LOS ANGELES, CA- Some female janitors who clean offices in Downtown LA have been victims of sexual harassment during their shifts says SEIU. For Ana Castro being a leader makes her feel less vulnerable to harassment. She started working when she was 34 years old, and as she got older she said some supervisors or harassers don’t notice you anymore.
Castro a Janitor and union member says, “They have never made me fall in love, because since I started working they knew I was a leader, and they don’t touch a leader.”
Castro added, “They never tried to sexually harrass me”.
Sexual harassment is a serious issue in the workforce. The most vulnerable are those that work by themselves. According to a UC Berkeley report, 85 percent of workers who were raped in the workplace where working alone. The U.S Department of Justice, estimates that eight percent of all rapes occur while working. They add that about 50 workers a day are sexually assaulted or raped.
Last year PBS produced the Documentary Rape on the Nighshift. Experts say that sexual assault and rape against janitor women is one of the highest undereported crimes in the country. In the documentary they highlighted the risk janitors faced when working alone at night. Including the lawsuit filed by 21 women in Central Valley. In which they alleged that ABM company failed to protect them from sexual harrassment and assault from 14 men who worked at the company.
UCLA Labor Center Communications Coordinator Citlali Chavez says, “There were certain building managers, that the women would mention in terms of having those managers, having a history of displaying sexual harassment type behaviors within the workplace, or unprofessional behaviors.”
Chavez added, “I would hear about these cases often, but was never able to get really in depth to see what was happening with particular ones, but these were things that would come up, and my coworkers sometimes had to take these cases.”
Union members have united in fighting against sexual harassment. In 1996 janitors struggled to unionize. It marked a time in which anyone who agitated for union representation was intimidated, harassed, or unfairly and illegally fired. Later, after the janitors won union representation, their jobs were subcontracted through companies like Aramark. In 2009, janitors faced a contract fight with Aramark for better benefits, including tuition remission.
President of the SEIU USWW David Huerta says, “A thing that is carried over throughout these years is an injury to one is an injury to all, it’s a core belief that we have in this union that if you do damage to one of us then you have to respond to all of us.”
CSUN professor Nancy Perez who has taught classes about how the janitorial movement started, says, “The Justice for Janitors movement in the 1980s was predominantly for Central Americans and Mexicans.”
Huerta added,“Janitors are my heroes, because they have shift’s from 6pm to 2:30 am.”
Credit, Daily Mail.co.uk
By Kelly Landaverde
Contributions from USC, SEIUCA.org, vidaenelvalle.com
Photo, Kelly Landaverde
Video, Daily Mail.co.uk