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How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Homecare Workers & Janitors

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How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Homecare Workers & Janitors

This summer I thought I was going to have some free time for a change before the political conventions heated up in August.  I was just starting to unwind when I got a call to help the California Statewide Homecare Workers campaign pull off some nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol in a fight to prevent the defunding of that program.  Instead they were moving a proposal for a restructuring of the industry that would save the state more money over time.  The homecare workers and their clients had mobilized for days at the Capitol talking to legislators all day and doing education and outreach at night.  I had the privilege of working with an amazing group of about 60 people who had made a decision to block the Governer’s office on one day and then take over the Rotunda the next.  The pictures tell the story.   They prevented the worst of the cuts and won a commitment to move in a new direction.

Then I got another call from a woman I worked with a couple years back on a security officers strike in San Francisco.   She wanted to know if I could come to Houston and help with a janitors strike.   While my first response was NO – I cannot coordinate, but I could help plan, train and support for what they thought would be a two week push.

I ended up coordinated the action team for a six week strike doing actions every day from 10 am until 9 pm on all kinds of political and economic power holders and industry players as well as 6 significant civil disobedience actions.  The police didn’t know what to expect, and we were able to keep them off guard and pull off all of our actions. We began to keep track: Janitors 3, Police 0; then it was Janitors 4; and well, we made it to Janitors 6, Police 0!

Our first action included two mobile teams converging to shut down an intersection in from of Shell and Chevron’s offices, then we shut down a street at the Pavilion.

In the final week a group was arrested on a Tuesday at noon for doing a “Clean-In” in the lobby of an key building.  On Wednesdaymorning another group was arrested in an early morning action in the intersection by the same building. Later that night, we took over a HUGE intersection in the Galleria area in a brilliant – CROSS, POP and RUN strategy!   Our secret marshals started to cross at the END of the light countdown, as they crossed (from 2 corners) , we had groups on the other two corners who POPPED out in front of the cars who were about to start, while those risking arrest RAN, tearing off their cover shirts into the middle of this HUGE intersection, linking up and then centering themselves under the giant silver halo above them and then SAT DOWN.  We were able to do this cause of the rope-a-dope of having four marches begin about 3 blocks away that pulled the police away from the intersection.  Once we had it, everyone from the marches ran up to fill all four corners with raucous chanting, drumming and support!

The piece de resistance was on Thursday: the police had lost 6 of our guys in the system.  Late Thursday afternoon, their files were found on a desk and they supposedly were being expedited.   Well, we got their bonds paid and then I went to jail to wait.  But they were not in the system yet this was maybe 6 pm.  Well by 8 pm they were still  not in the system so we did what all direct action people do: we called the strikers who were across downtown doing actions and suggested that everyone come to the jail.  Well in about 30 minutes about 500 janitors and supported converged at the Houston Police Headquarters and Jail and filled the sidewalks with an incredible roar – let our people go, libertad, libertad and so on.   Well wouldn’t you know that within about 20 minutes all of our people were found and processed and then escorted out the back way through some storage area instead of out the normal door into our arms.  Didn’t matter, they did not know 500 people were there but they heard the roar and walked around were we gathered them up on the stairs to cheers.  Check out his little video!   Imagine so many folks who have good reason to fear the law, take over HPD Headquarters and Win!