Los Angeles

Janitors Rally in LA Amid Looming Statewide Strike

Thousands of janitors rallied in downtown Los Angeles Friday as their contract negotiations enter the final hours, threatening a potential strike over wages and working conditions.

About 2,000 janitors turned out for a march and rally at noon at Grand Park.

Labor unions say janitors are subject to a range of bad working conditions, including low wages, sexual assault and other unlawful practices. 

The looming strikes over alleged workplace complaints against several major service companies can include over 20,000 janitors statewide.

At issue are proposed changes to health insurance, salary increases and sexual harassment policies, an issue that union organizers say is a persistent problem for female janitors.

"We're talking about a workforce that works in the middle of the night, often alone," said Refugio Mata of the SEIU. "They're being the targets of harassment and assault and so they're all standing up today throughout the state and saying enough is enough."

The union is asking building owners to train the janitors on how to report sexual harassment.

"They are afraid to speak out and we're trying to stop that," said Orlando Molina, who has been a janitor for 15 years.

"We're here to serve the people. We're here to serve the tenants but at the same time we need our benefits," he said.

At a press conference on Thursday, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Los Angeles Labor County Federation of Labor announced their support for janitors if they decide to go on a strike.

"Union members across Los Angeles County will not cross picket lines, and it could impact the flow of business," the SEIU United Service Workers West said in a press release. 

California janitors voted last week to authorize their bargaining committee to declare a strike.

Worker-contract negotiations are set to expire on Saturday. If new labor agreements are not met, unions say a strike could happen as early as next week.

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