SEIU6 Janitors have been speaking out on workload in recent months, and Olympia is listening.
On January 15, three of our union janitors testified in the senate to let lawmakers know what janitors know all too well: that extreme workloads put janitors’ health and safety at risk. After the senate testimony, a budget proviso passed in the Washington State legislature to study the physical impacts of janitorial workload.
“This study is urgently needed, especially for women janitors. Many of us work alone at night and face impossible workloads with ill-fitting equipment like vacuum backpacks that can weigh more than 30 pounds. I am grateful to the State of Washington for recognizing the need to study what we janitors have known for a long time—that heavy workloads put us in danger.”—Maria de Lourdes Carrillo Sánchez, SEIU6 Janitor
As of now, some Seattle janitors clean as much as 50,264 square feet per night—roughly the equivalent of 34 houses for each janitor per shift. Work intensification has resulted in many janitors working alone, putting them at additional risk for injury. Isolation compounds the risk of sexual harassment for women janitors, many of whom are undocumented. Janitorial workload also presents a gender equity issue in that women make up about 1/3 of the janitorial workforce but account for 1/2 of compensable workers’ compensation claims.
The budget proviso will order the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries to study current square footage requirements and assess the impacts on janitors’ health and safety.
“It’s frustrating when you have to go to work every night knowing that you can’t get any help. I have to put a lot of physical effort into cleaning bathrooms, and when you’re almost 60 years old, that’s not an easy thing to do.” —Kim Lee, Former SEIU6 Janitor
“Our union has persisted in getting the legislature’s attention on this vital issue for our members. When we protect janitors from workplace injuries, we’re protecting their ability to earn a living, to be there for their families, and to retire with dignity. It’s a long road, but this study is an important step.”—Zenia Javalera, SEIU6 Secretary-Treasurer