really just shifting people around in the economy," says Safai. "They'll have other people
in and replace them and those 400 [who are fired] will go look for jobs
The janitors had gotten a call just that day from
supervisors that Able Janitorial Services, Metro Maintenance, and ABM were letting
them off work for an hour for a union event. Arriving at the plaza,
they grabbed union-provided pastries and poured coffee into a styrofoam cups, then
stood around chatting in an unexpected break from their
nightly routine. "They told us to come but I don't know for what," said
one older Spanish-speaking woman who says she's cleaned 525 Market for 11 years.
The crowd lit white candles and slapped on "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Now"
stickers that they would have to present in order to return to work.
Local 87 President Olga Miranda announced that ABM had promised not to
not fire one worker or hire another before they get a letter from the
"You fought for this job," Miranda said in Spanish
and in English into a microphone powered by a rumbling Honda generator.
"You've had this job for 15 years. You've had
these benefits for 20 years, and we can't permit them to come take our
jobs because of some miserable social security number." The crowd
chanted "You hurt one, you hurt everyone!" in Spanish.
doesn't check immigration status among its members. One foreman who
wished to remain anonymous says that illegal workers often are stepped
on by the companies' management. "In the companies, when they
know you don't have papers, they give you
more time and don't pay overtime."
The vigil was held to show
solidarity, but some janitors openly recognized the futility. "We can't
fight immigration," one man said. "Some people are not legal here."
10 p.m., the janitors blew out their candles -- though a few folks left theirs burning beside
a fountain in the plaza. In groups and alone, they walked away toward
their respective buildings, and went back to work.