Cincinnati City Councilman David Crowley last week received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the national Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Joe Solmonese, president of the organization, presented the award at a dinner at the Contemporary Arts Center. The HRC honored Crowley for co-sponsoring the expansion of the Cincinnati Human Rights Ordinance to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and for helping to lead the repeal of a homophobic city charter amendment.
Crowley, the father of gay children, has long championed equality. The struggle is ongoing, he said last week.
"This is not only an issue for Cincinnati," Crowley said. "It's a national problem. We are taking steps in the right direction here, but unfortunately the problem continues to exist elsewhere. I am proud of the fact that this national organization is recognizing the work done in Cincinnati, and I hope we can continue to be a role model for other cities in America in this area."
Crowley, a Democrat seeking re-election to a fourth and final term on city council, has spent part of this week working on another issue: the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
He was one of dozens of mayors and council members from around the country expected July 31 to present testimony to Congress abut the local costs of war. Crowley earlier this year championed city council's resolution opposing escalation of the war in Iraq.
Meanwhile, the local anti-war movement is doing more than protesting. Three weeks since its release, sales of a locally produced book, Country At War: Reflections on the War in Iraq, have already generated a $500 donation to the Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust, according to Betsy Young, co-founder of Aurore Press. All proceeds from the book go to the charity in Cold Spring. Copies are available for $8 at Sidewinder Coffee and Tea, Shake It Records and InkTank.
This Is What Collective Bargaining Looks Like
Ending months of negotiation, a union representing Greater Cincinnati's janitors have won their first-ever citywide labor contract, giving them higher wages, more work hours and health insurance. Over the weekend the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) approved a contract that will increase by 129 percent over the course of the contract — nearly doubling their income of workers at the lowest end of the spectrum within the first 18 months alone. The union has led the Justice for Janitors campaign in Cincinnati and other cities for several years.
"It's tremendous news," said Kevin O'Donnell, a union organizer. "This will change a lot of lives."
Leaders were seeking increased pay and better access to health care for its workers. Although Greater Cincinnati is home to numerous Fortune 500 companies with a combined estimated annual revenue of $177 billion, many janitors are paid less than $28 a day with no health care or other benefits. The union's local chapter, formed in December, represents about 1,200 workers. It's been negotiating with area cleaning companies since March and held a strike authorization vote earlier this month in advance of the final two days of negotiation, July 25 and 26.
Under the contract, janitors who currently earn the Ohio minimum wage of $6.85 an hour will receive an immediate increase to $7.05 on Oct. 1. Janitors' pay will increase to $7.55 per hour on Jan. 1, 2008 and to $8.15 per hour on Jan. 1, 2009. That would be followed by an increase to $8.35 by Jan. 1, 2010; $8.85 by Jan. 1, 2011; and $9.80 by Jan. 1, 2012.
Health insurance will become available starting Jan. 1, 2010. Janitors will also have six paid holidays per year and the ability to accrue paid vacation time beginning the first year of the contract.
The contract is between SEIU and eight cleaning companies: ABM, Jancoa, Professional Maintenance of Cincinnati, Aetna Building Maintenance, Scioto Corp, NSG, OneSource and GSF. Combined, they provide cleaning services to about two-thirds of the region's office space, including major corporations such as Fifth-Third Bank, Procter & Gamble, Convergys, Macy's and Western & Southern.
For ongoing reports about workers' issues, the anti-war movement and the ongoing struggle for equality, visit CityBeat's Porkopolis blog at blogs.citybeat.com/ porkopolis.
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