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     “O povo unido jamais será vencido!”

    “They were my mentors in getting started in this work, they taught me how to do it from the ground up, instead of as a social worker or a ‘do good-er’, but how to walk with people.”

    The city forgets that in the 1970s and 80s, women who cleaned office buildings at night began to organize to demand higher wages and better working conditions sparking a movement called Cleaner’s Action.  The labour activism of these primarily Portuguese women, who worked night shifts cleaning office buildings in the downtown core, gained strength and momentum in the face of language barriers, anti-immigrant prejudice, family responsibilities and long working hours.  Over the years Cleaner’s Action produced a multilingual newsletter, joined a union, challenged that union to adequately represent them, shared tips on labour rights and citizenship, and more. While some of their victories were short-lived, the women and staff who worked with and for Cleaner’s Action were committed to educating themselves and others about immigrant women’s rights in the workplace.   On September 30th, as part of Toronto’s Nuit Blanche all night art festival, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC MEMORY unveiled a commemorative sign to honour the remarkable efforts of Cleaner’s Action.

    The strong activist history of the Cleaner’s Action movement laid the ground for strong organizing amongst cleaners today.

    Memory Archive