Office cleaners, predominantly visible minorities from Central and South America, are among the most invisible of low-paid workers. Primarily women, they often work alone, and through the night.


But the lowly scrubbers of the city’s tiles and toilets are front and centre of a campaign for better wages and working conditions that pits a big North American union against the Toronto cleaning industry’s last big holdout.


The Service Employees’ International Union is leading the unionization drive, known across North America as “Justice for Janitors.” In Toronto, the movement began with the


union quietly trying to convince the city’s four major cleaning companies to agree to a citywide standard that would stop the decline of cleaners’ wages as they bid for competing contracts.


  • Roughly 22,000 office cleaners work in the GTA for scores of companies, more than half in Toronto. Most cleaners earn an $8 minimum wage or close to it; other unionized workers earn about $9 to $12 an hour.