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Re:Work Institute for Worker Justice

Profile of Janitorial Workers in California

By: Lucero Herrera, Paul Hayes, Guadalupe Palma, Yardenna Aaron

Janitors are an essential part of California’s economy, and are some of the most exploited workers in the service industry. Many private sector janitors earn poverty wages and lack benefits. They are routinely misclassified, subjected to wage theft, experience sexual harassment, and are exposed to unsafe working conditions.

Profile of Janitorial Workers in California provides a profile of private sector janitorial workers in California—who they are, their employment conditions and the economic vulnerabilities they face due to their low wages, employment status, and gender. The report uses an analysis of government data from the 5-year sample (2015–2019) of the American Community Survey (ACS) and a pooled 10 year sample (2011–2020) of the Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group (CPS ORG), as well as information collected by the Maintenance Cooperation Trust Fund (MCTF) to expand on the experiences of subcontracted janitors in California.

Among other findings, the brief notes:

  • Across almost all measures of job quality and economic well-being, private sector female janitors are significantly worse off than their male counterparts. Private sector female janitors have lower median wages ($12.21 per hour vs. $14.08 per hour for male janitors) and experience higher rates of poverty (45%).
  • Private sector janitors experience higher rates of poverty, with 40% having family incomes that fall below 200% of the federal poverty line. Almost two-thirds (62%) of private sector janitors are low-wage earners.
  • Subcontracting is a widespread practice in the janitorial industry, with nearly 2 in 5 (37%) of private sector janitors working for subcontractors. This contributes to the high rates of regulatory violations that undermine janitors’ employment conditions, such as misclassification, wage theft, tax fraud, gender discrimination, and sexual harassment and assault.

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