By Mekialaya White

DENVER (CBS4) – Dozens of cars drove down East Technology Way in the Denver Tech Center on Monday, filled with people honking, displaying signs and shouting as loudly as they could.

“Sí, se puede!” they chanted in unison. “Justice for janitors!”

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(credit: CBS)

Members of the crowd represented nearly 2,500 Denver janitors who say their essential work often gets overlooked. That’s why they’re asking for changes.

“We’re fighting for an extension to our contract that’s going to give us the protection that we need. PPE, wages, healthcare,” said Juan Montana, with Service Employees International Union Local 105. Montana says it’s the least contractors can do for front line custodial workers.

Those negotiations are ongoing.

(credit: CBS)

“We keep Denver safe. We keep the area safe. Everything that you touch, janitors clean. They need the respect and compensation because they risk their lives for us,” said Montana.

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The union is fighting for workers like Eva Martinez.

“I work the night shift, and it’s very difficult right now for us,” Martinez told CBS4’s Mekialaya White. “We’re very worried about not having the protection we need. Many of our coworkers do not have the essential tools to do their jobs and honestly, we’re scared every day we go to work.”

Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, janitors’ workloads have increased exponentially. They have to focus even more on high-touch areas like desks and door handles. “We’re using different chemicals that are disinfectant on all the stuff we clean so when you come into the office counter you’re safe,” said Montana.

(credit: CBS)

These workers also say they’re not only carrying the burden of making sure others are safe and healthy, they’re putting their lives and their families at risk.

“We do it because we love our jobs and want to help protect our city,” explained Martinez. “We have a lot of pressure and we feel as we’re doing our job and a lot is riding on our work for our city. It’s about all of us and we invite everyone to join us for better wages and working conditions.”

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LINK: SEIU Union Local 105

Mekialaya White