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Janitors Unite in Caravan Protest to Demand Essential Worker Protections

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Janitors may not be the first people who come to mind when we talk about essential workers in the age of COVID-19, but the work they do keeps wheels turning at essential places such as hospitals, schools and grocery stores. Unfortunately, janitors, like security officers and airport workers, are put at risk every day they show up to do their jobs, and we are not doing enough to protect them.

A contingent of mostly California janitors who work at Safeway stores are joining other essential employees Thursday to demand a “worker-centered” response from the federal government. They want layoff protection, personal protective equipment, essential worker hazard pay and their employers to prioritize worker safety over profits. Considering that these brave men and women are literally cleaning up what everyone else is trying to avoid touching or breathing in, their demands not only feel justified but necessary.

In a car caravan protest on the streets of San Diego, Los Angeles and Palo Alto Thursday, hundreds of janitors and other essential workers will implore legislators to act and the public to act as allies.

Organized with the SEIU-USWW, dozens of Safeway janitors will gather at 11 a.m. at 1098 Amarillo Ave. in Palo Alto and will then drive in caravan-style to confront the Safeway at 2811 Middlefield Road. 

Similar actions will be happening in San Diego and Los Angeles.

A press release sent Tuesday by The Worker Agency cited a startling example of a Tracy Safeway distribution center where 51 workers tested positive and one died as a result.

The press release said:

These janitors spend their days indoors, in stores filled with customers, at great risk of being exposed to the virus and bringing it home to their families. Yet, despite the danger of their jobs rising exponentially, they are still paid the same amount as they were before the pandemic.”     

Some members of Congress are taking their sweet time to argue over a federal stimulus bill and encouraging others to go rush back into the workplace while the virus is still surging. These janitors and other essential workers remind us of the risk in being on those front lines, and while we should absolutely be grateful for the work they do, they need more from us than just appreciation.

The press release added:

“The caravan will be part recognition of essential workers, and part protest to turn public gratitude into much needed material support.”  

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.

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