Meet Anabella Aguirre, a union janitor fighting for a better life for herself, her family and her co-workers.
For years, Anabella has worked hard to keep LA’s downtown office buildings clean and hygienic—sweeping, mopping and scrubbing late into the night. During the day she takes care of her children, making sure they get to school on time.
Throughout her years as a hard-working custodian, Anabella was sexually assaulted—twice—while on the job. At the time, she felt she couldn’t tell anyone for fear of being fired and left unable to pay the rent and provide for her kids.
She was in a tough spot.
But that all changed when she connected with her union and found other custodians were facing the same dangers while working alone at night. She made the decision to stand up and change the industry so that no one would go through what she went through.
“I am a woman. I am a mother. I am an immigrant. I am a janitor. Some people try to take advantage of who I am. Together with my union, I am standing up. No more sexual violence in the workplace. No more.”
And for the last year, Anabella has worked hard—speaking out, lobbying, organizing—to pass Bill AB1978, which offers new safety protections for nightshift janitors—including training custodians on how to prevent sexual violence while at work.
And she isn’t done yet.
Anabella is a founding member of the Ya Basta Center—a dedicated space where janitors can take classes to learn about preventing sexual assault in the workplace. As part of this effort, she is on her way to getting certified to teach self-defense classes.
She is also working hard with her co-workers to pass another bill—AB547—which would mandate a peer-to-peer training model—janitors training janitors—to spot and prevent workplace violence. Annabella believes this will shake up and improve the janitorial industry from the bottom up. As of this writing, AB547 has passed the state Assembly and the state Senate and is on the Governor’s desk awaiting a signature.
Anabella hopes all of this hard work will pave the way to train the more than 200,000 custodians working in the state of California who desperately need sexual assault presentation education and training.