A couple of women walk their dogs past the Colorado state capitol building in downtown Denver on Oct. 3, 2020. (Forrest Czarnecki/The Denver Gazette)

Janitors, families and union members gathered in downtown Denver on Wednesday for a car rally to celebrate the reinstatement of janitors’ cut hours before the holidays.

The rally, originally intended to be a protest demanding increased hours, was updated to a celebration after Commercial Cleaning Systems agreed to the reinstatement demands.

“Denver’s janitors made their voices heard and CCS listened,” said Patricia Robles, a Denver janitor of 30 years and vice president of property services at Service Employees International Union Local 105.

Previously, CCS had cut the hours of janitors in more than 150 buildings across the metro area. Many janitors called the move reckless, arguing that cutting hours put sanitation efforts at risk during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, 1 in 40 Coloradans are contagious with the coronavirus, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

"The pandemic is not over, and the risk is very high. It is the first thing I have on my mind every time I go to work,” said Marisol Santos, a Denver janitor of 12 years.

In addition, opponents said decreasing hours increased the financial strain on many of the city’s janitors going into the holiday season.

“I am the only one supporting my family right now,” said Maria Hernandez, a Denver janitor of 30 years. “Many of us do not qualify for unemployment, and with less hours we are still asked to maintain building standards.”

The rally was held from noon to 1 p.m. with participants circling the block around 1999 Broadway in their cars.

Robles said she and the workers’ union recognize that CCS did the right thing by listening to its employees.

“With a vaccine on its way, it’s imperative we maintain the high level of trust our community has in knowing that the buildings where we work and patronize are safe and sanitized,” Robles said.

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