by Elva Ramos
Philadelphia Suburban office cleaner
I’ve been working as a commercial office cleaner for 12 years in the Philadelphia suburbs. I, along with 1,400 commercial office cleaners, maintain buildings housing billion dollar companies like Merck, Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, and Vanguard. I read all the time about how these companies are profiting and making billion dollar deals. Meanwhile we are struggling to support our families.
We work hard vacuuming, dusting, moving pounds of trash, maintaining bathrooms, and cleaning common areas. For the hard work we put in, we only earn $12.35 an hour. That’s not nearly enough to support yourself let alone a family. Many of my co-workers have to work two and three jobs just to afford the basics. At the end of the week, it’s still not enough.
Many of my co-workers don’t even have time to see their children because they’re shuffling from one job to the next. It’s heartbreaking. That’s why we are fighting for $15. We have goals and dreams for our families. We want our children to have an opportunity to go to college and achieve the American Dream. You can’t do that when you struggle to put food on the table and a roof over your heads.
I am on the bargaining committee and have been negotiating a new contract. We have been clear with The Building Operators Labor Relations (BOLR) Suburban Division but they don’t seem to hear us. Our contract expires December 15 at 11:59 p.m. and we remain far apart. BOLR’s proposals will set us back. With the rising cost of living, BOLR’s proposals could put us in poverty.
We fought long and hard to get where we are. We have come too far to turn back now. There is too much at stake. These are good jobs. We are fighting to keep them that way so future cleaners can raise families and not have to struggle like we do.
We witnessed our brothers and sisters in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and in downtown Philadelphia win solid contracts. We will do the same because when we fight, we win!