Cleaning Workers to Go on Strike: October 19, 1990

A clipping of a 1990 article describing a Justice for Janitors training held in from of the Los Angeles Police Department. Janitors were preparing to use non-violent civil disobedience in their strike on Bradford Building Services in November of that year. Translated from Spanish by Juan Torres.

“Cleaning workers to go on strike” La Opinion, October 19, 1990

By Miguel Molina

La Opinion reports on janitors’ preparation for a 1990 strike

Image caption: Janitors stage an arrest drill to prepare for what will occur as a result of their civil disobedience campaign. To the right, Hispanic women janitors from the same group show signs with slogans. (Picture by Leticia García-Irigoyen/ La Opinion)

Yesterday the committee that organizes cleaning workers announced that on November a strike against the Bradford Company in the buildings in which they provide their service located in the center of Los Angeles and in Glendale.

The union offered courses of civil disobedience to its members in preparation for the strike.

More than 50 cleaning workers participated in this course in front Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) building, located in Parker Center. LAPD Chief, Daryl Gates, was invited to the training but he did not attend.

“This it to show the police that we are not alone and that we are preparing,” warned Jose Orozco, janitor in the campaign against Bradford.

Jono Shaffer, spokesman for the union, assured that the janitors “in Century City learned that it is necessary to prepare ourselves and adopt an attitude of non-violence.”

Peaceful resistance has a long history in this country, said Shaffer. “We have to keep calm in a demonstration or strike and always remember that they are the ones who have to provoke.”

The union assures that during the strike in Century City “we suffered daily provocations by the police that culminated in the police assault on June 15, when dozens of janitors and supporters were chased and beaten.”

The union believes that now LAPD “will not consent to the pressures of the powerful proprietors and their interest.”
Another spokesman for the union, Bill Regen, assures that both parties are trying to overcome the Century City incident.

“The training course helped established a better relationship with LAPD,” said Regen, although he did not explained how. “We established a relationship of trust. Both parties are working to assure that (incidents like the one that occurred in Century City) will not occur again. We are fighting against the corporations, not against the police.”

During the civil disobedience training–which realistically was more of a strike and shut down of the building’s doors training– half a dozen plain clothes police looked on with a smile at the janitors.

Marina Jaco, a Century City strike veteran, said to her janitor partners that civil disobedience is important.

“The owners of the building did not take us seriously when we started to organize,” Jaco said. “They also did not respond when we announced we were going on strike, but they realize that we were willing to win when they saw us sitting outside the doors of their building. Our aggressiveness allows us to succeed on the Century City strike, and I think this will carry to victory in the campaign against Bradford.”

The union accuses Bradford Company for intimidating any efforts to organize workers into a union.

The National Labor Relations Board has received seven complains against Bradford’s illegal intimidation practices, threats, and lay off of workers who have attempted to organize a union.

Most of the workers from Bradford Company are immigrants from Mexico and Central American, who have been compelled to work without pay for weeks, supposedly to train them.

Bradford did not comment on the workers the accusations.

Stop the Cooperation between the Police and the INS

Immigrant rights advocates protested the close relationship between the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), 1990.

A flyer announcing a protest rally and march organized by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) in the fall of 1990. Formed in the wake of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, CHIRLA drew together organizations and activists from many communities to demand inclusion for immigrants. Reflecting growing progressive coalition in Los Angeles, co-sponsors of this rally included labor unions, religious, civil liberties, and immigrant rights organizations Los Angeles. From the Tom Bradley Papers, Box 1170, folder 9, UCLA Special Collections. Download the Document.

“Mayor Tom Bradley Administration Papers, 1920-1993 (Bulk 1973-1993).” Accessed January 23, 2019.

Bruised But Not Beaten | Herridos pero no vencidos

Justice for Janitors pamphlet announcing a return march to Century City.

On June 15, 1990, the LAPD armed with nightsticks attacked group of peaceful demonstrators outside Century City that included women and children. Not intimidated by police brutality, the demonstrators continued to protest until fair working conditions were given.

Police disrupt janitors march on Century City, June 1990

During a 1990 strike against cleaning contractors in the Century City office complex, Los Angeles police confront and beat janitors and their supporters. The confrontation led to a city inquiry into police officers’ actions, and a settlement between janitors and their employers. This video compilation was produced by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and shared with other locals on VCR tapes before being converted to digital and distributed via YouTube.

Baker, Bob. “Police Use Force to Block Strike March Labor: About Two Dozen Demonstrators Are Injured during Protest by Janitors in Century City.: [Home Edition].” Los Angeles Times (Pre-1997 Fulltext), June 16, 1990, sec. Metro; PART-B; Metro Desk.

The Organizing Laboratory: Century City

by Christina E. Springer

The City of Angels was booming in the 1980s. Los Angeles overtook Chicago as the nation’s second largest city, but not everyone benefited from this growth. Bankers, lawyers, and businessmen made comfortable salaries in the new high-rise office towers during the day, then returned to the suburbs where they basked in the luxury of the entertainment capital of the world. At night janitors scrubbed bathrooms, vacuumed carpets, and lugged trash down to the bottom floors of the same buildings. As the sun rose and suburbanites climbed into their cars to pour back into the city, the exhausted janitors rushed to finish cleaning so they could head to their second jobs. Underpaid and overworked they saw Los Angeles for what it really was: glamour by day, but a sweatshop by night.

Janitorial work had not always been like this. After World War II, the Building Service Employees International Union (they later dropped the “B” to become the SEIU) Local 399 established a strong presence in Los Angeles. As financial firms asserted more control over building owners, pressures to drive costs down led to the spread of non-union contractors and wages plummeted during the 1980s. As experienced janitors moved jobs to stay in the shrinking union sector downtown, contractors eagerly recruited new immigrant workers at lower wages. Local 399 began to research new approaches to win just pay, benefits, and better conditions for the new immigrant workforce. In 1985, SEIU created the Justice for Janitors campaign in response to the new problems the union was experiencing with the exploitative work arrangements of the non-union contract cleaning industry. The campaign’s model had been widely praised for its innovation, success, and flexibility. In 1987, Justice for Janitors was initially assigned to Local 399, the Los Angeles branch of SEIU, with a small pilot team consisting of two organizers, a servicing representative, and a researcher. The team worked to research the LA-specific intricacies of the building services industry. Understanding the structure of the industry was essential to the success of the campaign.

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