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Criminal Justice

Metro Increases Security At Union Station After Janitors Raise Alarm Over Verbal And Physical Attacks 

A group of women protesting outside of Union Station. Many are holding "justice for janitors" signs.
Union Station janitors protested on May 5, asking for more security measures after numerous violent altercations at the downtown L.A. transit hub.
(Jaime Ballesteros)
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In recent weeks, the union that represents janitors at Union Station, SEIU United Service Workers West, has been raising concerns about working conditions at the downtown L.A. transportation hub.

Workers have reported sexual assault, being spat at and having their hair grabbed, and finding used needles and blood in the bathrooms, says Alejandra Valles, Secretary Treasurer with the union. She added that one janitor had been beaten with a hammer and has not returned to work.

Now, Metro says security measures will be expanded at Union Station.

Public bathrooms will be locked and have a guard posted outside when janitors clean them. Mental health teams will be deployed to the station, and employees will get regular de-escalation techniques training. And as of Monday, the Los Angeles Police Department is increasing foot beats at Union Station.

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Still, Valles describes the new measures as short-term solutions. She says Metro needs to get input from janitors on long-term approaches.

"The conditions are unacceptable, and L.A. Metro has just ... put out a very upsetting remark that they are going to do their best to ‘discourage criminal activity,’" Valles said.

"There should be zero tolerance for criminal activity, for rape, for sexual assault, for physical assault. There should be zero tolerance for that for any worker in any industry."

Valles would like more consultation with management and other stakeholders. Addressing adequate staffing levels, for example, by having janitors working in pairs, could be considered, but she’s concerned about what it will cost.

For conditions to improve over the long term, Valles says workers, most of whom are Latino immigrants, must be represented on the L.A. Metro board. "None of these people know what it's like to take out the trash and mop Union Station on the night shift every day," she said.

"If you can't understand the problem from the worker's perspective, you're not going to come up with solutions by pretending that you know what it's like to be a janitor or a security officer on the night shift," Valles said.

Valles says if long-term solutions don't get addressed, "we're not going to get anywhere."

"They're going to have blood on their hands," Valles said.

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