Houston Janitors Fight to Protect Good Union Jobs at Historic Downtown Building

For Immediate Release: June 10, 2019 
Media Contact: Nora Olabi | 713-742-2239 | nolabi@seiutx.org

Janitors in More Than 30 U.S. Cities Unite, Rally During Annual Justice For Janitors Week

HOUSTON— SEIU Texas is organizing a rally in downtown Houston from 3:30-5 p.m. on June 12 outside of the historic 1001 McKinney office tower. The rally is part of a weeklong series of national demonstrations for the annual Justice For Janitors week of action, where workers from more than 30 cities around the country, including New York, Cleveland, Denver, Los Angeles, and Seattle, will unite to push for workers’ rights and a living wage.

Houston janitors are demonstrating at the 72-year-old downtown office building after union janitors lost their jobs in late May. The building was sold less than a year ago to TRC Capital Partners, and now, nearly all of the janitors at the facility were displaced when a non-union janitorial company, Professional Janitorial Service of Houston, was hired to replace ISS as the janitorial contractor. SEIU Texas members, janitors, security officers , and community organizations — like Workers Defense Project, Texas Gulf Coast AFL-CIO and others — will unite to urge TRC Capital to hire responsible janitorial contractors and to help the janitors who lost their jobs get rehired.

“Janitors like me keep the economy moving forward in my home of Houston, Texas, where we work for the well-being of our city and our families,” said Olga Villegas, who worked as a janitor for 12 years at 1001 McKinney before losing her job when a non-union company took over the building’s janitorial contract. “I cleaned this building for 12 years. Everyone here is like family to me, and it breaks my heart that I would be tossed aside after so many years. I hope TRC Capital will only work with responsible janitorial contractors that treat workers with respect, pay them fairly, offer fair benefits and respect our right to work in union.”

Right now, most SEIU janitors across the country – 57 percent – are paid more than $15 an hour, however Texas janitors still lag far behind their peers. When workers stand together, workers win. Janitors throughout Texas hope to join together in their union and increase pay.

“Janitors are at the heart of what keeps our economy moving,” said SEIU Texas President Elsa Caballero. “They work tirelessly to keep some of our city’s most extravagant downtown skyscrapers sanitary, cleaning entire buildings and the executive suites of the most powerful members of our business community in a single shift. Yet, our janitors, who are predominantly immigrants and workers of color, are making poverty wages, are forced to work multiple jobs and are unable to access affordable employer-sponsored health insurance. Our most vulnerable Houstonians are being overlooked; this is not how we build a Houston for all.”

Justice For Janitors is a social justice and workers’ movement to raise standards for all Americans starting with low-wage workers. The movement was born during a citywide peaceful protest on June 15, 1990, when janitors in Los Angeles were beaten by police while demanding building owners raise wages. Workers soon organized under the banner of SEIU to negotiate contracts for better wages and benefits. More information about the history of the Justice For Janitors movement can be found here. This year, more than 100,000 janitors across the U.S. will stand in solidarity during the week of June 10 to remember the decades-long fight of janitors across the country and to continue pushing for a fair, living wage for all workers, which we believe is a $15/hour minimum wage. Justice For Janitors laid the groundwork for the Fight For $15, which is also a campaign supported by SEIU.


About SEIU Texas
SEIU Texas unites more than 6,000 health care workers and janitors in Corpus Christi, El Paso and Houston who have secured better wages, benefits and working conditions through their union. Contracted municipal security officers joined together in SEIU Texas and won the first security officer union in Texas in June 2019. Most recently, subcontracted airport workers are speaking out for at least $15 an hour and the right to form a union. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter