The Justice for Janitors rally on April 20 was organized by both janitors and the Local 3 Sector of Service Employers Union (SEIU).
Rebecca Maran of SEIU and other members were working the crowd, making sure everyone who wanted to speak was being heard. Others handed out open letters listing over 40 different community members and groups in favor of the cause. The letter called to end poverty in janitorial contracting and support efforts to provide a dignified living for workers and their families. For the 1,200 janitors of downtown Indianapolis, the rally was just another step in their battle for better wages and conditions.
The average Indianapolis janitor makes between $5.50 and $7 an hour, with little or no health benefits. Most are only allowed to work part-time, so they have two or three jobs to make ends meet.
Among the speakers was Vice President of the City-County Council Joanne Sanders, who recalled a time when the wages and conditions for janitors were very different in Indianapolis. “We need good jobs for good workers.”
Several of the workers spoke about seeing their fellow janitors put up with abuse and sexual harassment at their jobs. One woman even challenged building owners and property managers to clean their own houses every day for a month, to see for themselves that the work they do is far from easy.
Though the need for improvement in working conditions is very real for Indianapolis janitors, everyone at the rally was in high spirits. Kenneth Zeller, president of the Indiana State AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations), told dedicated janitors that the AFL-CIO would stand with them until the struggle was finished.
Getting the community’s attention plays a major part in their movement, and everyone there greatly appreciated the large turn-out. Some workers wore Justice for Janitors shirts, while others held huge yellow signs, causing a lot of traffic to honk and wave to show support.
Mary Decker of Central Indiana Jobs with Justice ended the rally with a familiar chant for the workers: “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.”