Janitors March in Downtown IndyPosted on: June 25, 2018, by : Jeff Turner
Janitors March in Downtown Indy
By Jeff Turner
The Service Employees International Union held a rally and march through downtown Indianapolis at Monument Circle on Saturday June 23rd, part of the Indianapolis 2018 Janitorial Contract Convention. There were well over a hundred in attendance. Eighty SEIU members were bussed in from Chicago, twenty from Ohio, several from the Western Lafayette area, and members from the Indianapolis area. They were protesting for affordable health care, fair wages, fulltime jobs, and, most importantly, respect in the workplace.
“I’ve had friends who’ve gotten me involved (with SEIU), it’s the sort of thing my church stands for,” said Fr. Charles Allen, a priest with the Episcopal Church who led the opening prayer of the rally. “It will make an impact. And as much as there are events like this and conversations before and after that bringing everything into focus… I know organizers here have been in conversation with the mayor and other leaders. Anything that makes this more visible is going to help.”
There were several speakers at the event, SEIU members as well as State Senate Candidate JD Ford and City-County Councilor Jared Evans.
“We represent six hundred janitors in the Indianapolis area,” said Nick Desideri, a spokesman for SEIU’s local chapter. “And what janitors are out here for is to kick off their fight for a strong new contract that guarantees fair wages and affordable to health care to help support their families.” When asked if he felt the march would bring about the desired changes, he said “Absolutely. When working people come together in force, when people come together in union, it is the strongest force for social change and economic justice in the country.”
Powerful testimonials were given by those SEIU members who spoke, some discussing having their power shut off and being worried about the possibility of eviction or not having enough food to provide for their families. Doris Jones was one of these speakers, attending the march with her young daughter. She described how she did not receive an adequate living wage, which makes supporting her family difficult.
“I’m here for the contract, convention, bringing attention to the city that six hundred janitors should not be living in poverty,” said Jones after the march. “We have families, we should be able to support them.” When asked if she felt the march would bring about the desired changes she and her fellow SEIU want to see, she said “Yes, it will. It will bring attention to the huge issue. The issue is poverty, no health insurance, no paid time off, and most of these jobs are part time. We are fighting for fulltime work.”
When asked if she had a message for those in the community, she said “Think about the janitors, the workers that make all these companies. We are the people you see every day at these businesses. We are sacrificing every day to make these companies look good. Go tell people to support us. We have to keep up the pressure, do whatever you can. We’re no different from you, we’re providing for our families every single day, every single week.”
Not everyone in the SEIU is a janitor, their members also include security guards, another occupation that often does not offer fulltime employment. The march was peaceful, workers and the community standing together in solidarity, to paraphrase one speaker. Calls for a $15.00 minimum wage were made by the speakers, who then led their fellow protestors in the march, their most memorable chant at the end being “We’ll be back!”