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tv   Frontline  PBS  January 16, 2018 10:00pm-11:01pm PST

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>> narrator: tonight... >> movement is growing this morning... >> ...huge number of sexual assault and harassment survivors are sharing their stories online... >> ...sexual harassment problem on capital hill... >> we have breaking news involving a major media figure... >> narrator: amid allegations of high profile sexual abuse, the investigation from frontline and a team of journalists of the immigrant women who come to clean when you go home for the night. >> he closed the door and he say to me "nobody will know about this, nobody will believe you." >> narrator: years before the current headlines... >> we started seeing more physical aggressive harassment, women being raped. >> narrator: these women were some of the first to stand up and say "no more." >> ya basta!
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>> they said, "ya basta." no more. enough's enough. >> things are changing now and luckily there are a lot of women coming forward. and so, if we don't take this moment and use it to protect the most vulnerable workers among us, then we are letting a moment pass. >> narrator: tonight on frontline, "rape on the night shift". >> "frontline" is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information is available at additional support is provided by the ford foundation, working with visionaries on the front lines of social change worldwide. at the park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. the john and helen glessner family trust, supporting
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trustworthy journalism that informs and inspires. and by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler. (bell chiming) ♪ >> lowell bergman: at the end of the day, when most of the world goes home, a nearly invisible workforce clocks in. millions of janitors clean
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malls, banks, big box stores, the office where you work. many janitors are women who work at night, in empty buildings, in isolation, and that can put them in danger. (woman speaking spanish): >> bergman: maria bojorquez cleaned offices in san francisco's iconic ferry building.
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>> bergman: what happened to maria bojorquez is not an isolated incident. according to the department of justice, there are more than 17,000 sexual assaults at work every year. we began investigating this in 2012 and found it was rampant among women farmworkers who are often undocumented and isolated. we since discovered a similar pattern of violent sexual abuse against women janitors who work the night shift. we have uncovered cases of assault and rape at companies large and small, and in the
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darkest corners of this industry, janitors who were sexually assaulted and even held captive by their bosses. >> these women work every day to feed their family and try to do the best they can with dignity, and it's really up to the company to protect them. >> bergman: anna park is the lead attorney in los angeles for the equal employment opportunity commission, the federal agency that enforces sexual harassment laws in the workplace. the eeoc cannot bring criminal charges against alleged perpetrators, but it can sue a perpetrator's employer. >> the common theme is employers not taking these complaints seriously. we started seeing over time more physical, aggressive harassment: women being raped, subject to sexual battery. >> bergman: we looked into the
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largest janitorial employer in the united states: abm, a multibillion-dollar company whose clients include airports, office buildings, and the pentagon. abm says it has one of the most sophisticated worker protection programs in the industry. but we found more than 40 sexual harassment lawsuits against abm over the past two decades. in fact, abm is one of the few companies to have been sued by the eeoc multiple times for sexual harassment. anna park was in charge of the biggest eeoc sexual harassment case against abm. >> when the eeoc brought a class case against abm industries, i felt it exemplified one of the worst handlings by a company of complaints of harassment. >> bergman: you know it's the largest janitorial company of its kind in the nation? >> yes, and i think that's what shocked us the most, being as large as they were: the lack
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of action, lack of attention, lack of sense of responsibility. and in this case, they did none of that. >> bergman: none? >> they did none of that. >> bergman: the case began nearly a decade ago, deep in california's central valley. maria magana, one of the claimants in the case, had not publicly talked about what happened to her until now. (magana speaking spanish):
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>> good morning, mr. vasquez. >> good morning. >> bergman: jose vasquez was a supervisor for abm. >> did you supervise maria magana? >> yes. >> is it fair to say that there were work sites where maria magana was the only janitor cleaning up the site? >> yes. (magana speaking spanish):
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>> did you have sex with maria magana against her will at the abm work site? >> no. >> did you rape maria magana at the abm work site? >> no. (magana speaking spanish):
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>> bergman: magana never reported the assault to the company or the police. and so vasquez was able to continue supervising women at abm sites all over bakersfield. several months later, abm received anonymous letters pleading for help, and alleging that vasquez had been in jail for sexual harassment. >> they received anonymous complaints putting them on notice of this sexual predator. they did nothing. >> bergman: had they checked, abm would have learned that vasquez was a registered sex offender who had served prison time for raping a teenage girl. in fact, abm never did a background check when they hired vasquez. >> is this your application when you first applied for a job at abm? >> yes. >> it asks, "have you ever been convicted of a crime?" and that's blank. did you leave that blank? >> yes.
