Houston janitors ended a monthlong strike today against the city's five major cleaning companies after reaching a tentative agreement that will guarantee higher wages, more work hours and medical benefits.
"No one thought that a group of poor Latinos from Houston would be able to win anything, but today we can lift our heads up very high," Flor Aguilar, one of the janitors and a member of the bargaining committee, said in Spanish to a crowd of about 2,000 people after the agreement was ratified tonight.
"Where I come from there is a saying and it goes, 'Don't mess with Texas.' Today I can say don't mess with Houston janitors."
The settlement was hailed as a major victory for the 5,300 janitors who last year organized under the Service Employees International Union. It is the first citywide union contract since janitors formed a union last November.
Under today's agreement, the SEIU janitors will get a 50.5 percent pay raise over the two-year contract. On Jan. 1, pay will increase to $6.25 an hour, a 21 percent increase over current wage of $5.15 an hour. That will go up to $7.25 an hour on Jan. 1, 2008, and $7.75 on Jan. 1, 2009.
Hat tip to What's Left.