Rosa Beltran remembers the 2000 strike

Rosa Beltran (right) and Mauela Ramos (center) in 2011.
Rosa Beltran (right) and Mauela Ramos (center) in 2011.

La huelga del 2000 fue una victoria— Yo estaba fuera de mi edificio piqueteando 24 horas seguidas, 24 horas deteniendo, durmiendo, pegado a los containers de basura porque como Uniones, si la Unión de los basureros miraba un janitor que estaba piqueteando, se respetaba eso. El UPS [United Parcel Service] si miraba a alguien piqueteando, respetaba eso. El correo, si miraba a alguien, no había movimiento de nada. Ahí se detenía todo; pero si no había nadie, es por eso que le digo yo de qué sirve tener un sindicato con ejecutivos con buenas ideas, si soldados no habemos. Porque los soldados somos los que llevamos a cabo todo, al final del día. Ésa es la representación que nosotros tenemos.

The strike of 2000 was such a victory— I was outside my building picketing 24 hours in a row, resting and even sleeping by the dumpsters because the unions, if the sanitation workers saw a janitor who was picketing, they respected that. If UPS saw someone picketing, they respected that. The postal workers, if they saw someone, nothing moved. That stopped everything; but if there had been no one there, that is why I say what good is it having leaders with good ideas, if you don’t have soldiers. Because at the end of the day the soldiers are the ones that carry it all. That is the representation we have.

From the interview of Rosa Beltran by Andrew Gomez.

Donde Haiga Un Trabajador Explotado, Ahí Estaré Yo: Justice for Janitors’ Workers, Organizers, and Allies, n.d. https://oralhistory.library.ucla.edu.

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.

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Peter Olney remembers life as an organizer

So I started working for the union in, like, April of 1991, and I’ll never forget meeting with Jono [Shaffer] a couple weeks before I started. He said, “You know Peter, here at the Janitors, we expect you to mobilize probably five hundred workers every week to march.” I was like, “Say what?” You know, I worked for the furniture workers a whole year. We never mobilized more than a hundred of our members for anything. I’m like, “You expect me—?” “Yeah, that’s what—.” I said, “Okay,” and sure enough, you know, for a number of reasons, one, because of the demographics of the workforce, the fact that people were newly organized and had that passion and had seen a difference and change in their lives because of that, and because of their schedules, too, because they start work at 5:00 p.m., so they’re free during the day, we did indeed succeed in almost every week turning out hundreds of members to march and protest, to try to conquer more jurisdiction for the union.

From the interview of Peter Olney by Andrew Gomez.

Donde Haiga Un Trabajador Explotado, Ahí Estaré Yo: Justice for Janitors’ Workers, Organizers, and Allies, n.d. https://oralhistory.library.ucla.edu.