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>> where it says, "if yes, please explain," did you leave that blank? >> yes. >> why is the application not fully filled out? >> because i wanted the job. >> bergman: vasquez had been working for abm for nearly a year when those anonymous letters started to arrive, alleging he had assaulted other janitors, including a woman named erika. (woman speaking spanish):
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(speaking english): (speaking spanish): >> bergman: morales never went to the police to complain about vasquez, but she would become the lead plaintiff in that eeoc class action lawsuit with 20 other women.
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they alleged the company did not protect them from sexual harassment, assault, and rape by vasquez and more than a dozen other men working for abm. >> that's a huge number of bad actors, which really pointed to the systematic problem that we saw, and the failure of the company to really hold their managers and employees accountable that harassment is not tolerated in the workplace. that message did not come through. >> bergman: once abm learned of the rape conviction, vasquez quit. we looked for vasquez at the address listed on the state's sex offender registry, but he had moved. when we tracked him down, he declined to talk to us on camera. >> we just want your response, mr. vasquez, to these allegations. >> bergman: vasquez was never charged for the alleged assaults. >> bergman: off camera, he told us that the women were in it for the money.
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the abm case was resolved in 2010, with the company agreeing to pay $5.8 million, one of the largest sexual harassment settlements in eeoc history. while the company did not admit any wrongdoing, it agreed to strengthen its procedures for the handling of sexual harassment complaints. but less than a month later, the eeoc sued abm again. >> we have seen this time and time again, where there are certain complaints received by certain segments of their workforce. it just doesn't matter. it's not that important. it is a cost of doing business. (bell ringing) >> bergman: henrik slipsager, seen here in the new york stock exchange, was ceo of abm at the time of the central valley class action suit. >> you're very good with a vacuum cleaner, that's for sure! >> don't tell my wife! >> bergman: though slipsager
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would not speak to us, he did participate in the cbs program undercover boss, where he posed as a janitor in his own company. >> we're going down. take me to 37. >> bergman: and he got some advice. >> one thing abm could do better is have women wear pants, because if i have to run around and bend over, i gotta make sure somebody else doesn't see my behind or something like that, you know, like, as i'm bending over. >> abm is committed to fostering a professional and safe work environment for all of our employees. >> bergman: we spent over a year asking abm for an on-camera interview, but they declined. instead, they sent us this videotaped statement. they also wrote us, saying that cases we looked at pre-date their current workplace policies, and they highlighted their 24-hour complaint hotline and harassment training for all employees. >> we believe that our policies and procedures are the gold standard in the industry. our systems work. in some cases, we have been made aware of inappropriate behavior
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and taken action. in other cases, allegations of wrongdoing have proven to be false and even malicious. >> bergman: we asked abm to comment on specific cases. they declined. >> it would not be appropriate for us to discuss those claims outside of our legal filings. >> bergman: but we found someone who had been inside abm: mary schultz, an attorney who once sued abm for sex discrimination, winning millions of dollars for her client. abm then hired her, and she worked for the company as a consultant for several years. >> i found abm to be a fascinating universe. this is a company that has national reach, that accommodates, trains, pays, provides benefits to ethnic groups from all over the world. it's a fascinating social dynamic and organizational dynamic, and i was intrigued by it and i wanted to help. >> bergman: you wanted to help
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because you perceived they had problems? >> i wanted to help because i perceived everybody had problems in that whole dynamic. the workers were having problems, the company was having problems. you have a lot of really good people, and you have some really bad people. >> bergman: during the period that you were there, there was a class action case from the eeoc pending in the central valley of california. and the eeoc regional attorney who brought the case said, "this was one of the worst handlings by a company of complaints of harassment" that she'd ever seen. >> i read the report. and what i saw in that, if that was true, was an abject failure by the hr department to implement processes and procedures that were there. >> bergman: when abm was sued in another sexual harassment case, the judge dismissed the suit in part because he found the company had acted appropriately. so i want to show you
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something... mary schultz deposed one of the alleged victims. do you remember miriam pacheco? we interviewed her. >> do i remember her? >> bergman: well, you took her deposition. >> okay, but i've taken myriads of depositions. (woman speaking spanish): >> bergman: she's making serious allegations of rape. so then assuming miriam pacheco
