Last week, as I went on strike for better working conditions, my first thought was for my grandchildren.
You see, my home state of Minnesota is one of the most racially unequal and segregated places in the country. And more than 90 percent of the janitors I work with are people of color.
We’ve proposed raising the wage to $15 an hour for janitors, which would pump over $25 million into our local economies, and lift up communities who have been left behind. But despite our best efforts, the CEOs of Minneapolis' richest corporations refuse to do the right thing.
Janitorial jobs in the Twin Cities used to be considered good jobs in the 1970s and '80s, including decent pay, pensions, sick time, and fair workloads. The workers were also predominantly white.
But as these jobs were subcontracted out – and pay and benefits decreased – employers recruited people of color and immigrants for these jobs. Now, some janitors are paid as little as $11 an hour while they clean the buildings that house some of the wealthiest corporations in the state.
We've tried negotiating with CEOs. We've held peaceful demonstrations. And we've been forced to strike to stand up for our families.
This system of inequality in our state didn't happen by accident. It was created.
We are taking action. Join us.
Bryant Cooper is a janitor in the Twin Cities and a member of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26.