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Janitors Rally to Press for Davis' Signature on Jobs Bill


Janitors, union leaders and state legislators rallied outside Gov. Gray Davis' Los Angeles office Wednesday, urging him to sign a bill that would make it harder for office and commercial building owners to switch to low-wage, nonunion janitorial firms.

Saying it is time for the governor to "give us something concrete," the president of the union local that ran last spring's high-profile janitorial strike reminded Davis that hundreds of janitors worked on his behalf during the 1998 election.

"They're asking me, 'Why should we be there for him next time?' " said Mike Garcia, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1877. "I've got nothing to tell them. We're all very disappointed."

The Building Owners and Managers Assn. of Los Angeles has fiercely opposed the bill and is lobbying Davis for a veto. On its Web site, the group says the proposed law "severely limits building owners' rights" and "imposes yet another limit on the management rights of contractors."

The legislation, SB 1877, sponsored by Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Sylmar), would require a new janitorial firm to retain workers for at least 90 days after a contract is switched. During those 90 days, the workers could theoretically organize into a union.

Garcia said union janitors often lose their jobs overnight when building owners switch to cheaper contractors, wiping out whatever gains were won by union actions.

Davis spokesman Roger Salazar said the governor had not made a decision on the bill, one of about 950 passed in the final days of the state legislative session.

However, according to Allen Davenport, the union's government relations director in Sacramento, "the governor's staff has expressed skepticism" that Davis will sign the bill.

Alarcon spoke in support of the bill at Wednesday's rally--which drew about 50 janitors--along with several Democratic members of the Assembly. "This does not take away the rights of any employer," Alarcon said. "This simply gives the janitors a fighting chance to retain their hard-fought gains."

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