Janitors rally downtown for better wages

Hundreds of union janitors marched in downtown San Diego on Feb. 24 against low wages.

Accompanying signs read:   “The 1 percent profits from fear,’’ “We, the people, or they, the rich people,” and “The 1 percent is holding us all back.”

The march was organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU Local 1877) in a statewide effort to improve their labor contracts. Many of them are set to expire this year, and union members are mobilizing to call attention to their cause.

With speeches in English and Spanish, workers and supporters demanded better wages and working conditions.

“We are part of the 99 percent and we are tired of being trampled,” said Hilda Escobar.

The janitors had many supporters like state Sen. Juan Vargas, Congressman Bob Filner and State Assemblyman Benjamin Hueso.

“They are fighting for respect from their employers,” said Pedro Vazquez, a supporter of janitors’ rights.

“In their last contract, cleaning contractors recognized their responsibility to San Diego in downtown, but they were unwilling to give janitors all of what they need to provide for their families in the suburbs,” said Jessica Lopez, the political coordinator for the SEIU United Service Workers West.

“These workers have fought for many years to have a fair wage,” Hueso said. “In this economy, they have to work over 40 hours per week to provide for their families.  They’re fulfilling their duties and they should be compensated.”

“The last time San Diego janitors marched in the streets was Occupy ICE San Diego,” said Lopez, referring to a rally in November calling to an end to deportations. “This time, you better believe we’re standing for immigrants’ rights. We’re standing for the rights of all to a life with dignity.

“In 2008, janitors in San Diego striked for a month. We will stay longer this time, if necessary.”