are undeniable.
But, we need to be clear. In a week of significant victories for working people in every corner of this country, we cannot sit back and we cannot lose momentum. For every victory, there is a fight yet to be won.
At this moment, in the heat and heart of downtown Houston – or “Millionaire City” according to Forbes – more than three thousand janitors are struggling to win a living wage. Houston’s janitors, who on average make just $9,000 annually, clean some of the city’s most exclusive real estate, including the offices of companies that reported more than $100 billion in profit last year alone.
These janitors currently make just $8.35 an hour and have asked for a raise to $10 per hour, to be phased in over four years – but their employers have offered them just a fifty cent raise to be phased in over five years, a wage that would almost guarantee these workers remain destined for poverty.
When janitors in Houston began to campaign for a better life, they were met with intimidation from their employers. Already, workers who went on a one-day unfair labor practices strike for New York based cleaning contractor Pritchard were notified that they would not be allowed to return to work, in apparent violation of federal law, and police horses trampled workers marching outside of JP Morgan Chase building. You can see a video of the incident here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLXbB4vKsIc
As we celebrate the critical steps we took forward this week – for immigrants, for workers, for children and families – we must channel our energy and stand up for our brothers and sisters who continue to fight in Houston. In a week of victories, we are reminded that social and economic justice is achievable when we stand up and when we continue to fight.I hope you will join me and stand up to win justice for Houston’s janitors. You can start by signing our petition.