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“They Don’t Understand the Value of Life”

An interview with Clarence Jones

by Meagan Day / Dec. 14, 2018

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interview with a union activist who was homeless despite working as a cleaner for a pharmaceutical company. made me cry a bit not gonna lie

Day, M. (2018, December 14). “They Don’t Understand the Value of Life”. Jacobin. https://jacobinmag.com/2018/12/janitor-union-clarence-jones-homelessness-indianapolis

So we went back in and showed them our proposal, and they said no. Doris stood up and pounded on the table and said, “Are we not worth it? We’re doing this for you. We’re cleaning and working for you. Are we not enough?” And then she just looked at everybody and said, “Come on, guys,” and we all stood up and walked out.

I felt prideful in that moment. I felt very empowered. You’ll have to excuse me. I’m getting kind of emotional. But I was very prideful about it because for the first time, I felt part of something that I know I should be a part of.

I know this is what I’m meant to be doing. Not this job, this job means nothing. It’s about what I’m doing at this table, for myself and the other people that will come after me. For the guy who has something wrong with his lungs. For the lady who can’t walk, but she still has to work. That’s what this is for.

When we went back in, I told them my story. I told them, “I’m homeless and working for you. I started working for this company to better myself. It’s only me. I don’t have any children. I’m not married. I want to support me, and I can’t do that. At the moment, I can’t even pay a deposit and first month’s rent at the same time. These wages are still too low to do that. I can’t. And there’s many other people that can’t either. I take showers in your facilities. I’m sneaking around where I can’t be seen. I’m coming into work three, four hours early because it’s cold out. How would you feel in that situation?”

by Meagan Day 5 months, 4 weeks ago

So we went back in and showed them our proposal, and they said no. Doris stood up and pounded on the table and said, “Are we not worth it? We’re doing this for you. We’re cleaning and working for you. Are we not enough?” And then she just looked at everybody and said, “Come on, guys,” and we all stood up and walked out.

I felt prideful in that moment. I felt very empowered. You’ll have to excuse me. I’m getting kind of emotional. But I was very prideful about it because for the first time, I felt part of something that I know I should be a part of.

I know this is what I’m meant to be doing. Not this job, this job means nothing. It’s about what I’m doing at this table, for myself and the other people that will come after me. For the guy who has something wrong with his lungs. For the lady who can’t walk, but she still has to work. That’s what this is for.

When we went back in, I told them my story. I told them, “I’m homeless and working for you. I started working for this company to better myself. It’s only me. I don’t have any children. I’m not married. I want to support me, and I can’t do that. At the moment, I can’t even pay a deposit and first month’s rent at the same time. These wages are still too low to do that. I can’t. And there’s many other people that can’t either. I take showers in your facilities. I’m sneaking around where I can’t be seen. I’m coming into work three, four hours early because it’s cold out. How would you feel in that situation?”

by Meagan Day 5 months, 4 weeks ago

The lawyer we were fighting against, he basically told us, “You all cost too much money.” But you want to keep us though, right? Are we not valuable to you? Don’t you think we should have proper health care? Don’t you want us to be healthy in your facility?

When someone gets hurt, they go, “Oh man, oh, he’s down, he’s hurt now. Oh well, guess he’s not going to be working for us anymore. He’s out of commission. Let’s just hire another person.” They don’t understand the value of life. That’s what they do. That’s what capitalism is. It’s “we don’t care because we’re still going to make our money with or without you.”

My role is being able to speak about my experience, and bring to light the issues that are oppressing us — not just white people, not just black people, but as human beings. It doesn’t matter what the situation is or how people got there, corporations always say, “They did it to themselves.” But people deserve better.

by Meagan Day 5 months, 4 weeks ago

The lawyer we were fighting against, he basically told us, “You all cost too much money.” But you want to keep us though, right? Are we not valuable to you? Don’t you think we should have proper health care? Don’t you want us to be healthy in your facility?

When someone gets hurt, they go, “Oh man, oh, he’s down, he’s hurt now. Oh well, guess he’s not going to be working for us anymore. He’s out of commission. Let’s just hire another person.” They don’t understand the value of life. That’s what they do. That’s what capitalism is. It’s “we don’t care because we’re still going to make our money with or without you.”

My role is being able to speak about my experience, and bring to light the issues that are oppressing us — not just white people, not just black people, but as human beings. It doesn’t matter what the situation is or how people got there, corporations always say, “They did it to themselves.” But people deserve better.

by Meagan Day 5 months, 4 weeks ago