The collection documents the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Los Angeles Justice for Janitors campaign (c. 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 photos, audiovisual records, 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 photos, audiovisual records, and documents from the Justice for Janitors, Los Angeles campaign from three rounds
of organizing and contract negotiations (c. 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.
In the Los Angeles Justice for Janitors campaign (LA JfJ) (c. 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 boxes (45 linear ft.)
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