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Rape on the Night Shift: Ya basta!

September 2, 2016 | Reproductive Justice, Legislation Watch
Break the silence

Here’s a true horror story for Labor Day you probably haven’t heard before, brought to you by the people behind AB 1978, the bill to stop sexual abuse of janitors, which is on its way to the Governor’s desk.

This story was told by Anabella at an SEIU-USWW event in Oakland. She came to California 16 years ago from Guatemala to work hard to send money home for her three children, and she became a janitor in a large office building. It was a humble version of the American dream, but it turned into a nightmare when she was subjected to constant sexual harassment and assault by the man who was supervising her.

“I couldn’t lose the job because I had to feed my children,” Anabella said, tearfully, through a Spanish translator. “I found out quickly that nobody can hear you when you work alone at night.”

Anabella’s story is not unique. When the union polled thousands of their members, more than 25 percent of respondents ranked sexual assault and harassment on the job right up there with wages and benefits as among their top three concerns. Now they are shouting, in unison, “Ya basta!” – enough is enough.

AB 1978, which has bi-partisan support, would instruct the state Dept. of Labor to develop comprehensive sexual harassment training materials for janitorial employers. Employers would be required to go through the training and post information about sexual harassment for employees.

The bill would also develop a registry of all janitorial companies in California that will be on a searchable database and will include the companies’ compliance and enforcement records for the previous decade.

If that sounds like the tip of the iceberg of what needs to be done, it is. But it’s a place to start, and it’s high time.

Alejandra Valles, secretary-treasurer of SEIU-USWW, said it’s incredible how many janitors working the night shift don’t even realize that what they’re being subjected to is illegal. “A lot of people don’t understand that if your boss is forcing you to watch porn with him – which we have heard about many times – that is sexual harassment,” Valles said. “Just giving women the information and a phone number to call is way ahead of the way things are now.”

If you want to know more, check out the new documentary, "Rape on the Night Shift."

At the Oakland event this month, one of Anabella’s daughters also spoke passionately about what her mother was forced to endure just so that she could support her family, “There is no excuse for rape ever.”

Gov. Brown should sign AB 1978. Ya Basta! #Justice4Janitors

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