|32BJ of SERVICE EMPLOYEES INTERNATIONAL UNION
June 15, 2023
1,000 NYC Janitors March and Rally for Justice for Janitors Day, Launch Campaign for Agreement Covering 20,000 NYC Workers
New York, NY – TODAY, over 1,000 NYC commercial office cleaners two marched to Bryant Park, where they commemorated National Justice for Janitors Day and launched their campaign for a new labor agreement to defend labor standards that have lifted thousands of NYC working class and immigrant families toward the middle class.
Their current four-year labor agreement, which expires December 31, covers 20,000 NYC office cleaners and over 1,300 buildings across the city.
As essential workers, these office cleaners persevered through extraordinary circumstances and put themselves and their families at risk while making it possible for NYC office buildings to safely re-open as tenants returned to work. The mostly Black, Brown and immigrant essential workers made great sacrifices during the pandemic – some 40 NYC members of 32BJ who work in commercial buildings lost their lives to COVID-19. Many experienced financial hardship after being laid off, and some did not return to work for over two years.
The COVID-19 pandemic and work from home trends have resulted in higher commercial office vacancies and reduced daily occupancy in some commercial buildings. As a result, the commercial real estate industry has cut labor costs by reducing the NYC commercial cleaning workforce by 2,000 jobs.
Additionally, despite workers’ contributions, one building owner, Sovereign Partners, is hiring a low-road contractor, resulting in a $11/hour reduction in wages and potential loss of comprehensive healthcare coverage at Tower 56 (126 E 56th St).
Cleaners, labor leaders and elected officials gave speeches at the Bryant Park rally.
“I have been a commercial office cleaner in New York City for 36 years! I got COVID in March 2020, said NYC commercial office cleaner Ena Softley. “I almost passed away. It was so scary. My doctor told me to stay INSIDE and that I might not survive another infection. But I couldn’t work from home and my bills wouldn’t wait. My building needed me to prepare for tenants to come back. To be there to re-open. So we showed up. We risked our lives to keep everything safe and clean.”
“On this day 33 years ago, janitors came together to demand justice, a living wage, and better working conditions for themselves and future generations to come,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams. “Their solidarity prevailed, and because of their courage, we continue to reap the benefits of their hard-fought victory. As the daughter of union workers, I understand the transformative power of labor unions, and I’m proud to stand with 32BJ workers as they fight for contracts that reflect the value of their labor and contributions to our society.”
“Every New Yorker deserves fair pay, safe working conditions, and the ability to provide for themselves and their family,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “The Justice for Janitors Rally is about standing up for these basic truths. We must ensure that the essential workers who helped our city make it through COVID-19 are recognized and treated with dignity and respect. I am proud to join with my colleagues in public service, and I thank 32BJ for organizing this rally and for always standing up for hard working New Yorkers.”
“We are here to demand justice for the mostly Black, Brown and immigrant essential workers who made great sacrifices during the pandemic,” said Denis Johnston, 32BJ Executive Vice President of 32BJ and Director of the NYC Commercial Division. “As essential workers, these office cleaners persevered through extraordinary circumstances and put themselves and their families at risk while making it possible for NYC office buildings to safely re-open as tenants returned to work.”
With more than 175,000 members in 12 states, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country. 32BJ SEIU represents over 80,000 building service workers in NYC, including 20,000 commercial office cleaners.