“It is like we’re disposable. They can use us for a while and then they just discard us, like if we were trash too.” –Hernan Trujillo, a Houston janitor tells the Houston Chronicle
“…Just because we’re janitors doesn’t mean that we don’t need to be treated with dignity and respect, but we’re not.” – Alice McAfee, a Houston janitor, tells the Houston Chronicle
Last month we shared with you the story of a group of Houston janitors, many of whom are paid less than $9,000 a year. These men and women put in a hard day’s work every day, are paid less than half the federal poverty level, and are not treated with respect.
After a month of protests, hundreds of Houston janitors walked off the job to fight for a living wage, demand a better life, and to protest negotiations in bad faith from many of the employers. On Friday, Houston Mayor Annise Parker sided with the janitors and said that their actions of civil disobedience were appropriate.
No person should be treated as if they were not a human being.
During a strike by African American sanitation workers in 1968, workers held signs with the slogan “I AM a Man.” These men were striking after their request for better safety conditions fell on deaf ears. They made the requests after two workers were crushed to death at the workplace.
It’s not hard to draw the parallels to today’s striking janitors. Economic dignity and workplace safety are civil rights. People who work hard and play by the rules should earn the opportunity to have their families live with a level of dignity. Dr. King recognized this, which is why he supported the striking sanitation workers. In fact, the speech he gave at the strike was Dr. King’s last.
Sadly, dehumanization continues today. Many of Houston’s janitors are treated like less than people, and to paraphrase one of the striking janitors, discarded like trash.
This is about a belief that working men and women should be treated with dignity and respect. The strike that began in Houston has garnered national attention and has spread to six different cities across the nation.
Thank you for supporting our brothers and sisters.
Texas Democratic Party