The 1996 New York City Janitors' Strike: A Repudiation

In 1996, janitors employed by building maintenance companies across New York City carried out a four-week strike against the introduction of a lower tier pay scale for new workers. During the strike, an IBT supporter, Jim C., and other union members at his workplace, the Village Voice, managed to prevent the building management employing scab janitors at the Voice and raised a considerable amount of money for the striking workers. Jim's role in the strike was subsequently the subject of a polemic with Workers Vanguard (WV, publication of the Spartacist League). Articles from WV and letters to the paper by Jim and another IBT supporter in New York were later published by us in a pamphlet entitled “Sectarians, ‘Scabs’ & Socialists,” in which we defended his actions.

We have recently become aware that Jim (who is no longer an IBT supporter) and other Village Voice employees were removing some trash from their offices during the strike. In his 1996 letter to Workers Vanguard, Jim stated that “Neither I nor any of my fellow union members did the work normally performed by strikers….” This statement was simply not true – they were removing trash. We regard this as indefensible and therefore repudiate our previous defense of Jim's record during the strike.