LOS ANGELES — More than 1,000 janitors in Los Angeles will carry out a march Thursday to demand that the owners of the world’s largest buildings adopt a “new deal” for immigrant workers.
Janitors will also rally in Orange, San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento and San Diego.
These events mark the start of the contract campaign for 25,000 janitors across California organized by SEIU United Service Workers West, according to a union statement. They are using the occasion to lay out a list of human rights standards that they are asking all building owners and property managers in California to adopt.
After their march, the workers will be addressed by speakers, including L.A. County Labor Federation President Ron Herrera.
The janitorial industry in California is largely made up of immigrant women, according to a union statement. The 2015 PBS documentary “Rape on the Night Shift” showed how bad working conditions have become in office buildings across California. The film shows that sexual harassment, rape, wage theft and human trafficking are rampant in the industry, and often the janitors’ immigration status is used against them to keep them from reporting crimes and abuses.
Janitors have worked with lawmakers to clean up the industry. In the last several years they have passed a tougher wage theft law, laws that require that all janitors receive training from a qualified peer to prevent rape and sexual violence, and a law that requires that all janitorial contractors register with the state.
Now janitors are calling on building owners and property management companies to do their part to clean up the industry by signing on to the Immigrant New Deal. Signing on to the New Deal shows that they are acknowledging the importance of immigrants in their success and understand that immigrant labor is directly related to their buildings being clean and safe and their high occupancy rates.
Thursday’s march in Los Angeles will pass in front of CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate and investment firm.
“CBRE plays an important role in setting standards for safety and human rights in buildings across California. Yet, they continue to use janitorial contractors that mistreat their workers,” according to the statement.
In 2019, a janitorial contractor at Tesla, which is managed by CBRE, was charged by the State of California with stealing wages from its janitors and willfully misclassifying workers, it said.
According to the union, union janitors in recent years have lobbied to pass the sanctuary state and sanctuary workplace bills to protect immigrant workers from ICE and Trump’s “deportation machine.” Empowering their peers, janitors are leading the way to end rape on the nightshift by passing mandatory training legislation and opening their own center to train janitors in rape prevention and provide crisis counseling for survivors.
The union says it is janitors who are leading the way for unions for all — black, brown and white workers — to fight for the right to organize for better wages, healthcare and dignity on the job.
The “new deal,” says the union would allow all workers, including contracted workers, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, language, national origin, or immigration status, the right to have a voice on the job and organize a union, free from intimidation and retaliation.
It would provide good, family-sustaining, full-time jobs that pay a living wage and provide affordable family healthcare coverage; allow all workers the opportunity to retire with dignity and not live in fear of losing their home or their health care; end rape, sexual harassment and exploitation at all properties and worksites; and provide for management to take responsibility when incidents occur and not do business with contractors who have a history of violations.
The “new deal” also would oppose wage theft, human trafficking, xenophobia, racism and all exploitation of working people, the union said.