HARTFORD, Conn. — More than 354 state and local office holders throughout the northeast, including CT legislative majority leaders Sen. Duff and Rep. Ritter, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and House Speaker Pelosi, urging them to adopt measures to protect property service workers who are vital during the COVID-19 crisis.
The officials called for essential pay, layoff protection and adequate PPE for essential workers such as building cleaners, security officers, residential service workers, contracted airport service workers, cafeteria workers, and parking workers and others.
“As of today, Connecticut has lost five union janitors who were on the front line, cleaning and sanitizing highly trafficked spaces,” said Senator Bob Duff. “We need Congress to act quickly to protect these essential workers with adequate PPE, layoff protections and an essential boost in pay.”
Many essential workers are immigrants and people of color who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Most workers who perform essential property service functions live in low-income neighborhoods and must commute to commercial centers to get to work, further risking exposure to the Covid-19 virus on public transportation. While essential workers are keeping others safe, they and those close to them risk getting sick and dying. And after they have risked themselves to keep others safe, many are being laid off, left without paycheck or health care.
To prevent further layoffs that could slow the re-opening of key sectors of the economy, the letter also called measures to keep contracted property service workers on payroll, and maintain any health benefits they normally are provided. They noted that this will also alleviate the strain on overburdened state unemployment insurance programs.
“I’ve been out of work for a month now and have still not received my unemployment,” said Francisco Smith, a cleaner at a downtown Hartford office building. “It would be so much better for my family and I if we could have had some layoff protection, so that we can safely manage this difficult time and return to work quickly and smoothly when the crisis passes.”
The letter comes as essential building service workers strengthen their demand for protection in the next bailout. On Monday May 4, thousands of workers will call their members of Congress for a national call in day. To date, building service workers desperate for protection in the next bailout have generated 92,000 email messages to Congress and thousands of calls.
The essential building service workers’ demands are outlined in the letter:
1. Essential pay for essential property service workers.
2. Contracted worker-centered economic relief and stimulus: keep contracted and subcontracted property service workers on payroll, and maintain any health benefits they normally are provided.
3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
With over 175,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country