Friday, June 17, 2016

Stepping up for Indy's working poor

A letter to the editors at NUVO

Posted By on Fri, Jun 17, 2016 at 1:46 PM

click to enlarge downtown_indy_from_parking_garage_zoom.jpg

By Jared Evans, Indianapolis City-County Councilor, District 22

In communities across Indiana, good jobs have been replaced by jobs that don’t pay enough to raise a family. With quality jobs such as Carrier and UTEC moving over 2,000 jobs from Indy to Mexico, it’s more important than ever that the jobs in our community – particularly service industry jobs- offer a living wage.

In 2006, Indianapolis janitors organized a union for the first time in order to raise standards and win respect on the job. The resulting agreement between janitors and cleaning contractors secured modest annual wage increases, benefits, and rights at work that professionalized the cleaning industry and forged a path out of poverty for over 700 Hoosier families.

Unfortunately, not all contractors chose to be part of this agreement. Corporate Cleaning Systems (CCS), which cleans several Indy buildings including the prominent Market Tower, pays poverty wages and does not guarantee employees a voice on the job.
As a voice for working people, the janitors’ union, SEIU Local 1 along with community supporters have continuously called on Zeller Realty, the owner of Market Tower and one of CCS’s key clients, to support good jobs here in Indy. In March, I joined them to rally outside Market Tower. Our requests were clear: Zeller is a business leader in our community, that has the responsibility to create good jobs in our city by using a responsible contractor instead of CCS. I stood with them because it’s time for all workers, including janitors who clean Zeller properties, to get ahead and that their children, the future of our city, have more opportunities to succeed.

When companies like Zeller use a janitorial company that pays poverty wages – such as CCS - it contributes to struggling neighborhoods, failing schools, and high crime rates. These issues drag down our economy for our entire city. A lack of good jobs is responsible for a record high number of Hoosiers living in poverty. It also contributes to the staggering growth in poverty in Indiana since 2007 - higher than all neighboring states and the U.S. average. Since 2000, the median income in Indiana has also continued to decline as we’ve lost a high number of mid-wage and high-wage jobs. The trend continues to impact low-wage workers even more severely: in 2015, the median wage for janitors lagged behind the median wages for all occupations.

It is unacceptable that in communities across Indiana, good jobs have been replaced by jobs that push families into poverty. Profitable companies like Zeller Realty must contribute fairly and do their part to create good jobs in our city. When workers have a voice on the job and are paid fair wages, families are able to spend their paychecks at local businesses and contribute to the local economy, which makes our economy stronger, our neighborhoods safer, and our communities healthier. It’s time Indianapolis worked again for the people who work for a living and thus, contribute to the prosperity of Indy’s neediest communities.

City-County Councilor Jared Evans is from the West Side of Indianapolis. He represents Indy’s 22nd District. He is committed to making sure his constituents have a voice at City Hall and continues to stand with hard-working janitors in our community.

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