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Timeline

In April 1990 members of the Los Angeles janitors union launched a strike that became a turning point for the U.S. labor movement. The “Justice for Janitors” campaign pit low wage, mostly immigrant women and men against powerful local business leaders and multinational corporations. Using dramatic public actions, civil disobedience, corporate research, political action, and community solidarity the Justice for Janitors campaign maintained a persistent struggle to challenge the power of building owners and contractors. In 2000 the janitors struck again and won a contract covering building service work across the city. The union’s victory in Los Angeles signaled a growing alliance between immigrant workers and the American labor movement that transformed California politics at the turn of the 21st century.

Timeline

1986

Janitors in Pittsburgh first use the motto “Justice for Janitors” in a successful fight against concessions. Later that year the campaign organizes janitors in Denver.


1986

Immigration Reform and Control Act: made it illegal to knowingly hire or recruit unauthorized immigrants, amnesty for undocumented workers who came to U.S. before 1982 and some seasonal agricultural workers. See LA Times article "Employers Trip on Amnesty Law Bias Provision"


1987-88

SEIU Local 399 attempts to unionize the janitors at the Gas Company, one of the biggest buildings in downtown LA. Although the drive fails the union experimented with mobilizing immigrant and undocumented janitorial workers. See the article and photo about the "Turkey of the Year" award giving to an antiunion building owner.


1988

“Justice for Janitors” staff come to Los Angeles.


1988

Republican George Bush elected President of the U.S.


1989

Downtown campaign targeting ABM (American Building Maintenance) & Bradford Building Maintenance (a subsidiary of ABM). In April 1989 Local 399 signs Master agreement for all of downtown, the campaign’s first victory. The same year, a UCLA study highlighted the difficult economic situation for building service workers.


1989

Following the downtown victory, Local 399 begins Century City campaign targeting ISS, a Danish-owned international corporation.


1990

Victory in the Century City campaign follows police violence against janitors blocking streets. ISS agrees to negotiate with Local 399. See LA Time article "Tentative Accord OKd to End Janitor's Strike" and articles critical of police actions and here.


1990

President of Local 399, George Hardy dies. Hardy served as president of the SEIU from 1971-1980.


1992

Peace Accords end El Salvador Civil War. See LA Times article here.


1992

Los Angeles Civil Unrest (April).


1992

Following LA Civil Unrest, Local 1877 criticizes head of “Rebuild LA” initiative for promoting low wage jobs. (search for the tag "Rebuild LA")


1992

Democrat Bill Clinton defeats George Bush to become President of U.S.


1992-94

Campaigns to organize janitors at Toyota, LACMA, Hughs Aircraft and other employers.


1993

Richard J. Riordan (Republican) becomes mayor of Los Angeles


1994

Proposition 187 passes: prohibits illegal immigrants from accessing health care, education and other social services in the state of California. Calif. judge issues permanent injunction barring its implementation, Supreme Court later strikes down as unconstitutional


1995

John Sweeney (from SEIU) elected president of AFL-CIO in contested election


1995

University of Southern California janitors and replaces them with non-union Service Master employees.


1996

Guatemala: Peace treaty between rebel groups and government signed ending long civil war


1996

Miguel Contreras (former United Farm Workers organizer and Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union Local 11 organizer) elected president of Los Angeles Federation of Labor. He makes organizing and supporting immigrant workers’ rights a priority


1995-96

Local 399 internal strife and re-organization.


1996-97

Mike Garcia from Local 1877 (Bay Area janitorial union) sent in by SEIU national office to serve as trustee of Local 399. Local leaders vote to split building service and health care workers into separate locals. Justice for Janitors becomes part of SEIU Local 1877 and health care workers retain Local 399.


1997

Andy Stern becomes president of SEIU nationally


1997

Justice for Janitors victory at USC


1997

Los Angeles enacts a Living Wage Ordinance.


1998

Respect @ LAX campaign targets service workers at Los Angeles airport


1998

Democrat Gray Davis elected governor of California defeating the sitting governor, Republican Pete Wilson who had campaigned against immigrant rights


1999

Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund (MCTF) formed, funded by contributions by employers. See the LA Times profile of the MCTF.


1999

Living Wage Ordinance extended to include workers at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)


2000

Well-organized strike yields a countywide contract with building owners and contractors.

Article: Meyerson, "The Red Sea"


2000

Local 1877 launches campaign to organize security guards, Security Officers United, Los Angeles (SOULA)


2000

Republican George W. Bush elected President of U.S. Re-elected in 2004.


2001

Local 1877 organizes janitors in Orange County


2001

Democrat James K. Hahn elected mayor of Los Angeles


2005

Antonio Villaraigosa (Democrat) elected Mayor of Los Angeles


2005

SEIU and other unions leave AFL-CIO to form “Change to Win” union federation


2007-09

Global financial crisis leads to sharp economic decline, high unemployment


2008

Democrat Barack Obama elected President of the U.S.


2010

Local 1877 becomes United Service Workers West (USWW).