By James Thompson


Houston Justice for Janitors Rally 9/28/11

HOUSTON – Although there have been relatively few organized labor rallies in Houston since the election of President Obama as compared with the administration of George W. Bush, this week may mark a change in direction.

As part of the national effort on Tuesday, September 27, 2011 to support the continuation of the postal service, there were numerous actions at various federal offices and Congressional offices around the city. I went to a rally held at the office of U.S. Congressperson John Culberson located just east of Chimney Rock at 10000 Memorial. The afternoon heat was stifling and probably kept many people away. Many postal workers and their supporters from the community were quite visible in front of the prestigious office building making a strong case to preserve the Postal Service and protect the jobs of some 600,000 postal workers. The rally was peaceful, non-violent, but spirited.

There were some police officers present from the Houston Police Department. One of them talked to one of the participants in the rally to find out what it was all about. When he found out the purpose of the rally, he related to us that there were efforts to cut his pension as well. He also told us that former President George Herbert Walker Bush had his office in the same building. He apparently looked out his window and spotted the demonstrators and promptly called HPD. HPD was very professional in their conduct and did not harass the participants in any way.

Today (September 28, 2011), in the sweltering Houston heat, I participated in a rally held in downtown Houston in front of the Houston Club located at 811 Rusk called by SEIU as part of the national Justice for Janitors day. The crowd of about 500 union members and their supporters from the community was also peaceful, non-violent but nevertheless spirited in their demands for a living wage and a fair contract for workers. Representatives from various organizations including the Houston Peace and Justice Center, SEIU, AFL-CIO, Houston Peace Council, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and the Catholic Church were among the rally participants. Notably, City Councilperson Jolanda Jones was present to support the workers and addressed them in Spanish. She has been a vocal and visible proponent of the Justice for Janitors effort for many years.

It has become increasingly obvious to many people that the class war did not pause or halt during the Obama administration. In fact, some might suggest that it has sped up and intensified. The rise of the ultra right wing in the U.S. Congress has effectively thwarted any progressive movement from either the White House or progressive elements in the legislature.

National days of action are a step in the right direction, but mass movements to support the employed as well as the unemployed are needed to make the point that working people will not settle for injustice at the workplace and in the community anymore. What is also needed but not addressed in the rallies is more education for working people to help them understand the fact that the numerous wars of occupation around the world and the subsidization of the wealthy through tax breaks and bail outs are draining our national resources and revenues. This is why public service workers are under assault. If the right wing are unopposed, it could result in the destruction of our vital infrastructure to include such things as the postal service, roads, education, health care, law enforcement and ultimately even the military personnel. The wealthy classes have launched an all out class war against working people and they will do anything necessary to increase their profits. Working people, on the other hand, are the vast majority of people in this country and do not have to take this lying down. It is time to fight back and mean it.