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is telling the truth about what happened to her, but the case gets dismissed, where is there justice for her? >> because the case was dismissed, again, it doesn't mean it didn't happen. the report that she provided was of a rape. where's the criminal system? that is the system that's designed to address the kind of crime that she's reporting. what the company sees is, "we've got an issue here, maybe this is credible, maybe it isn't. maybe this happened, maybe it didn't." do companies just start opening the wallet and paying out money to people whose circumstances they believe? i think that would be horribly risky. you would be overwhelmed with trying to sort out the good from the bad. >> bergman: and when abm does not believe they did anything
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wrong, they vigorously contest it. maria bojorquez, the janitor who alleged she was raped in san francisco's ferry building, sued abm for sexual harassment and retaliation, and won. a jury awarded her $800,000 in 2012. the alleged perpetrator denied the allegations, and abm appealed the verdict. >> we made substantial efforts to impeach the credibility of ms. bojorquez. >> bergman: their lawyers argued their case in front of an appellate court in 2015, and while the company disputed bojorquez's claims, their lawyer said they cannot always prevent abuses before they happen. >> abm has tens of thousands of employees located across the united states and internationally, many who work in remote locations at night with minimal supervision. bad things sometimes happen. >> bergman: abm would eventually settle the case.
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>> often, the realities of the janitorial industry go undetected. janitors are essentially invisible because they work at night. and for enforcement people as well, there isn't an aggressive enforcement program at night. >> bergman: lilia garcia-brower is an industry expert who monitors the working conditions of janitors. i'm used to the janitor being someone who's part of the company, or part of a school district or part of the mall, you know, part of the company itself. but that's changed, right? >> because of the economic realities, there's a huge shift to contracting out services, and the nature of the industry, the structure of the industry, makes it that much harder for contractors to ensure that the workplace is safe. many companies look very good on paper, but what matters is
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what's happening at the worksite. employers need to make sure that their supervisors are following their directives and that their employees know what to do if they come into harm's way. if they can't afford to do that, they shouldn't be in business. >> bergman: abm is by no means the only janitorial company that has dealt with sexual harassment cases. we identified another employer who says they have good policies and they were willing to talk to us. >> anytime we get a complaint of sexual harassment, it's regarded very seriously, and we do a prompt and thorough investigation. >> bergman: bill stejskal is the senior vice president of human resources at sms, a janitorial company based in nashville, tennessee, with contracts throughout the country. >> we do a very good job, i
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believe, of training our supervisors and management on harassment prevention. >> bergman: your policies call for any complaint to be investigated, right? >> they do. if we find that somebody has indeed violated our policies on harassment, they'll be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of their employment. >> bergman: have you ever been involved in trying to determine the truth of any of these allegations? >> sure, that's what we're trying to accomplish during the investigation, and that is to learn the truth. sometimes we are able to find out what the truth is, other times the truth is elusive. >> bergman: leticia zuniga worked for sms, cleaning a mall in a minneapolis suburb. her manager controlled her schedule and had the power to hire and fire. (zuniga speaking spanish):
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(man speaking spanish):
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>> bergman: zuniga left sms without filing a complaint. several months later, she reported the incidents to the police and then filed a lawsuit against sms. when you became aware of the zuniga case... >> right. >> bergman: what was your reaction? >> my reaction was astonishment, i mean, i found it hard to believe and was so disappointed that a manager of ours could everommit such acts against one of our employees. or, on the other hand, that we could possibly have an employee that would make up a story about a manager like that committing such acts if he didn't do them. >> bergman: rape, she was talking about. >> right, she alleged that she had been, um, raped. what mattered to us was finding out the truth about what happened. >> bergman: so what did you do? how did you investigate? >> we did the best we could under the circumstances, but
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when we first learned of her situation, nearly 300 days had passed since the last time she alleged to have been raped by the manager. so when you're thinking in terms of prompt and thorough, this was a very difficult investigation. >> we were able to talk to the accused, and he denied that those occurred. >> mr. gonzalez, do you remember that you're under oath? >> i do. >> bergman: as part of zuniga's lawsuit, her manager, marco gonzalez, was questioned about her allegations in this videotaped deposition. >> mr. gonzalez, did you ever attempt to have sexual intercourse with ms. zuniga? >> no. >> did you ever touch ms. zuniga's vagina? >> no. >> did ms. zuniga ever bleed in your office? >> no. >> did ms. zuniga ever say, "no, no, no," to you? >> in what respect? >> in the course of a sexual interaction. >> no.
