As Senate Returns to Washington Today, PA Elected Leaders Demand that Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker Pelosi Protect Essential Property Service Workers

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Traci C. Benjamin;; 215-300-0776

Philadelphia – More than 354 state and Local office holders throughout the northeast, 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 to keeping the region running 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.

“We cannot forget the sacrifices essential workers like security officers, cleaners, building engineers and others are working during this time of international crisis. They are keeping the country running while many have the opportunity to shelter at home. These hardworking men and women deserve basic human rights. They need to be ensured they are protected and able to take care and maintain their own families while making sure that our workplaces are clean and protected,” said State Senator Larry Farnese (D-1).

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, airports, or more affluent neighborhoods 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 risked my health and safety going to the airport every day to do a job I enjoy only to be laid off without a moment’s notice. I live with my elderly parents who have health issues. Because I didn’t have a choice whether to work or stay at home, I worked despite the risk.  Congress needs to make sure those who are essential in this pandemic are protected,” said Elliott Barnes, a laid off Prospect lead cabin cleaner at Philadelphia International Airport.

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