A movement sweeping through Cleveland — “Justice for Janitors” has old roots but new momentum in our city.
It’s a push for better wages, better healthcare, and most importantly, representatives say, more respect in the workplace.
“People just want to be able to buy groceries, pay their rent, their mortgage, pay their car note, get to and from work and go home just like everyday else,” said Yanela Sims, Ohio state director for SEIU Local 1. “It’s not rocket science — people just need to be able to survive.”
The group — made up of 1,600 janitors from around the Cleveland area — will be holding rallies in the coming months as union contracts expire in March and April.
A rally on Thursday will call attention to several jobs that were just lost.
One of those was Delores Hall’s job.
Hall, who had been cleaning at the Western Reserve building on W. 9th St. in downtown Cleveland for the last 26 years, said she and her two coworkers received a letter in January, saying that their jobs would be gone by Feb. 1.
After more than two decades on the job, Delores said the lack of communication is what hurt her the most.
“You should be able to come and talk to the people that are about to lose their jobs so we’ll know what to do. We didn’t know...just wow, it happened so fast, like...I need another job, huh?” Delores explained.
It happened when Geis Properties took over the building and brought in a new non-union cleaning company to replace Delores and her co-workers.
Geis’ president told News 5 that they had no comment for this story.
Justice for Janitors will be rallying at the W. 9th property at noon on Thursday to call attention to the laid-off workers' plight.
“We’re not against development, but we’re for people who have been doing the work in these buildings not getting swept under the rug and getting displaced from their jobs,” Sims said.
Sims said they did have a win this week when the Cleveland Orchestra agreed to pay all of its facilities workers $15 an hour by the year 2021.
“I would hope they could be the beacon for others to follow,” Sims said. “We’re not asking for a lot of money, we’re asking for dignity and respect at work.”