Cleaners & Students united

One chant common on marches and at protests – both in Spanish and in English is ‘El pueblo unido jamás será vencido‘ – or for us monoglots, ‘The people united will never be defeated’. It began life three months before Pinochet’s military coup in 1973, a part of the left-wing New Chilean Song movement with music by Sergio Ortega and was unfortunately followed by the huge setback of the overthrow and assasination of Salvador Allende, though of course the people continued their struggle. In 1975 it was the basis for a piano piece of the same name with 36 variations by modern US composer Frederic Rzewski.

LSE cleaner Mildred

Cleaners & Students united (along with a few members of staff) and with the backing of the cleaners union the United Voices of the World and a few of their friends to secure dignity of treatment and equality of working conditions for the cleaning staff at the LSE. I’d been present when the campaign was launched at the end of September 2016, and again at their protest in October, and was pleased to be back with them again at the start of December. And even more pleased when after around 9 months of campaigning they finally achieved a successful conclusion to their fight.

LSE Anthropology Professor David Graeber with sacked cleaner Alba

Students, some carrying mops, in a corridor of LSE’s Old Building

The campaigners met in Houghton St, and then defied security and marched through the corridors of the Old Building to Portugal St. As well as protesting on behlaf of the cleaners, this was also at statement by the students that this was their university. As marchers on the streets shout ‘Whose Streets? Our Streets!’ they shouted ‘Whose University? Our University!’. It was a reminder how far institutions like the LSE have been been taken over by managements who seem to regard students as inconvenient but necessary clients who provide the institution with income rather than as members of a collegiate body.

Protesters in Portugal St

Once outside the building the protest continued, and finally marched down Kingsway to the corner with Aldwych, where at 1 Kingsway are the offices of the Estates Division from which Noonan, the outsourced company which employs the cleaners, operate on the campus. The loud protest there made their campaign very visible to the many members of the public on the busy street.

Outside 1 Kingsway

I took many pictures and put rather a lot of them on-line, probably too many, but it was a lively protest and I found it almost impossible to take bad pictures! You might like to look at them with ‘Quilapayún 1973 – El pueblo unido jamás será vencido‘ as a sound track. The protest at the LSE was considerably smaller but had something of the same spirit.

Justice for LSE Cleaners


There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.