Jazz Funeral for Hartford Courant Janitors

By Blogger Rev. Josh Pawelek

On the morning of Dec. 8, along with some members of the UUS:E Social Justice/Antiracism Committee, I attended the Jazz Funeral for the Hartford Courant’s janitors, organized by the Hartford Organizing Group.

The Courant is outsourcing its janitorial services. The result is that eight janitors who earn $13.50/hour with decent benefits are losing their jobs and being replaced by eight new janitors earning $8.50/hour with no benefits. The Courant will save about $100,000 annually. That might sound like a lot of money for a struggling newspaper, until one learns that senior Courant staff have received $42,000,000 in bonuses in recent years. I can’t help wondering why $41,900,000 wasn’t sufficient!

Looking at the big economic picture, the Hartford Courant really isn’t a big player. There are greater–and more disturbing– examples of corporate greed causing the disappearance of jobs that mean a lot, especially in poor communities like Hartford. Still, the Courant and its parent, the Tribune Company, could have handled this situation differently. They could have saved these eight moderately decent jobs, instead of “creating” eight new jobs on which nobody can realistically survive, let alone support a family. This is a perfect example of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. This is a perfect example of why the wealth gap is increasing. This is a perfect example of why the 99% are so frustrated and angry.

The Courant could’ve chosen to behave in a civic-minded way. It has the resources to do so. It could’ve chosen to be sensitive to the economic needs of the community in which it is located. It could’ve chosen to behave in a patriotic way, doing its part to maintain viable jobs during challenging economic times. The Courant could’ve chosen to stand by its janitors. But it didn’t. And its choice is symptomatic of what is wrong with our nation. The American corporate community needs a revolution in its value system. The American corporate community needs to learn to hold itself more accountable to workers and their communities.

Rev. Pawelek is the parish minister of Unitarian Universalist Society: East, in Manchester.

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