In this latest volume of “From the Archives,” we bring you an article from the December 2011 issue of Industrial Worker. It is a piece on the IWW cleaners’ campaign at the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall of the early 2010s. This article describes their victories to secure months of stolen wages and the job of a fired union member, as well as their roadmap for future demands. The workers were demanding living wages and an end to nepotism, threats, bullying and the victimization of union members. I believe this campaign demonstrated well the momentum needed to build from previous victories to escalate demands.
“From the Archives” brings pieces to you from older issues of the Industrial Worker to showcase our rich organizing history and to educate newer Wobblies on our successes and failures of the past. Previously these articles were only distributed in print and are now published on the Industrial Worker website for the first time.
LONDON—On Nov. 7, protests took place around the world in solidarity with cleaners (janitors) who work at the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall, employed on contracts by the French-based corporation Sodexo. The vast majority of cleaners at the Guildhall are members of the IWW. In the summer of 2011, the cleaners waged a successful campaign to secure months of unpaid wages and won reinstatement for a victimized trade union member (see “London IWW Cleaners Fight Back,” on page 1 of the September IW). Since then the cleaners have been campaigning to secure justice on pay, equality and respect at work.
Sodexo pays poverty wages
The Corporation of the City of London, who hires Sodexo, is the richest local authority in the United Kingdom. It encompasses the foremost financial center of the world. Yet these employers refuse to pay cleaners the London living wage of a mere £8.30 per hour—despite it being officially recognized by the Greater London Authority that a wage earner paid less will be living in poverty.
A double standard
When Sodexo took over the contract at Guildhall, they suspended the IWW representative Wilmer Cardenas, who faces dismissal. He has been accused of being “aggressive,” simply for being outspoken in defense of fellow workers. In contrast, managers who have been accused of threatening workers with violence, including abusive and bullying treatment—including locking a woman up for two-hours—have seen no such robust action by Sodexo.
For years cleaners at Guildhall have witnessed the management operating a system of favoritism with promotions and the allocation of work. Family and friends of bosses have been given the best jobs, access to higher wages and opportunities for promotion to become supervisors.
Defending union rights
When Sodexo took over the contract, they made an agreement with the IWW to tackle the issues of inequality by the end of September, and they assured the union that there would be robust action against abusive managers. While the IWW kept its part of the agreement to suspend demonstrations, Sodexo did not fulfill their promises. They cheated the cleaners. Many union members continue to be the subject of hostility by bosses. Those who led the union campaign against unpaid wages have been targeted for revenge. Some who complain are made to clean toilets day after day. Meanwhile, workers who present medical evidence have been forced to do tasks that can make their conditions worse.
Sodexo wants one thing—flexibility. They want workers who will obey their every command. IWW cleaners will not suffer in silence! They are fighting back and demanding:
- An end to bullying, abuse and nepotism
- No more victimization of IWW union activists
- The London living wage of £8.30 per hour
Note: Solidarity demonstrations took place in Paris (Sodexo), Cork, and Birmingham.
From the December 2011 #1741 Vol 108 No. 10 Issue of the Industrial Worker.