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>> bergman: gonzalez told sms that zuniga's accusations were, quote, "preposterous." sms instructed gonzalez to gather written statements about zuniga, but gonzalez went a step further. he secretly recorded these interviews with employees. (conversing in spanish): >> marco gonzalez had a camera hidden in his office. and the women, it seems like, have no idea that there is a camera there. (gonzalez speaking spanish): >> he's fishing for any kind of bad behavior she might have
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engaged in, and what he came up with was just gossip, basically, about leticia. (conversing in spanish): >> bergman: there are instructions to marco gonzalez to gather statements related to the claims that appear to be made against him. is that part of your investigation? >> that wouldn't be protocol to ask the accused to be involved in the investigation, no. >> bergman: well, this is him conducting his investigation. he taped it all. he in a sense surveilled himself doing the investigation. and you never learned that before? >> i don't remember being told that, and i certainly have never seen that before. i have a legal director and staff/employee relations specialist that conduct the investigations, and i don't get
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involved at that level. >> bergman: debbi tannock was in charge of the investigation for sms. >> in this email, you're asking mr. gonzalez to gather witness statements? >> yes. >> does it seem strange to ask the harasser to go gather evidence from his supervisees? >> yeah. that wouldn't make sense to me. >> do you know why you did that? >> no, i don't. i might have been instructed to, i don't know. >> bergman: while gonzalez was gathering evidence for sms, he would change his story multiple times. >> you told the police that you and ms. zuniga kissed, correct? >> yes. >> you stated that she took out your penis and masturbated you? >> yes. >> is what you said to the police not true? >> right, yes. >> so you felt the best thing to do was to lie to the police when you spoke to them? >> at that time, yes.
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>> bergman: as part of the case, zuniga's lawyers were able to track down his work computer and conduct a forensic analysis. they discovered that his internet search history was filled with violent pornography, including sites that appeared to specialize in rape. >> he always was showing me pornography videos. i was feeling uncomfortable, i'm like... and he even shut the lights off and everything. i said, "marco, why are you showing me this?" >> bergman: karla perez also worked for sms. this is the first time she says she has shared her full story. >> one day he says, "karla, come into the office." i came into the office and he pulled his pants down and he take his things out, and he make me... and he make me put it in his mouth... you know, i put his stuff in my mouth, in my mouth, and...
