Lorena Gonzalez Bill to Prevent Sexual Harassment of Janitorial Workers Signed into Law
AB 547 Allows for Culturally Competent Training of Largely Immigrant Workforce
SACRAMENTO – (Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019) – California Governor Gavin Newsom today signed Assembly Bill 547 by state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to enact sexual harassment prevention training in the janitorial industry that is led by the workers themselves.
AB 547 comes three years after Assemblywoman Gonzalez championed AB 1978, which heightened workforce protections against sexual assaults and harassment that are pervasive in the janitorial industry. AB 547 ensures that the sexual violence and harassment prevention training required under AB 1978 will be directly relevant and sensitive to the unique conditions janitors confront while on the job.
“Janitorial workers are overwhelmingly immigrant women. They work alone and at night, leaving them particularly vulnerable to workplace sexual harassment and assault,” Gonzalez said. “It’s time that we empower these workers to directly take on this industry’s culture of fear through peer to peer training.”
A 2015 PBS Frontline investigation documentary found that this isolated and increasingly female workforce is exposed to extreme abuses on the job, including widespread sexual harassment and assault. The Labor Occupational Health Program at UC Berkeley found dysfunction in the janitorial industry contributed to low wages and exposed workers to risks of sexual harassment, rape and sexual assault, with few resources available or utilized by subcontractor janitorial services to prevent and stop sexual harassment and abuse.
Culturally competent training from peer counselors has been shown to be an extremely effective tool for preventing harassment and other abuses. These peer trainers, which are also called “promotoras” and “compadres,” will receive extensive training on labor law and evidence-based harassment prevention, and will be fluent in the language spoken by the workers they train. The “promotora” program will also combat the sense of isolation that janitors on the night shift face.
For press questions or to schedule an interview with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, contact Sami Gallegos (209) 658-7617.