Democrat candidate Beto O’Rourke will attend the Houston janitor’s strike on Tranquility Park, on May 18th, 2022. Janitors across the city have unionized to fight for the $15 minimum wage, as well as more sick days and paid vacations. They will hold a strike authorization vote and then march afterward.
The contract for 2,800 janitors will expire on May 31. If a strike is deemed necessary, the strike authorization vote will authorize the bargaining committee to do so. Janitors are motivated by unions in other states that have gained the $15 per hour raise, and in other states like Chicago, where workers make $19.65 per hour.
This is not the first time in recent years that janitors take to the streets of the city and gone on strike to demand better working conditions. More than 1,700 janitors went on strike in Houston in 2006 to demand a pay rise to $8.15 and health insurance. Union members claimed that even though Houston is the fourth largest city in the country, it is one with the lowest pay for janitors.
In 2012, they had another strike, they protested for months to demand better pay and to stop contractors who were using healthcare as a threat to intimidate workers. This was a historic strike that lasted 5 weeks, and after a lot of negotiations, they won a one-dollar-an-hour raise for the next four years.
What the 2006, 2012, and 2022 strikes all have in common is that they are backed up by the Service Employees International Union in Texas, an organization dedicated to unionizing and protecting the rights of thousands of janitors, food workers, and hospital employees in the state. It is remarkable that in Texas, a right-to-work state, meaning it is illegal for a person to join a union to get or keep a job, SEIU Texas has had the force it has shown over the years. It is a state where unionized workers are scarce and unions are not the norm, leaving workers unprotected.
Most janitors are immigrants, Hispanic, or people of color. The average janitor works part-time in Houston, which means 4-5 hours a day for as little as $10.75, which means $43 to $54 dollars a day. In contrast, local food prices are on the rise: Consumer Price Index states they have risen 6.8% in the past year.
According to SEIU Texas data, the $15 raise that janitors are demanding would only cost a penny a month per square foot, a fraction of the $37.98 per square foot tenants currently pay.
Gubernatorial candidate, Beto O’Rourke, is set to join SEIU Texas president Elsa Caballero and the janitors, to start a march at 4:00 pm at Tranquility Park 400 Rusk St. Houston, 77002.