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(sighs) and he closed the door and he said to me, "nobody will know about this. nobody will believe you." >> bergman: perez quit without filing a complaint with sms. eventually, she went to the police. gonzalez denied the allegations. a second woman went in and complained to the police. >> i'm not aware of that. >> bergman: and what about a computer that marco gonzalez had that showed that he was accessing rape porn sites? >> yeah, i don't remember hearing about that. >> bergman: no one told you
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about it? >> not that i can recall. >> bergman: and then you know that the manager changed his story a number of times about what happened? >> i'm not aware of that. >> bergman: you don't know that he told the police two different stories? >> i don't remember ever hearing that. >> bergman: during the lawsuit, sms was ordered to produce internal sexual harassment complaints. the records showed a number of incomplete investigations and dozens of accusations against other supervisors. three years of records from your internal complaint system showed that somewhere around 31 of those were made against supervisors. that never got your attention? >> no. >> bergman: you don't review these complaints? you don't have a briefing every quarter? >> oh, i have briefings, lowell, on the cases, but i have staff specifically assigned to that. >> bergman: well, a number don't appear to have any follow-up investigation, which would seem
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to violate your policy. >> again, every complaint or account of behavior that might be sexual harassment we take it very seriously, and we want to do a prompt and thorough investigation. >> bergman: but there would be a file somewhere, wouldn't there? >> there should be, yes. it could be as simple as, "do you remember investigating?" "yes, i did." "where are the notes?" "i don't know where the notes are." >> bergman: there may have been an investigation, but there's no record of it. >> that's correct. >> bergman: zuniga's lawsuit lasted three years. the case was settled in 2012. sms did not admit any wrongdoing. marco gonzalez left sms, but his former boss would later recommended him for a regional position, writing that, quote, "this guy would rock." in the end, he was not rehired. gonzalez declined our repeated attempts to speak with him on camera.
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as for the criminal investigation, the police believed both women and brought the case to the county attorney in minneapolis. but he chose not to prosecute. >> unfortunately and tragically in this case, all we had basically was her word and his word. is that sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt? our experience clearly says it is not. the defense attorney would say, "ladies and gentlemen of the jury, where's the physical evidence, where's the semen, where's the pictures, where's the video, where's the witnesses? why did it take her a year-plus? did she now finally report it merely to get money from him?" i do believe these crimes were committed, but i also believe, unfortunately, we simply could not prove it.
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>> the percentage of rape cases that are actually investigated and prosecuted are quite low. it's probably one of the most under-reported crimes in society today. it's also probably the least- prosecuted crime in society today. we listened to the survivors, who spoke not only... >> bergman: senator kirsten gillibrand authored legislation that would change how sexual assault is handled in the military, and she proposed a new federal law to strengthen rape investigations on college campuses. >> with this bill, instead of treating accusers and accused with unequal standards, the accusers and accused would have the same access to all due process rights. >> bergman: when we look at the janitorial industry, for instance, we're talking about low-paid, often undocumented people. >> right. so those who are targeted in that industry are vulnerable, so they may not be able to navigate the legal system, they may not feel that their immigration status allows them to even report a complaint. >> bergman: we interviewed a county attorney who declined to prosecute a rape case in which
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he believes the victim, but he said, "unfortunately and tragically in this case, all we had basically was her word and his word." do you agree? do you need physical evidence to prosecute rape? >> no, because the testimony of the survivor is evidence, and so it's whether she's believable or not. and so i think if we have a national conversation about the prevalence of sexual violence, perhaps more juries will believe the testimony of a survivor when she tells what happened to her. >> bergman: it appears that the institutions also rally around the supervisors. >> of course they do. and so when you're trying to reform these systems, all the bias is against the survivors. all the bias is against these victims who tend to be the least powerful, the least able to raise their voice, the least able to demand justice. >> bergman: for the women who did speak out, the journey is not over. maria magana kept working as a night shift janitor. she received a monetary settlement as part of her lawsuit, but she feels that
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justice has been elusive. (speaking spanish): (morales speaking spanish on radio):
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>> bergman: no longer a janitor, erika morales has used her voice to raise awareness on an internet radio show. (morales speaking spanish): >> bergman: since leticia zuniga spoke out, she has continued to work as a janitor, now for abm. she says she knows her rights and is doing better. (zuniga speaking spanish):
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(quevedo speaking spanish): >> bergman: as leticia tries to heal herself and her family, she still leaves home every evening,
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like so many women, to work on the night shift. (women shouting "no!") since this story first aired in 2015, a lot has changed. >> uno, dos, tres... >> no! >> bergman: as women in all walks of life are coming forward with accounts of sexual harassment, lilia garcia-brower's organization has been teaching janitors how to fight back. >> i never thought that we would be sponsoring a self-defense group. i believe that every woman worker needs to understand how to defend themselves. it is very simple. it is not rocket science what we talk about. we're essentially looking to create an army of female
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janitors who are committed to go out and talk to as many female janitors as possible so that they too can understand that they have the power within them to defend themselves. (woman speaking spanish): >> bergman: after hearing other janitors' stories, martha mejia came forward about the abuse she suffered. (mejia speaking spanish): >> no! >> bergman: the issue had also gotten the attention of a local affiliate of the country's largest janitorial union, seiu.
