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February 06, 2005

Organizing Janitors in Florida

This is the proof of the pudding for Andy Stern, whether SEIU can attain the holy grail of US unionism: organizing the South.

The union is now organizing to represent 7,000 condominium workers in the Miami area: janitors, concierges, parking valets, security guards and building engineers. Part of the hope is that retirees from the North may be more sympathetic in support of unionization than in other parts of the South.

But the union is facing the typical retaliation against workers who stand up for the union:

Frustrated by her $7-an-hour wage, Norma Huamali, a cleaner at the Grand Venetian condominiums here, became so enthusiastic about unionizing that she began proselytizing to workers.

"One colleague warned me, 'You better not talk about the union because the manager is going to fire you,' " she said. "He found out and fired me, finding some excuse."

Along with its traditional organizing tactics, the union has also been working to organize the condo residents themselves, using the issue of condo board accountability to mobilize condo residents and target the management companies -- like the giant Continental Group -- hired by condo boards and who are the condo workers' actual employer. Check out this web site. For more about the campaign in general, see SEIU Local 11's web site.

Posted by Nathan at February 6, 2005 08:20 AM