One City, Two Worlds

By David Ayala of Portland, Oregon. David describes himself as "a father and union organizer from El Salvador working with janitors in Portland."

In the ongoing fight for social and economic justice, sometimes you can lose perspective on how very different the lives of members of our community can be. With election gossip, the necessary evils of paperwork and everything else, I make sure to remind myself daily that we believe what we believe and do what we do because it is right and it needs to be done.

Sometimes, I remind myself that the janitors struggling to join our union, like me, fled civil war and dire poverty to come to our country to barely make ends meet while those with the power to do something hurl money at George W. Bush and Rick Santorum and ignore the people that keep their businesses running. In our city's living room, the growing rich-poor gap that we read and talk about is there -- and is usually much more dramatic than the numbers alone.

Recently, a group of downtown janitors decided to make sure that the broader community understood this situation and did not lose this valuable perspective. Working with some volunteers, they put together the 1 Building, 2 Lives video below. It takes a necessary and important look at the harsh reality of the lives of low-wage workers in our city, and the purported "civic leaders" that allow this to continue.

Take a look for yourself and let us know what you think. And stay on the lookout for more online updates about this campaign in the coming months.

Si se puede!

  • Patty (unverified)

    Excellent work on this video. It tells the story of the Marks and ServiceMaster in a very clear way. I also liked learning more about who the janitors are that work in the building and how long this fight has been going on. Please keep us posted on how things progress.


  • jessica (unverified)

    wow! well done!

  • Schizzle (unverified)

    As a member of the "Vast right wing conspiracy" I received my marching orders today, and simply put: There is a concerted effort underway to put Janitors out of business and keep them from buying Plasma TVs. I will be making calls to "Big Money" people - the kind of people that drive hummers, smoke cigars and make shady deals in the back rooms while sipping whiskey with the Sherrif and the police. We will be targetting Janitors, and staking out Best Buy.

    Peace out.

  • Dan Petegorsky (unverified)

    Excellent piece, David - thanks for posting it.

    Many years ago as an organizer in Massachusetts I worked to help win asylum for Salvadoran and Gualtemalan refugees during the civil wars in Central America. The video did a great job in showing how even though the refugees like Juanita were able to escape the violence to rebuild their lives here in the U.S., their struggles just to earn a decent living and care for their families are far from over.

    Thanks to you and SEIU for carrying on that important work.

  • (Show?) office --the City Revenue Bureau-- is IN that building. (The City's also paying for unused space that WAS going to house Utilities Customer Service staff, until Commisioner Leonard convinced the Mayor to return them to the Water Bureau). I'm guessing we pay a LOT for that space. I'm a late arrival and don;t know how we ended up there.

    <h2>Maybe the City could apply some pressure to get better treatment for the Servicemaster employees there?</h2>
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