This oral history article documents the early organizational and tactical history of the Justice for Janitors movement in Los Angeles. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) launched Justice for Janitors in the 1980s as a national campaign designed to combat declining union density in the janitorial services industry. The Los Angeles chapter, based at SEIU Local 399 and dominated by Latino rank-and-file members, remains one of the great success stories of the movement, with major contract victories in 1990 and 2000. Centered on the oral history testimony of Jono Shaffer, this article details the specific strategies developed by organizers and members to combat the dominance of low-pay, subcontracted labor in the region. In particular, Shaffer addresses the use of broader organizing tactics such as trigger agreements while also stressing the importance of on-the-ground direct action in yielding key victories in the early years of Justice for Janitors.
Organizing the “Sweatshop in the Sky”: Jono Shaffer and the Los Angeles Justice for Janitors Campaign
ANDREW GOMEZ is assistant professor of history at the University of Puget Sound. His research focuses on transnationalism, race, the history of Latinos in the United States, and digital history. He received his PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2015 and is currently editing his dissertation on early Cuban communities in Florida into a book-length manuscript. His writing has appeared in the Journal of American Ethnic History, Cuban Counterpoints, and InterActions.
Andrew Gomez; Organizing the “Sweatshop in the Sky”: Jono Shaffer and the Los Angeles Justice for Janitors Campaign. Labor 1 May 2018; 15 (2): 9–20. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-4353668
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