Friday, November 10, 2006

[olympiaworkers] Houston Janitors update

Hundreds of members of ``Justice for Janitors''
rallied in front of Houston police headquarters

They gathered to protest the arrest of a striking
janitor earlier in the day.

Sgt. G. Batcheler said the protest began at about 8
p.m., although striking janitors had been protesting
in different locations in downtown since earlier this

``It has been peaceful. We've not been having any
problems,'' Batcheler said.

He estimated that approximately 500 janitors involved
in the strike gathered in front of the building at
1200 Travis.

Although patrol cars were circling the block and three
school buses were parked in the 1100 block of Travis,
Batcheler said the noisy protesters remained calm.

Another group of janitors held a similar protest in
front of the southeast substation where two janitors
who had been arrested earlier were being held in city

Men, women, and young children gathered and chanted
``Up with the protest'' and ``Arriba, revolution.''

Houston police mounted officers also were called in to
ensure that the striking workers stayed on the
sidewalk downtown.

Many in the crowd who were drinking bottled water and
eating snacks neatly deposited empty containers in a
box brought in by the striking janitorial workers.

``Their active efforts to clean up after themselves
may have been a result of incidents earlier in the
week where a few janitors dumped trash into some
buildings downtown,'' Batcheler said.

``Those incidents are still under investigation by
Houston police because they are considered illegal
dumping, a class B misdemeanor.''
Earlier today, two union protesters posing as luncheon
guests disrupted a speech by Shell Oil Co.'s

The protesters, both with the Service Employees
International Union, jumped up during John
Hofmeister's speech and lectured him on the low wages
janitors are paid to clean Shell's office buildings.

Hofmeister gave the speech after accepting the 2006
International Executive of the Year Award from the
Greater Houston Partnership and Kiwanis International.

"What are you doing about the janitors who clean your
buildings for $5.15 an hour?" Peter Hanrahan,
president of SEIU Local 3 of Cleveland, shouted. "You
spend more money on lunch than they earn all year."

Many in the audience of 330 that included members of
Houston's consular corps groaned and shouted back,
"No, No," as Hanrahan hustled out of the room.

A few minutes later, another protester, Joseph
McLaughlin, lead researcher for SEIU Local 5 in
Houston, was also quickly removed when he shouted:
"Can you have some respect for the janitors who clean
your buildings?"

Neither protester was arrested.

SEIU represents 5,300 janitors, many of whom are
striking the city's five biggest cleaning companies
over wages and a lack of health benefits.

After the first outbreak, Hofmeister said, "Houston
has to solve" this issue and encouraged those on both
sides of the strike to get together and talk.

Jeff Moseley, president and CEO of the Greater Houston
Partnership, said after the speech that the union's
efforts may be misguided.

"It would be well for SEIU to realize who their
friends are before they exercise their right to free
speech," said Moseley. "No leader is more
understanding in the business community than John
Hofmeister. ... There are people in the business
community who are willing to listen, willing to hear
and willing to assist but they're less likely when
they see things like this."

But Lynda Tran, a spokeswoman for SEIU, had a
different opinion of the business community's response
to the strike.

"To date, the business and the real estate community
in particular have failed to step up and take
responsibility to the fact janitors are continuing to
live in poverty without health care," Tran said. "They
will continue to hear from janitors and janitors'
supporters who will urge them to step in and settle
the strike."

In a statement issued later in the day, Shell said it
hopes the issues between the janitorial service
companies and the union will be resolved as soon as
possible through the normal collective bargaining

However, Shell pointed out that it's not involved in
the bargaining process and is not a party to any
eventual agreement.

"the work of the theater is the liberation of dreams, the transformation
of ideas into working acts" Julian Beck

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