WASHINGTON -- A janitor from Texas confronted JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon after a congressional hearing on Tuesday, asking the finance executive why she can't earn a living wage working in the JPMorgan Chase Tower in Houston.
Once lawmakers from the House Financial Services Committee wrapped up their own questioning of Dimon, Adriana Vasquez got Dimon's attention from across a table in the committee hearing room, according to C-SPAN video (above).
"Despite making billions last year, why do you deny the people cleaning your buildings a living wage?" Vasquez asked, according to her union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). (Not all of the exchange can be heard in the video.)
After hearing Vasquez out, Dimon responded, "Call my office." Then he left the room surrounded by a gaggle of reporters.
Vasquez, 37 years old and a single mother of three, earns $8.35 an hour and gets about five hours of work per day from the management company that employs her, she told HuffPost after the hearing. Despite its name, the building where she works is not owned by JPMorgan Chase, although the firm has a stake in other Houston properties where SEIU's janitors work, according to the union.
Vasquez said that she'd traveled from Houston with the express purpose of putting her question to Dimon, and that she was unsatisfied with his response.
"We deserve to have a salary that can maintain our families," Vasquez said in Spanish, through a translator, though she put her question to Dimon in English. "I came and I did what I had to do. If he didn't want to answer my question, that's his problem."
The contract for SEIU's janitors in Houston expired at the end of last month. More than 3,000 SEIU workers, including Vasquez, have authorized a strike as they renegotiate a new contract with companies that manage the city's highrises. The union is pressing for a contract that will raise the janitors' pay to $10 per hour over the course of three years.
Dimon had been called before the committee to address JPMorgan Chase's trading loss of $2 billion, announced last month. Lawmakers asked whether the firm's trading had run out of control and whether it was adequately disclosing risk to investors. In his testimony, Dimon said, "We disclosed what we knew when we knew it."
During the hearing, the janitors' cause was briefly taken up by Rep. Al Green (D-Texas), who represents Houston. With all the discussion about "too big to fail," Green told Dimon that he wanted to talk to him about a concept he called "too small to live off."
"In Houston, Texas, we have some persons who are janitors and they are paid $8.35 an hour. This is very small compared to what we've been talking about," Green said, noting JPMorgan Chase's net income of $19 billion in 2011.
"Thats working full time and living below the poverty line," Green went on, addressing Dimon. "I'd like to meet with you and talk about 'too small to live off.' I'll pay my way, I won't use Congressional funds. I'd be willing to do it anyplace that you like. Can you and I meet to talk about 'too small to live off'?"
"Yes we can," Dimon responded, concluding the hearing.
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