Los Angeles

There were 8500 of them, clad in their bright red "Justice for Janitors" T-shirts, swinging noisemakers, getting arrested at mass rallies of civil disobedience. Long invisible to the city's executives and power brokers, they were a workforce overwhelmingly composed of Latino immigrants, subsisting on wages of less than $7 an hour. But for three weeks last April, the janitors demanded a steep wage hike and new respect in their working lives. The strike, led by the Service Employees International Union, worked: On April 22 the janitors' union settled with nine cleaning companies for a 25 percent increase over three years. —Tom Robbins


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