Janitors and Ironworkers fight for better jobs in Houston

Laura Boston of HIWJ and Richard Shaw of AFL-CIO address a group of labor activists in downtown Houston on 6/25/12

By James Thompson

HOUSTON – A diverse group of progressive activists converged on Tranquility Park next to Houston City Hall today to demand better working conditions for Ironworkers and Janitors in Houston. This display of solidarity from two different labor unions was remarkable and reflected unity between the two giant labor organizations, AFL-CIO and SEIU. They were joined by representatives from a variety of progressive organizations to include: Harris County AFL-CIO, SEIU, Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center, CWA, UAW, CWA, AFSCME, IBEW, Ironworkers, LCLAA, SIU, Occupy Houston, NAACP, Houston Peace & Justice Center, CRECEN, clergy, Houston Peace Council, Houston Peace Action, TSEU, Houston Communist Party, friends and community.

The group was comprised of women and men of all ethnic backgrounds to include African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Jewish people, Anglos and others. The theme of the event was “We are all Janitors and Ironworkers today!”

There was a wonderful street theater presentation on wage theft which was very moving that preceded the march from Tranquility park to the Exxon building.

The street theater highlighted the struggles of low-wage workers. The talk-show inspired performances focused on workplace struggles – wage theft, unsafe working conditions, and retaliation – that many Houstonians face trying to make a living in what is considered a “Millionaire City.”

Just last week, over 70 iron workers working on the construction of Exxon’s famed Project Delta compound in the Woodlands (a north Houston suburb) walked off the job to protest unsafe working conditions. A delegation called for

Street theater dramatizing wage theft in Houston 6/25/12

accountability from the company, and its contractor D’ambra Steel. Of course, the delegation was met with a wall of Houston Police Officers protecting the gigantic corporation from a few people outraged by the abuse of Houston workers. The building manager arrogantly refused to receive a letter of protest from AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Shaw and demanded that it be sent to the company through the mail. The letter demanded that Exxon make sure that workers on its project are safe. Richard Shaw told the Exxon representatives that Union Letter Carrier Sisters and Brothers will deliver the letter to the corporation later.

From the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center:

“Thousands of Houston workers work hard every single day to provide for their families, but are still struggling to make ends meet. They are directly responsible for the prosperity that corporations and politicians love to boast about our city, but rarely get to experience it for themselves and their families. Houston workers are asking for a raise, not only in their wages, but also in the standards for workplace conditions. All Houstonians need jobs that will not only provide for their families, but also return them safely home at the end of the workday.”


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