Janitors Rally for Wages

Hundreds of students joined activists and janitors Tuesday afternoon in a loud and spirited rally to bring awareness to the needs of nonunion janitors at UCSD.

Tyler Huff

“”Here at UCSD, workers are exploited,”” said Cathy Medrano, an organizer for Students for Economic Justice. She was referring to the nonunion janitors who are paid minimum wage and denied benefits such as insurance, sick days and the opportunity to organize.

“”Students can play an important role in the fight for all workers,”” Medrano added.

The rally was part of UCSD Raza Awareness Week and was organized by SEJ.

Students at the rally joined with Service Employees International Local Union 2028, which is currently assisting the janitors’ fight.

The janitors are employed by Bergesons and Merchants, a cleaning company from which UCSD contracts over 100 janitorial employees.

SEILU 2028 Deputy Director Mike Wilzoch said that the janitors have three main demands. He said that they are asking to be paid a living wage of $11.25 an hour, because their current wages put their families below the poverty line; that they need to be allowed to unionize; and that the janitors need respect and dignity from their employers and UCSD.

According to the rally’s organizers, Alejandra Rodriguez, an employee, was fired when she attempted to organize her co-workers. Rodriguez briefly addressed the crowd through a translator.

“”We deserve respect like everybody else,”” Rodriguez said.

UCSD-employed and unionized janitors showed support for their co-workers by attending the rally en masse and carrying signs that read, “”The UC Works Because We Do”” and “”Equal Pay for Equal Work.””

Many students showed their allegiance to and respect for the janitors by attending the rally and marching alongside them shouting the slogan “”justice for janitors.””

The march began in the Price Center and ended an hour later at the Administration Complex after winding through campus. Marchers chanted together and banged on drums.

The march was preceded by a concert by Ozomatli. The socially conscious band galvanized support for the janitors’ cause with a set of songs calling for social justice. A rendition of “”We’re Not Going to Take it”” drew applause and cheers from the crowd.

Many students came to listen to the popular band, but stayed for the rally after learning of the situation.

“”I came for both the music and rally,”” said student Bella Oguno. “”I think it’s unfair — we are paying for [the janitors] to be poor.””

Others were already aware of the workers’ concerns.

“”Minimum wage is too low for anybody to make a living,”” said student Matt Williams. “”Plus, no benefits or insurance is especially hurtful.””

The campus came alive for the event, an indication that students are becoming increasingly more aware of the social issues that face San Diego.

“”I know there is a problem and I want to help out,”” said student Clauda Lam. “”It takes days like this for students to get educated. It’s not hard to get information — just take a leaflet.””

Marshall Provost Cecil Lytle was pleased with the turnout and the passion of the students.

“”This is fabulous — we should do this every day,”” Lytle said. “”Events like this tie it all together in the cause of social justice. It makes sense.””

Many students were in awe of the level of activism that was occurring on the normally docile campus.

“”I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people together like this before,”” said student Enoch Lam. “”I’m really impressed people came. That doesn’t usually happen at UCSD.””

Elin Brown, a member of SEJ, said he participated in the event to “”make UCSD more aware of injustice going on in the campus, because it seems [students] can be somewhat apathetic.””

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