Oral Histories

Interview of Rosa Ayala

Immigrant from El Salvador. Involved in the Service Employees International Union’s Justice for Janitors campaign.
Donde Haiga un Trabajador Explotado, Ahí Estaré Yo: Justice for Janitors' Workers, Organizers, and Allies
Social Movements
Labor Movement
Biographical Note:
Immigrant from El Salvador. Involved in the Service Employees International Union’s Justice for Janitors campaign.
Gomez, Andrew
Ayala, Rosa
Persons Present:
Ayala and Gomez.
Place Conducted:
SEIU office building in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records related to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by, Andrew Gomez, a Ph.D. student in UCLA’s history department with a specialization in United States working-class history. Gomez prepared for the interview by reading Tom Waldman’s Not Much Left: The Fate of Liberalism in America, David Halle’s New York and Los Angeles: Politics, Society, and Culture: A Comparative View, Raphael Sonenshein’s Politics in Black and White: Race and Power in Los Angeles, Ruth Milkman’s L.A. story: Immigrant Workers and the Future of the U.S. Labor Movement, Lydia Savage’s Justice for Janitors in Los Angeles and various archival articles from the Los Angeles Times.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Ayala was then given an opportunity to review the transcript but made no corrections or additions.
2 hrs.
Interviewee Retained Copyright
Series Statement:
This series documents the Justice for Janitors movement in Los Angeles from the 1980s through the early 2000s. Justice for Janitors is a labor organization of the Service Employees International Union that has historically sought to improve the working conditions and bargaining power of workers in the janitorial services industry. The movement has taken various forms in different cities, with Los Angeles serving as the largest center of activity. By including interviews with labor organizers, politicians, and rank-and-file members, the series aims to offer a comprehensive picture of the Justice for Janitors movement in Los Angeles. In addition to documenting Justice for Janitors, the series also explores many of the participants' experiences in Central America before immigrating to the U.S. and interviewees' involvement in other facets of the labor movement in the U.S. and Central America. This project was generously supported by Arcadia funds.
Her involvement in the Century City conflict in 1989/1990 led by Justice for Janitors—Recalling police brutality and the various hardships the protestors endured—The difficulty of organizing workers at this time because of intimidation tactics used by management—Cesar Oliva and the internal turmoil that the union endured in the mid-1990s—The removal of many of the original organizers of the Justice for Janitors movement and increasing animosity between original members and La Alianza—The de-certification of SEIU 399 and the arrival of Mike Garcia—Buildup to the 2000 contract negotiations and general strike—Strategy for the strike and the contrast between the protests and the negotiations with business owners and politicians—Talks about the use of tactics and the importance of civil disobedience—Articulates the linkage between Justice for Janitors and the immigrant rights movement—The double standards of immigrant rights and the political inaction to address the situation—Thinking about the future of Justice for Janitors and the malaise of some younger workers—Reflects on the union and the important role that women have played—Concluded by reflecting on her own time in the union and what she is most proud of