Days before contracts between union workers and commercial building janitorial contractors are set to expire, union leaders have been ramping up the pressure in advance of last-minute negotiations.

On Thursday, leaders of Service Employees International Union – United Service Workers West and the Los Angeles County Labor Federation held a press conference in downtown Los Angeles to call attention to the contract negotiations and allegations of worker harassment by janitorial contractors.

At the press conference, union leaders announced they were planning rallies on Friday in cities across the state – including Los Angeles – just one day before the current contracts are set to expire.

Last Saturday, over 20,000 janitorial members of SEIU-USSW authorized a strike as early as next week if negotiations fail to produce a new contract.

Union leaders say they are seeking higher wages and an end to what they claim are unfair working conditions, including alleged sexual assaults of immigrant workers by supervisors at several janitorial service companies.

“California's economy is expanding and commercial real estate is thriving. Janitors are an integral part of the success of these industries, yet they continue to be left behind and are commonly exploited and harassed in the workplace,” said David Huerta, president of SEIU-USWW. “Janitors are standing up to raise standards that can benefit everyone, because all workers deserve respect and dignity on the job and no one should have to go through intimidation, harassment, and exploitation.”

As of late Thursday, representatives of janitorial service companies involved in the contract negotiations could neither be identified nor reached. Union officials referred queries to the Building Owners and Managers Association, which represents commercial building owners but is not a direct party to the contract dispute. Executives with BOMA’s Los Angeles chapter did not return calls or emails.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.