575.1 Jumping scale, crossing space: The JfJ and organizing cleaners for global strength

Friday, August 3, 2012: 2:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Luis AGUIAR , Sociology, UBC Okanagan, Kelowna, BC, Canada
Arguably neoliberalism has done the most damage to the already vulnerable workforces in the economy. Building cleaners, as part of this workforce, have suffered from privatization, contracting out, as well as post-industrial labour legislation and the fiscal crisis of the welfare state. The result is a sweatshop citizenship (Aguiar 2006) bordering on ‘advanced marginality’ (Wacquant 2008) threatening to permanently expulse cleaners (and other low wage workers) to the desertion fields of (neo)neoliberalism (Crouch 2011; Boltanski and Chiapello 2004; Bauman 2007; Agamben 2005).

To counter this assault on cleaners, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has globalized its justice for janitors organizing model for the purpose of building global strength to deal with the neoliberalism of global cleaning companies, and in the process, secure protection and achieve gains for cleaners everywhere. Is the justice for janitors (JfJ) model the model for organizing in the 21st century? How is this model transitioning into transnational organizing and places, and by what mechanisms and structures is this being done, is the focus of this presentation. So, I examine (1) the JfJ model, (2) mechanisms and structures of transnational organizing and (3) the meaning of partnerships between the SEIU and partner unions (e.g. FNV Bondgenoten in the Netherlands; LHMU in Australia [and perhaps the SIPTU in Ireland]) set-up to arrest the erosion of cleaners’ rights and stymie the proliferation of the sweatshop citizenship status. Through interviews at the SEIU HQ in Washington, as well as fieldwork in Australian, and Amsterdam, I seek to understand the flexibility of the JfJ model and the meaning of partnership in the context of a union with global ambitions. This presentation ends by discussing the idea of “solidarity transformed” (Anner 2011), and the extent to which the SEIU’s globalizing of the JfJ is an example of this concept.