“They Don’t Understand the Value of Life” An Interview with Clarence Jones

Source: Meagan Day, Jacobin, December 14, 2018

Clarence Jones was homeless, despite being employed as a janitor for a multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical company. He thought his situation was his fault. Then he got involved in his union.

Clarence Jones is a thirty-seven-year-old janitor living in Indianapolis, Indiana. He started cleaning the offices of Eli Lilly, a multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical company, in late summer of this year. By early autumn, he found himself homeless, despite working two jobs. By late autumn, Clarence had become an active rank-and-file union member in both his own workplace and other SEIU-represented workplaces around town.

There were a couple of big moments that caused shifts in Jones’ perspective. One was his first bargaining session, which coincided with his first week of being homeless. Jones says he felt like his situation was his own fault — until he sat across the table from the corporate representatives and saw how hard they resisted a raise for him and his coworkers.

The second moment was when a coworker pounded on the table at another bargaining session and asked, “Are we not worth it?” Jones and his coworkers then stood up and filed out of the room, heads held high. “I felt prideful in that moment. I felt very empowered,” recalls Jones. “For the first time, I felt part of something that I know I should be a part of. I know this is what I’m meant to be doing.”

Jacobin’s Meagan Day talked to Jones about his experience of personal transformation through class struggle….