Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A big damn deal.

The strike is over. There were five things (at least) against this strike from the beginning.
1.) the participants were women;
2.) the strikers were Latino
3.) many were illegal immigrants
4.) they were some of the most invisible, lowly paid workers in America
5.) This was Houston. Like a colleague of mine said, it's not just the's
And yet they did it. They got raises of better than 50% of their wages. By the end of the contract, they will have added two more hours onto their work day, upping their wages even more. By the third year they'll have health insurance. They get paid sick days, and even vacation days immediately. They have the freedom to organize some of the other companies in Houston.

They did it by using nontraditional tactics (like pressuring the employers and their customers--the big oil companies in Houston). They built community relationships with key religious and political leaders. They won. People's lives are irrefutably better as a result of it.

It's the kind of thing that crystallizes for me why I'm not just part of the labor movement, but that I love it, too. I'm constantly warned by other staff that this is just my job, and on some level it is. But if you didn't feel this way, there's no reason you would commit to a lifetime of it. It's too risky, putting hope in your fellow man to work with his brother and sister to better their livelihoods and fight for what's right. There are too many disappointments. There are too many historic losses to believe it's possible.

But it is.


Anonymous said...


I'm one of the people who got arrested last week in Houston. You're so right- jail really sucked, but it was so worth it. Even if we hadn't won, it would have been worth it, just to see the faces of the janitors when they saw us locked to the Chevron building. To see them light up at the recognition that there were people willing to do that for them. That was one of the best moments of my life and I will never forget it, and every torturous hour in that sick jail was worth it just for that. And then for the janitors to win big- it really shows that we CAN do it. We DID do it, and we can keep doing it.

Keep on fighting!

I live in Chicago and work for SEIU, and I check in with your blog frequently, just never commented before.

whiskey said...

Thanks for dropping by, your words are greatly appreciated. Thanks also for going down to Houston and doing right.