By Jacob Bourne
Unlike some of the occupants of the many buildings they service, members of SEIU Local 87, the Janitors Union, haven’t been afforded the luxury to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, these essential workers have had to take on the additional responsibility of making sure that spaces remain virus-free through the continuous application of disinfectants. This has also resulted in riskier work environments for janitors especially given the prolonged shortage of personal protective equipment. While the service of Local 87 members has resulted in the saving of incalculable lives, the union has lost nine of it’s 5,000 San Francisco members to COVID-19 infection.
“We may not be doctors, but we’re saving lives every day,” said Olga Miranda, President of SEIU local 87. “We can assure tenants and the people that we see every day, assure them that we’re taking care of you.”
Local 87 is currently at the bargaining table with several companies and building owners in San Francisco, fighting for safer working conditions along with wages and benefits that reflect crucial services that they provide. On October 8, the union along with members of Unite Here Local 2, Stationary Engineers Local 39, representatives from the San Francisco Labor Council and others took to the streets of downtown San Francisco for a rally that ended in front of the Salesforce Tower for an act of civil disobedience by labor leaders by unlawfully occupying the intersection at First and Mission streets. SFBCTC Secretary-Treasurer Tim Paulson spoke at the rally and was among those arrested.
“Local 87 Janitors — we are here to support you during this difficult contract campaign and be arrested on your behalf,” said Paulson, “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
In addition to the customary signs and banners, rally goers carried props representing nine coffins to honor members lost to COVID-19.