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Janitors Rally In LA For Protection Against Rape, Wage Theft

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SEIU-USWW represents janitors in California. (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist)
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Several hundred members of the Service Employees International Union United Service Workers West (SEIU-USWW) marched in downtown L.A. on Thursday to kick off contract talks for about 25,000 members across California.

The union is asking for several things rarely seen in labor contracts.

"We’re seeking for building owners to tell their contractors and to tell their tenants, 'We will respect immigrant workers’ rights in every one of these buildings,'" said Alejandra Valles, the secretary-treasurer of SEIU-USWW.

She said the union wants building owners to say, "'No immigrant worker will be sexually assaulted in these buildings, no immigrant worker will have their wages stolen from them ... and we as building owners will resist when ICE and immigration agents come here and we are going to protect workers’ constitutional rights.'"

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Marchers who gathered next to L.A. City Hall carried signs reading, "End Rape on the Night Shift” and “Stop Exploiting Immigrant Workers."

Similar rallies were planned in other California cities. The effort to put protections against harassment into contract language comes more than three years after Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law protections for janitors against sexual harassment.

The march wound its way around downtown L.A. to the offices of CBRE Group, Inc., one of the largest building owners in the country and a target of the union's demands.

In an email, CBRE said it "feels strongly about the fair and ethical treatment of everyone, including the workers and contractors we retain to provide services at properties we manage."

The company pointed to its Supplier Code of Conduct, adding that it has "screened approximately 30,000 suppliers to ensure their compliance with our standards."

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The company said SEIU-USWW has not presented it with allegations of misconduct by contractors.