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>> when "rape on the night shift" came out in 2015, it was an incredibly emotional moment. and a group of us, which all happened to be survivors, huddled and said, "what are we going to do? this is really important." >> a massive janitor's march. this is in downtown l.a. >> to organize janitors and force employers to provide better working conditions... >> bergman: the union was fighting for better working conditions... >> organizers say this is the first of many events... >> bergman: and they began a campaign to raise awareness about sexual abuse in the industry. >> to raise awareness about workplace harassment and sexual assault on the job... >> bergman: the movement's rallying cry was "ya basta"-- "enough is enough." >> ya basta. no more. this is not gonna be the dirty little secret in our industry that nobody talks about. like, we've had it. enough's enough. >> bergman: they were encouraged by who came to their side: abm, even as the company continues to deal with new accusations of sexual harassment and assault.
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>> abm has come to the table with the union janitors and said, "we will do better, and we will continue to work with you as the watchdogs of this." >> bergman: the women took their fight-- and their stories of abuse-- to the california state house. >> you realize that they're facing so many vulnerabilities in their job, and in such a vulnerable position. and that this is happening made me so angry. the fact that these are people among us that we just don't look at, we don't think about. we don't take the time to say like, "what kind of working conditions are you in, and what kind of vulnerabilities might you experience?" and so i was sad. i was angered. and i wanted to do what we could do, from the state, to be able to protect these women. >> bergman: lorena gonzalez-fletcher introduced ab 1978, a bill requiring sexual harassment training for all janitorial employees and employers. companies that fail to comply
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with the law would not be able to do business in california. >> that was the beginning of a very public fight to win ab 1978. >> here's an unusual attempt to encourage governor brown to sign a piece of legislation. >> we put up billboards across the bay area that we were hoping the governor would see so that he would sign ab 1978. (speaking spanish): >> bergman: the ya basta women came out in force, demonstrating in front of the state capitol. (shouting together in spanish) >> and then the women themselves did a hunger strike at the end to wait on a signature. (mejia speaking spanish):
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>> they were on their fourth day of fasting and not eating, there was just a lot of emotion in the air. and we were tired, and all of a sudden, the governor's staff come down... >> (speaking spanish) so i want to introduce her. please, do you want to... >> and they said, "the governor has signed the law." (cheers and applause) >> i brought a picture. >> and there was just this emotion of disbelief or of also empowerment, of them saying, "we did this. we did it. and he signed it. (mejia speaking spanish):
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(cheers and applause) >> i think we're at a time where things are changing now. and, luckily, there are a lot of women coming forward, being able to tell their stories. and so if we don't take this moment in history and use it to protect the very... the most vulnerable workers among us, that we don't take the opportunity for this movement to embrace low-wage service workers, hourly workers, women who are barely getting by, those who might be undocumented, then we're letting a moment pass. (speaking spanish): (chanting in spanish) >> we've made a lot of strides, but it's not over. the culture right now as it stands has not been fixed and say, "oh, great. next." it's something that we just started. there's still a lot of work to
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be done. (chanting in spanish) (cheering) >> narrator: millions of migrants and refugees have risked everything for a new life in the west. now first-person stories of how they got there and what many found. (explosion) >> do not come to europe. >> anti-islam, anti-immigrant... >> i call it extreme vetting. >> narrator: filmed over three years, across 31 countries. >> i'm waiting for my fate to be told. europe either gave me a life or death. >> go to for additional reporting from our partners at univision, the investigative reporting program, the center for investigative reporting and kqed. >> these women work every day to feed their family and it's really up to the company to protect them.
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and by the frontline journalism fund, with major support from jon and jo ann hagler. captioned by media access group at wgbh >> for more on this and other programs, visit our website at ♪ "frontline's" "rape on the night shift" is available on dvd. to order, visit or call 1-800-play-pbs. "frontline" is also available for download on itunes. ♪
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