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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

SCALE Demanding Justice for USC Janitors

Dozens of USC janitors marched through campus today to demand higher wages and better working standards. 

Leticia Vazquez has worked as a janitor at USC for 10 years. She uses her income to financially support three of her four boys who live at home. Two of her children are in college—something Vazquez and other janitorial workers struggle to support.

Vazquez is one of over 200 janitors who work for USC and one of dozens who marched through campus today to fight for higher wages and better working standards. 

“The fact that some janitors make less than 10 dollars an hour, it’s really difficult because a lot of us live in this neighborhood and many things are out of reach for us,” Vazquez says. “Sending our kids to college, paying food, paying rent [is unaffordable], the cost of living is really expensive here.”

 Since July, Aramark and SEIU United Service Workers West, the organization representing USC janitors, have been in contract negotiations. The march today serves as a warning to Aramark that USC janitors are ready to strike on Friday if their demands are not heard.

Many members earn slightly above minimum wage—with workers averaging between $9.75 to $11 an hour, many struggle to survive in a city with sky-high housing costs.

“The cost of living in Los Angeles, most folks would probably agree it’s definitely going through the roof,” Edmundo Garcia, Lead Contract Enforcement Specialist at USWW Los Angeles says. “Wages are not keeping up with those costs whether it’s rent or food, we have members that are sharing households and making decisions of how they are going to allocate that money.”

Gloria Canada, a USC janitor for 20 years, is one of these workers who shares a home with another family in order to cover rental costs. As a single mother, she uses her income to support her three children, but struggles to stretch her paycheck for all of her financial needs.

Canada works 40 hours a week, arriving at USC at 5 o’clock in the morning five days a week to complete her rounds. If one of her co-workers is sick, Canada must complete her co-worker’s work, as well as her own within her normal eight-hour shift for the same wages.  

“ Over the past few years and months, the subcontractor Aramark didn’t give us any raises and cut back on personnel,” Canada says. “And all that work load remained the same if not more, so they expect us to do more of the work without changing our wages.”

Workers are hopeful for change, but are ready to strike on Friday if negotiations are not met.

In a statement, Aramark said, “We continue to meet with the union and have made progress to date.”

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