National Environmental Services week started This past Sunday, September 13th and ends On September 19th. Let's take a moment to appreciate these frontline workers: in healthcare facilities, schools and apartments. We couldn't thrive without them!
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There are two types of people: tidy people and procrastinators. Some of us find it easier to clean while they go, while others (like me) prefer to put cleaning on the backburner until it becomes, shall we say, “noticeable.” But there is a reason seasonal cleaning is a tradition: clutter is bad for the psyche.
Most of us know the feeling: that anxiety you get when you’re looking at a pile of laundry. Stressful, right? That’s because clutter manifests itself both physically and emotionally. Decluttering your home or work space has proven effects on reducing anxiety. Feeling like things are in order reflects a feeling of wholeness and self-efficacy. In addition to these benefits, it can also reduce the stress of family tension.
Proper energy flow of one’s personal space is rooted deeply in Chinese spirituality, but Psychologists have also studied these principles and their effect on psychological well-being. This philosophy, Feng Shui, is more complicated than just the absence of clutter, although this is the most fundamental step to effective energy flow. https://fengshuinexus.com/feng-shui-tips/feng-shui-treating-mental-illness/). Feng Shui’s central philosophy emphasizes the balance of the five ancient Chinese elements: fire, water, earth, wood and metal. When these five elements are in proper balance and objects are placed efficiently, Ch’i (also known as Qi), the flow of positive energy, is promoted. Although there is no scientific backing to the flow of Ch’i facilitating well-being, individual principles of Feng Shui have been tested. Color, sound, presence of natural light and absence of clutter all have profound effects on mood.
Through certain elements of Feng Shui, we can improve both our mental well-being and self perception. Principles like decluttering, furniture arrangement and the selection of color and shapes in your decor can boost energy by engaging your brain in problem-solving skills. This practice can also take your mind off of stressful thoughts and allow insights into external situations. You are also improving your health by removing pollutants in the Feng Shui decluttering process. You are cleaning things that could grow mold or bacteria (such as dirty dishes or trash) and removing dust particles and toxins from the air through the movement of objects. Modern Feng Shui also focuses on the minimization of “environmental pollutants,” such as irritating sounds and noises that aren’t salient to your consciousness, but still have an impact on your mood.
Most notably, there’s that feeling of accomplishment you get when you spend your day cleaning. You can physically see all the work you’ve done, which is a huge mood elevator. Feng Shui may not have official scientific backing, but decluttering your home feels like wiping the slate clean of physical and psychological burden.
--Elizabeth Carter, Office Manager at Country Club Janitorial
When Labor Day comes to mind, many think of it as the end of summer: marked by back-to-school sales and the last day of open swimming pools. Its tribute to workers as the backbone of the economy and society comes as more of an afterthought.
There is some debate over who started the holiday (Some believe it to be Peter McGuire, General Secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters, while others think that Matthew McGuire, a Machinist was responsible), But we do know it gained government recognition in 1885, and was passed into national law on June 28th, 1894 by President Grover Cleveland. It is a holiday rooted in the grassroots movement of labor unions. So how have cleaners influenced Labor Laws? The most potent and notable movement started 30 years ago: Justice for Janitors.
Labor Day 2019 was kicked off by unionized janitors in the nation’s capital negotiating contracts on behalf of the highly immigrant-employed industry. These very same janitors also initiated The “Fight for $15” rally cry in D.C., a movement that has gained momentum nationwide. Without the original Justice for Janitors assembly in 1990, these movements would have a significantly smaller platform.
It began as a peaceful strike for the right to organize in Century City, Los Angeles by immigrant janitors, but ended in a barrage of violence against the protesters: resulting in dozens of hospitalizations and 60 supporters of the movement being unlawfully detained. This act of violence against the vulnerable community only stood to strengthen the movement as they regrouped at a nearby park later that day, receiving press coverage of the violence they faced daily. Over the course of the weeks following the incident, public outrage incited its spread. L.A. Janitors won their union and inspired peaceful protests across the country, starting with the nation’s capital. Janitors in Miami used fasting to communicate their message: in wheelchairs from their famished state, they shouted in Spanish “Union or Death”. In Houston, 5,000 Janitors won their first time union contract in a “right-to-work” state, even though the participators of the non-violent demonstrations had their bail set to $20 million dollars for peaceful civil disobedience. By using multiple pacifist strategies, the janitorial labor force was able to succeed in obtaining fair treatment by targeting the real estate industry elites.
Kansas City Public School janitors have followed suit by voting to unionize in 2016. Union workers have addressed the problem of a decline in cleanliness due to under staffing, a problem solved by the formation of the KCPS janitors union. The custodians are now better able to care for the schools as members of the union SEIU Local 1. “My coworkers and I came together on the job so we could have a voice in keeping KCPS as clean and healthy as possible,” said Velma Chapman, a custodian at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy.
Labor Day is a holiday to celebrate all workers, but in a post Covid-19 world, front line workers deserve and extra special shout-out. According to NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard, “The best way we, in the occupational safety and health community, can honor workers today and throughout the year, is to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for every man and woman—young and old alike.” Let’s remember this on Labor Day, and every other day for that matter.
Other special days for cleaners:
National Healthcare Environmental Services Week: September 13th-19th 2020
National Custodian Day: October 2nd, 2020
--Elizabeth Carter, Office Manager at Country Club Janitorial