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What a janitor in L.A. does in a workday

Welcome to The Work Day, a series that charts a single day in women’s working lives

(Courtesy of Jenny Mejia/Washington Post illustration)
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Welcome to The Work Day, a series that charts a single day in various women’s working lives — from gallery owners to stay-at-home parents to chief executives. In this installment, we hear from Jenny Mejia, a janitor who recorded a workday in January.

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Name: Jenny Mejia

Age: 38

Location: Los Angeles

Job title: Janitor

Previous jobs: I have been a janitor for 16 years. I have held both day and night porter positions in several Los Angeles commercial business buildings.

What led me to my current role: I started in the janitorial industry after I immigrated to the United States from Honduras in 2005. It is a job that helps me to support my family — I am a single mother with two young sons who are both in elementary school. Property service workers, like myself, are front-line workers who play a critical role in protecting the health of occupants in workplaces across the nation. This has come to light since the beginning of the pandemic. I am proud of the work I do and how I provide for my family.

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How I spend the majority of my day: A janitor is in charge of keeping the workplace clean, organized and disinfected. Throughout the week, I am responsible for: cleaning the interior of buildings, including floors, carpet, rugs, windows and walls; disinfecting commonly used items like desks, door handles, office tools and phones; maintaining cleaning inventory, placing orders for new products when needed; cleaning bathroom stalls and sinks; and emptying trash and recycling bins.

Right now, the need for more training opportunities in the janitorial and other low-wage industries is especially important. We have been shouldering the burden of preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Right now, I’m part of a nonprofit organization called Building Skills Partnership, which offers me free training opportunities on Infectious Disease Certification. I learn information on diseases janitors could be exposed to through viruses, bacteria, fungus and parasites, as well as how to best protect myself and the office building communities I serve. These classes help me a lot, because I do not want to get sick and I do not want to get my children sick from the germs I encounter by keeping buildings clean.

My workday

4:30 p.m.: I catch the public bus to my work location.

6 p.m.: My janitorial shift begins, and I clean my assigned offices and bathrooms on numerous floors.

10 p.m.: I eat a quick dinner at work. Some evenings, I take a Building Skills Partnership class on Infectious Disease Training or free “Parent University” classes on how to get more involved in my child’s education (remote class on my phone or laptop given to me by the organization). This is helpful, because I want to make a better life for my sons. I also take English as a Second Language classes, too. All of the classes were in-person before the pandemic, but I’m glad I can continue the free courses virtually.

11 p.m.: Start my janitorial duties once again.

2 a.m.: Clock out at work and take the public bus home.

3:30 a.m.: Go to bed.

6:30 a.m.: I wake up and also wake up my children. I make them breakfast to eat before school.

7:45 a.m.: Drop off my sons at school.

10 a.m.: On some mornings, I go to the Service Employees International Union office to meet with other parent workers in low-wage industries to receive information on free educational activities for our children. One example is health and wellness courses, where I learn how to choose healthy and nutritional food while staying within my budget and also Financial Capabilities workshops, where I learn about budgeting and saving. All this information is not readily available to people who did not grow up with it, so I am learning and I’m thankful.

12 p.m.: Go grocery shopping, clean my home and take care of other errands for my family.

3 p.m.: Pick up my children from school, then make my sons dinner and help them with their homework.

4 p.m.: Catch the public bus to my work location to start my evening shift again.