Janitors Call for Improved Working Conditions as Contract Expires in April

Senior Adult Janitor mops floor in school locker room.

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - About 200 janitors from across the Los Angeles region and their allies Tuesday participated in a demonstration to demand better wages and working conditions as their contract is set to expire at the end of April.

The janitors, represented by Services Employees International Union- United Services Workers West, rallied in downtown Los Angeles to discuss their demands, and to raise awareness about "worker exploitation" and calls for "whistleblower protections from deportations," according to the union.

They later marched from Bank of America Plaza at 333 S. Hope St. toward the 777 Tower at 777 S. Figueroa St., going past "several commercial buildings where janitors face exploitative working conditions," according to the union.

"We don't want anything that is not cash in my members pockets, right?" SEIU-USWW member Evangelina Lopez said during the rally. "Because that's the best compliment anyone can give our families."

Lopez added, "This is what the beauty is in belonging to a union. We won't just leave. We want long-term sustainability. We want to be able to retire with dignity and that means having a strong contract."

The contract covering approximately 20,000 janitors across California will expire on April 30, according to the union. This master contract covers several janitorial contractors.

David Huerta, president of the union, introduced speakers Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, state Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County Democratic Party Chair Mark Gonzales. Each speaker said they supported the janitors' efforts to secure higher wages, and improved benefits such as paid time off and pension contributions, among other things.

Some union members also talked about their fight to secure stronger rights because many janitors are women as well as immigrants -- and their status often leads to abuse by their employer. They say employers exploit these workers because they are living in the country without legal permission.

A similar rally was held in San Diego Tuesday and followed a series of actions across the state, Sebastian Silva, communications coordinator for SEIU-USWW, told City News Service.

"Building owners and contractors have systematically taken advantage of workers, and workers have had enough, particularly on the issue of workload," Silva said.

He highlighted a recent survey by the state Department of Industrial Relations that found that over one-third of janitors were injured on the job due to excessive workloads.

Silva said janitors also spoke in support of AB 2364, a bill aimed at setting a maximum workload per shift. The union says it worked with Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, D-North Hollywood, to introduce the bill, and they hope it will be enacted.

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