November 20, 1991
By Yolanda Reynolds
Sunday noon at Sacred Heart Church, a determined crowd of janitorial workers and their supporters met for a rally.
The janitors have taken their struggle for justice in the workplace to the street and the general public after over a year and half of inaction from an unresponsive system.
The employer who is the object of the workers protest is Apple Computer based in Cupertino. This world known company, which pays its Chief Executive Officer, John Scully $16 million a year, contracts with a janitorial company that pays most of its employees only $5.25 per hour. Most of the workers have no beneﬁts or health insurance for themselves and their families nor do they receive sick leave.
This janitorial company Shine Building Maintenance which holds the Apple contract is located at 481 Perry St. in Santa Clara, Ca. This company was found guilty of violating labor law and ordered last year to pay its employees 510,000 in unpaid salaries. The owner of this company is a Helder Pereira.
Female Shine employees also accuse the owner of sexual harassment. Shine employees after 12 years of work are eligible to earn $6.50 per hour. Some Shine employees, “a handful,” earn $7 per hour, have one week vacation and are eligible to health benefits for which they must contribute $100 per month.
The majority, of the janitorial workers are Mexican American andabout a third are women.
Living in this Valley where housing costs are so steep and where salaries are generally much higher, particularly for electronic industry employees, and where the management is paid some of the highest salaries in the world – abuse of some of its workers is seen by many as morally and economically indefensible.
Outrage over the treatment of the janitorial workers and the lack of concern by Mr. Pereira and Apple Computer management has prompted forty different groups to join together in an attempt to obtain fair treatment of janitorial employees by targeting Apple Computer a company that prides itself in forward thinking employee relations.
Mike Garcia, President of the Service Employees International AFL-CIO Santa Clara County Central Labor council Affiliate said that contrary to Apple Executive claims of innocence, Apple has the responsibility for setting standards protecting employee rights when selecting the “low bi” contractors. Garcia by Sunday had been on a week long protest fast but said that he has been energized in his fast from the tremendous support that he and the janitor have received. The group is holding a vigil at Apple De Anza Blvd. and Stevens Creek Blvd. in Cupertino for the next two weeks.
Sunday the group announced that the protest will continue until Apple takes some corrective action. Many volunteers came forward to carry on the fast that Garcia and several other janitorial workers, Salvador Bustamante and Juan Perez last week.
Cesar Chavez, famous for his farm labor organizing in the 1960’s called for a boycott of Apple products. He suggested that everyone refuse to buy or use Apple computers and its products, including those in the classroom.
Chavez said that the key to such a boycott would be “unity.” For a company to change he said, “it must feel the pressure in the pocketbook.”
Father Matthew (Mateo) Sheedy, pastor of Sacred Heart Church, speaking in Spanish said that, a young mother and her six children came by his parish office last week, asking for help because all of her family’s possessions, food, clothing, cooking utensils and bedding had been confiscated by the police from their encampment along the Guadalupe River bed. Her husband. janitor earns $500 for a 50 hour work week.
Father Mateo spoke of this family’s plight as an example of the hardship experienced by working families – many who suffer such indignities due to greed and injustice.
Some large companies, especially Apple Computer take great pride in the manner they treat their employees. In recent years that image has tarnished.
The current controversy over the treatment of the janitors working at Apple exposes a core of greed and insensitivity usually attributed to corrupt, shortsighted capitalists.
The following is a poem written especially for this rally. The poet is Ruberto Tinoco Duran, whose most recent poems are scheduled to be published and will soon be available for purchase.
JUSTICE POR JANITORS
shine don’t shine us on for
we are people of the sun
we have value
you shine us on for we are
but a penny in your thoughts
we ate not crazy because we
clean gum off your floors
to feed and clothe our children
we are people with pride
we are the people of the
pyramid looking speaking to
you from atop your twin towers.
from the east foothills to the
west our struggle for justice
will not rest
Apple shine we are people in
your public pie like bees
buzzing your conscious
singing songs on street corners
Do not be confused Apple Shine
we are not the floors that you
step on the only clean them.
somos gente del sol color verde
cobre de valor
Manzana shine sabemos que
en sus pensamientos somos
nada mas un centavo
no somos locos ni ignorantes
porque limpiamos ediﬁcios con
pisos llenos de goma para proveer
comida y vestir a nuestros niños
somos Raza, mexicanos, chicanos
gritando desde arriba
no de abajo
del este hasta el oeste nuestra lucha
va a seguir siempre sin Descanso
manzan brilla nosotros somos
la gente en tu pastel público
abeja zumbido en tu conciencia
no hay que confundir Mr. Manza
Shine no somos pisos
Solamente limpiamos los pisos.
Poem printed with author’s permission.
For more information on the Apple boycott and the protest on behalf of the janitors call (408) 452-8515. © La Oferta Newspaper.