Janitors speak out for better wages

PHILADELPHIA - A spirited and militant group of Service Employee Union 32BJ members, their friends and supporters marched here to defend area standards for office cleaners on Aug. 31.

Their message was to Arthur Johnson, who has cleaning contracts with several center city Philadelphia businesses. They wanted Johnson to know that they were there and unionized office cleaners here are paid $12-$13 per hour with benefits. Johnson, they said, is trying to pull the rug out from under those standards by paying workers $7 per hour with no benefits.

The protesters had several elected officials in their corner. State rep. Mark Cohen told the rally, “Trying to lower the standard is bad for you and bad for the City of Philadelphia.”

News headlines recently announced that Philadelphia has the highest percentage of people living in poverty of any U.S. big city. Cohen said that poverty must be fought by fighting for higher wages.

State Rep. Angel Cruz said that he came not as a state representative, but as a union brother from Local 274. “Whatever you need, we’re here for you, whatever it takes, as long as it takes.”

Lance Haver, a longtime consumer affairs advocate thanked the workers for standing up for working people, and went on to say if A. J. gets away with lowering wages, it will hurt everyone in the city.

The protesters rallied at buildings staffed by Arthur Johnson employees, marching past the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall for worker justice.