California Janitors Are Gearing Up for a Possible Strike

More than 20,000 union janitors are expected to rally on Wednesday morning to demand higher wages and healthcare protection from their employers

Thousands of janitors from across the state are expected to hold rallies Wednesday morning, and they may soon go on strike if their demands for higher wages and healthcare protection aren’t met.

Members of SEIU United Workers West, which represents more than 20,000 janitors in California, voted in August to authorize a strike in September to pressure employers to come to terms on a new contract following the expiration of a previous contract on August 31, the Sacramento Bee reports. Janitors, who are mostly Black and Brown immigrant workers, are in the process of bargaining with their employers.

The janitors rally is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. at the Los Angeles Central Library downtown, according to a news release. Rallies will also take place in Silicon Valley, Sacramento, Orange County, and San Diego.

Union janitors, who clean some of the largest office buildings and tech campuses in the state including Apple, Pfizer, Netflix, and Visa, argue that they have worked throughout the pandemic as “essential workers,” putting their families and themselves at risk without proper compensation and healthcare benefits, according to a news release. The union argues that unlike the companies they work for, which have only increased their revenue during the global health crisis, many janitors are struggling to get by.

“Janitors are at the frontline of this global health crisis, cleaning and disinfecting work and public spaces to prevent the spread of infectious diseases,” the news release says. “They have worked throughout the pandemic, many have gotten COVID-19 and some have died. Many risk their lives because they have no choice.”

The union is also demanding for companies to assist older workers with retirement as many of them continue to work into old age despite health concerns because their pay doesn’t allow them to retire or make plans to protect their health.

“I know co-workers who had pre-existing conditions like diabetes, that continued to work during the pandemic because they couldn’t afford to lose their health insurance,” Guadalupe Ramos, a janitor in Oakland, said in a statement. “They had to put themselves at risk of catching a deadly disease to keep their health insurance.”

The union has also filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board.

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