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Seeking to strengthen America’s beleaguered middle class, janitors across the country this week will mark the 21st Annual Justice for Janitors Day by protesting an economy that many consider unbalanced, unjust, and unfair.
“The middle class in this country is under the gun,” says Martha Martinez, a janitor employed by ABM at the Century City Towers in Los Angeles. “While big corporations are getting all the money, a lot of people don’t have jobs. And even more people are working for a living but not making a living.”
June 15 is the 21st anniversary of the brutal 1990 clubbing by Los Angeles police officers of low-wage janitors protesting in the city’s ritzy Century City district. Violent images of police quashing the protest were seen around the world, galvanizing public opinion in favor of the janitors, who subsequently won their first union contract. Their movement, “Justice for Janitors,” lifted thousands out of poverty. But with rising prices in recent years, janitors, like many Americans, have seen their standard of living erode. Cleaners are again speaking out for fair wages, quality affordable healthcare, and full-time, family-sustaining jobs for their communities.
This week janitors will lead or participate in protests calling for economic justice in 15 U.S. cities–Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Florham Park, N.J., Hartford, Conn., Irvine, Calif., Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Stamford, Conn., Washington DC, and White Plains, N.Y.