The collection documents the Service
Employees International Union (SEIU), Los Angeles Justice for Janitors campaign (circa 1986-
2000), in which a low-wage workforce of largely Latino immigrants re-organized the Los
Angeles commercial cleaning industry and organized janitors in surrounding counties as well.
The campaign is widely seen as turning point for the immigrant rights movement and labor
union renewal in the United States. The collection includes photographs, audiovisual
materials, ephemera, internal publications, internal training and planning records, staff
records, research studies, collective bargaining agreements, and records pertaining to
grievances, legal disputes, union recognition, and contract negotiations. The bulk of the
collection contains photographs, audiovisual materials, and documents from the Justice for
Janitors, Los Angeles campaign from three rounds of organizing and contract negotiations
(circa 1986-2000). The janitors' public demonstrations and campaign staff's research
materials are particularly well documented. The collection also includes records from SEIU
healthcare and security guard campaigns in Southern California and many photos and union
legal records dating back to the 1930s.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is a labor union representing almost 1.9
million workers in over 100 occupations in the United States and Canada. In the Los Angeles
Justice for Janitors campaign (LA JfJ) (circa 1986- 2000), a low-wage workforce of largely
Latino immigrants in a de-unionized industry organized through the Service Employees
International Union (SEIU) Local 399/Local 1877. The campaign won three area-wide contracts
covering up to 9,500 janitors between 1987 and 2000 that included increased wages and full
health coverage for 5,000 workers. It reversed the decline in union density in commercial
cleaning by organizing 90 per cent of the building services market in downtown Los Angeles
and the Century City business district. The campaign also unionized janitors in the suburbs
and four additional counties.SEIU Local 399 was founded in the 1940s and began organizing janitors in Los Angeles in
1946. The union also organized racetrack, entertainment venue, stadium and arena, and other
building service workers in the Los Angeles area, including elevator operators and starters.
During the Justice for Janitors campaign, Local 399 represented healthcare workers as well.
In 1995 SEIU International Union placed Local 399 under trusteeship, and in 1997 janitors
separated from Local 399 and joined a statewide janitor union, Local 1877. The Los Angeles
janitors are now part of USWW, an organization of four SEIU building service Locals
representing janitors, security guards, airport service workers, and other building service
workers.JfJ began in Denver 1986, a city with a relatively small commercial cleaning industry that
served as a laboratory for developing the campaign's strategic repertoire and scalability.
LA JfJ launched publicly in 1987, although research on Los Angeles began in 1986. Prior to
the Los Angeles campaign, through prior experimentation and experience, SEIU's Building
Services Division devised the campaign's strategic backbone-removing wages from competition
by persuading all building owners in a defined market area to agree to hire only union
contractors and persuade all large contractors in the area to agree to union recognition
through neutrality agreements rather than a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
election.When Local 399 began organizing janitors in Los Angeles, most janitors were direct
employees of building owners. In the 1950s, as national and international investors replaced
local building owners, some owners began contracting out for cleaning services, although
most janitors were still direct employees of building owners at this time and Local 399
successfully organized several large contractors. Health benefits, pensions, and full-time
jobs for janitors were standard.
45 Linear Feet
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copyright. All requests for permission to publish must be submitted in writing to Library
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