‘A Banana Is Worth More Than Us’: Maurizio Cattelan’s $120,000 Fruit Art Has Sparked an Uprising Among Miami’s Underpaid Janitors

The “platanito protest” saw unionized janitorial workers marching with the fruit taped to their shirts.

Protestors in Miami wear a banana taped to their shirts, in reference to Cattelan's 'Comedian.' (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Maurizio Cattelan’s infamous banana-taped-to-the-wall continues to reverberate well beyond the art world. The instantly iconic work is now the symbol of a heated activist uprising of Miami-based janitorial workers, in a movement that’s being dubbed “the platanito protest.” 

Sporting matching purple union shirts with bananas taped to their fronts, janitors marched in downtown Miami today in protest of low wages and working conditions in their industry.

The $120,000 price tag that accompanied Comedian, Cattelan’s duct-taped banana, prompted the rally, with participants comparing themselves and their labor to the value of the fruit: “How much are we worth? A banana is worth more than us, apparently,” Felipa Cardenas, who joined the protest after a morning cleaning shift, said to the Miami New Times. “Our work is something people don’t value; they look at us like we’re nothing. But it’s a job with dignity, and it’s tough work. We deserve better payment.”

Cardenas earns $8.46 an hour cleaning a luxury office building in downtown Miami. She says her meager salary cannot support rent or utility bills. According to a report by UCLA’s Center for Community Knowledge, nearly 60 percent of subcontracted janitors in Miami live near or below the federal poverty line.

Ana Tinsly, a union spokeswoman for the Florida division of 32BJ SEIU, which represents more than 1,200 janitors in the area, elaborated on the banana-born protest: “The platanito protest is to illustrate the absurdity of someone spending tens of thousands on a banana taped to a wall in a city where janitors earn so little they can’t afford to feed their families,” she said.

“Miami should not be a playground for the rich; it should be a place where all residents can earn a decent living and raise their families,” she concluded. 

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