Striking janitors take protest to streets of Beverly Hills

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Striking janitors took to the streets again to demand better working conditions, waving signs and snarling traffic around suburban high-rises and in swank areas like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

Late Wednesday night, hundreds of red-shirted demonstrators hoisting ''Justice for Janitors'' placards paraded in the streets below Century City's office towers. The janitors caused a traffic jam several blocks long before police moved them onto sidewalks.

A televised news report showed one frustrated driver shoving a protester. Other drivers honked or flashed the victory sign in apparent support for the strikers.

Earlier, hundreds of demonstrators blocked lunchtime traffic in the affluent Warner Center area of suburban Woodland Hills and streets outside high-rises along the Glendale financial corridor.

''We certainly don't want to anger people but the message we're trying to move here is that the janitors are on strike,'' said Mike Garcia, president of striking Service Employees International Union Local 1877. The local's 8,500 janitors clean three-fourths of the commercial buildings in Los Angeles County.

No arrests or injuries were reported, and police said the strikers were cooperative.

It was the third day of a rolling strike escalating since Monday for a crescendo Friday when all janitors in the Los Angeles area's major buildings will walk out, Garcia said. Thursday, janitors are expected to walk off the job in Long Beach and Santa Monica.

''We came to this country to work,'' said one Century City striker, Maricela Salinas, 39. ''We are fighting the unfair practices of the companies so we can work.''

Non-union cleaning crews have been brought in to keep buildings tidy. Other unions are supporting the strike, and trash pickup and package deliveries were disrupted at some downtown buildings when Teamsters refused to cross the picket lines.

Union janitors are pressing for a $1-an-hour raise each year for the next three years. The janitors now make between $6.80 and $7.80 an hour.

Dick Davis, chief negotiator for the 18 cleaning contractors, called the union's demands unreasonable. The contractors offered 40 cents-an-hour raises for the second and third year of the contract and no hike the first year for the majority of janitors.

Talks broke off and there are no offers to return to the table.

''It looks like they are digging in their heels,'' said Blanca Gallegos, union spokeswoman. She said the janitors are prepared to stay off the job indefinitely.


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