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Janitors from four countries recently spoke about the impact COVID-19 has had on their lives during a global forum held virtually by a Minnesota chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

A janitor in the Twin Cities talked about how she struggled with having to come home to her family after each shift knowing that she might have been in contact with the virus, reports Sahan Journal. Through the help of translators, frontline cleaning professionals from China, Columbia and Malaysia were able to bond with the American janitors over concerns.

Janitors also shared how their experiences might have differed working in nations with varying political agendas and government policy. 

Gerardo Cajamarca, an organizer with SEIU Local 26, told Shan Journal that the pandemic helped to unveil issues that janitors have been dealing with for a while. For example, SEIU Local 26 members who missed shifts so they could quarantine after coming into contact with the virus received $300 from the union. Obviously, paid sick leave isn't something that's common in the commercial cleaning industry, and help from organizations such as SEIU isn't always available. A representative from National Union of Food Workers in Columbia said that many of its members are sick in the hospital with COVID-19. Since they're hospitalized, those employees can't work, meaning they don't get paid unless they receive paid time off.

Unique to Columbia is the fact that organizers with National Union of Food Workers have been killed or kidnapped over recent years. This has caused many of those members to flee the country, including Cajamarca.

Four members of SEIU Local 26 have died because of COVID-19 since the pandemic spread to the United States. At least 780 of the union's 8,000 members have had the virus.

To read the rest of what Sahan Journal had to report, click here.