Janitors Marched 100 Miles In California To Protest Sexual Assault On The Night Shift

"I am the owner of my body," the women chanted in Spanish.

Female janitors from across California are fighting to make their workplaces safer. Last week, a group of more than 100 women set out on a 100-mile march from the Golden Gate Bridge to Sacramento in an effort to raise awareness for AB 2079, a bill that works to prevent sexual assault during the custodial night shift.

The group of janitors, supported by the union Service Employees International Union/United Service Workers West, held a protest on the Capitol steps, rallying to get Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the bill into law. "Yo soy la dueña de mi cuerpo," the women are seen yelling in videos posted on the union's Twitter page. The chant translates to "I am the owner of my body."

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According to KQED, the demand for reform comes after years of enduring harassment, groping, and assault while on the job, often at the hands of supervisors. As the publication outlined in an investigative series called "Rape on the Night Shift," janitors often face personal safety risks while working in isolated conditions, particularly during overnight hours.

Last year, San Diego's Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher sponsored a bill that required janitorial companies to provide sexual harassment training for all employees. Now, she's working to pass AB 2079, which would require janitorial companies to allow workers to train each other on how to effectively exert their rights in the face of harassment. The purpose of the proposed peer-to-peer process is to encourage employees, who otherwise may not speak up, to confide in and support each other instead of keeping quiet to avoid going to human resources.

The law has especially significant implications in the context of current zero-tolerance immigration policy. Per Service Employees International Union/United Service Workers West, many migrant workers are scared to speak about abuse or harassment in the workplace for fear of deportation. 

As captured in video shared by the union online, some of the protesters took off their bras and hung them on a clothes line during Friday's rally. "It wasn't their choice when their clothes were ripped off when they were violated. Today, and always their body is theirs. ¡Si se puede!," the union wrote of the gesture on Twitter, repeating a second chant "Yes, we can!"

The governor has until Sept. 30 to sign the bill into law.

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