Over 100 custodial workers—some of them Harvard employees—rallied outside of Trinity Church in Copley Square on Saturday to call for full-time employment for all custodial workers.
As part of a rally organized by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 615, custodial workers and their family members gathered in Boston to listen to speakers and voice their support for the living wage.
“All the best economists will tell you: The best way to revitalize the economy is not to give the money to the rich, who will sit on it in the bank, but to give it to you, who will spend it on your groceries and on your gasoline,” said State Senator Sonia R. Chang-Diaz, who spoke to an emotionally charged crowd.
The event, which included speakers such as State Representative Carlos Enriques and Chang-Diaz as well as workers describing how they overcame adversity, took place simultaneously in Spanish and English.
Olga Becerra, a Harvard janitor who has worked at the University since 2002, told the crowd about her husband losing his construction job and how they almost lost their house. She said that without full-time jobs, it is hard for working class families to keep a roof over their heads.
Workers and their families braved sub-freezing conditions for several hours to show their support.
“It is cold, but we will fight,” said Carlos Atildo, a husband of a janitorial worker. For much of the rally he held a sign which read, “The fight for: Time with our loved ones.”
Organizers said the rally emphasized the need for custodial workers to be able to spend time with their families, which can be difficult while they juggle multiple jobs.
“The working class is making less for the first time in a generation,” said Chang-Diaz, who later called for “more than just a basic wage—a living wage,” for the custodial workers.
Grace Agosto, a student at Suffolk University and the daughter of a janitor, also spoke about the importance of family in working class households, saying that her mother’s presence in her life helped shaped her.
“All parents love to spend time with their kids,” Agosto said. “But they are too busy putting shelter over their heads and food on their table.”
Speakers at the event argued that full-time employment for custodial workers and their families, but the larger community as well.
“The future of the country we believe in very much depends on the people who work, the people moving us forward,” said State Representative Elizabeth A. Malia.
Anna Alarán, who attended the event and whose husband is a member of SEIU, said she felt the event was a success.
“This is good energy,” Alarán said. “It shows we are strong.”
Throughout the rally, various chants were exchanged between the speakers and the audience. “Together we fight,” one speaker chanted in Spanish. “Together we win,” the audience responded.
—Staff writer Mercer R. Cook can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.