In the midst of an escalating labor dispute between Columbus janitors and cleaning contractors, 10 community supporters were arrested during the lunch hour today in an act of civil disobedience in the lobby of the Fifth Third Bank building downtown.
When Columbus police arrived in the lobby, the protesters sat in a circle and linked arms. They refused to leave and were arrested.
"I was a business owner and my employees had a union. I know what it means to be a responsible employer," said David Girves, a Columbus resident who was arrested. "I understand that contractors want to cut janitors' hours back so they don't have to provide health care. Their employees are facing retaliation for standing up. That's not right, and that's why I got arrested today."
The janitors are on strike in three Columbus office buildings: Fifth Third Bank, where cleaning services are contracted out to ABM Industries; School Employee Retirement System of Ohio, contracted to Aetna Building Maintenance; and Huntington Easton, contracted to Professional Maintenance.
"This is the first time I've been in a union, and at first I wasn't sure which side I should be on, the union side or my employer's side," said Arturo Lopez, a janitor employed by ABM. "But now that I've been working with my union and the community, I see the importance of coming out together to create justice and fight for our families."
All 10 of the protesters were released in the afternoon.