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<< Back to ¡Sí, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can!

¡Sí, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can!

SEIU newsletter

A Child’s Eye View of a Hard-Working Mom’s Fight for a Better Life
New Bilingual Children’s Book Tells the Story Of the 2000 Los Angeles Janitors’ Strike

The best children’s books teach readers important life lessons. But in contemporary children’s literature, most of those lessons are told from the perspective of a middle class child. Author Diana Cohn has broken new ground with the story of Carlitos, a little boy whose mother works as a janitor cleaning downtown office buildings every night. In the entertaining and powerful story, Carlitos joins his mother in standing up for a good job for his mother and a better future for his family.

In this unique new children’s book, ¡Sí, Se Puede!/ Yes, We Can!, Carlitos’ mother explains that she cannot support him and his grandmother unless she earns more money. She tells Carlitos that she and the other janitors have decided to go on strike. During the course of the story, Carlitos learns of his mother’s strength and courage, and finds a special way that he and his classmates can support the janitors. The book is written in both Spanish and English.

In much the way that the feature film, Bread and Roses, brought the story of the janitors’ strike to mainstream audiences, ¡Sí, Se Puede!/ Yes, We Can! is telling that story to a new generation. Across the country, teachers, community activists and workers will use ¡Sí, Se Puede!/ Yes, We Can! to teach children important lessons about the need for fair pay and how a community can win change by working together – adults and children alike.

It is also helping Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the largest and fastest growing union in the AFL-CIO, reach out to a new audience – children – with its highly successful, multi-year campaign to win better wages, health insurance and full-time jobs for janitors.

“Sometimes it’s hard for parents to explain to kids why we don’t have time to help them with their homework or don’t have money to buy them new clothes,” said Blanca Perez, a Los Angeles-based janitor who was part of the successful strike in 2000. “This book teaches children that people who work hard aren’t always treated fairly but, if we stick together, we can win.”

This fall in major cities across the country, schools, libraries and afterschool programs will hold special events featuring ¡Sí, Se Puede!/ Yes, We Can!. SEIU locals are coordinating the efforts in several cities and neighborhoods, working with schools and libraries to hold special readings of the book, some featuring celebrities.

To kick off the effort, the labor union and Cinco Puntos Press, the book’s publisher, organized a special Labor Day reading of ¡Sí, Se Puede!/ Yes, We Can! by acclaimed actor Edward James Olmos. Also during that weekend, the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, through its “Labor in the Pulpit” program, used the book in churches, synagogues and mosques throughout the country. SEIU is distributing 15,000 free copies of the book to workers and their families, school libraries and classrooms, and community groups.

“This book celebrates the everyday heroes in our society – people who take a stand and fight for what is right,” said SEIU Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina. “It teaches children what they can accomplish by working together.”

Featuring vivid and colorful illustrations by Francisco Delgado, ¡Sí, Se Puede!/ Yes, We Can! also includes an essay about Dolores Sanchez, one of the janitors involved in the 2000 Los Angeles janitors strike, and a poem, both by acclaimed author Luis J. Rodríguez.

Through SEIU's Justice for Janitors campaign, thousands of janitors are winning better pay, benefits and working conditions. SEIU represents more than 200,000 building service workers - janitors, security officers and window cleaners.

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