Justice for Janitors: How immigrants are organizing for worker rights

Walters, J.

As part of a nearly 20-year movement to unionize janitors, immigrant workers in the Los Angeles area have won significant improvements including wage increases, insurance benefits and job security. Their team of seasoned organizers includes many former janitors. The organizers enable workers to overcome fear and apathy, speak out about low-pay and workplace mistreatment, join or form unions and demand change. Their strategies include the following: Educate Workers About Their Right to Organize: Organizers must help the mostly immigrant workers to understand that they are free to participate in organizing activities, even if they are undocumented. Organizers must also address the skepticism of those who've experienced corrupt unions in their native countries. Make Friend-to-Friend, Worker-to-Worker Connections: Workers and former workers speak directly to other workers. This is essential to Justice for Janitors' success in turning people around. Broaden the Goals, Engage Worker Allies: The union movement targets broader policies to improve conditions for all workers. They also engage other workers, such as security guards, whose cooperation is essential for successful strikes. Know What You Are Worth: Organizers and activists use the confidence gained from speaking out and winning to solve other problems for themselves.