Wilmington, DE – Wilmington City Councilman and mayoral candidate, Kevin Kelly today announced his support for downtown office cleaners in their protest against Optima Cleaning Systems. 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union has filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board that Optima has refused to hire cleaners at the Atapco Christiana Corporate Center because of their support for 32BJ. In Wilmington, Optima pays cleaners as little as $7.50 per hour with no meaningful benefits, nearly $2.00 per hour below the established industry standard.
“Wilmington’s economy suffers when companies like Optima pay poverty-like wages because they undermine standards and hurt workers’ ability to support their families and local businesses,” said Kelly. “I urge Optima to get in line with responsible companies that treat workers with respect and provide just compensation.”
When Optima took over the cleaning contract at the Center on July 1st, the company refused to hire all of cleaners and reduced pay and eliminated most benefits for the workers who remained. Dozens of cleaners rallied with New Castle County Councilmen Tim Sheldon and George Smiley, State Representatives John Kowalko, Stephanie Bolden, Debra Heffernan and Ed Osienski today in front of the MT&T Bank, one of 13 buildings that Optima cleans.
“Our economy and community cannot afford irresponsible contractors that shortchange the hard working men and women of Wilmington,” said Wayne MacManiman, 32BJ Mid-Atlantic Director. “These cleaners already struggle to make ends meet and don’t deserve to lose their jobs through no fault of their own.”
“We work very hard and did nothing wrong; all we are asking is a chance to keep our jobs,” said Lilia Ramirez, a cleaner at the Atapco Center. “I won’t be able to feed my children without a paycheck.”
32BJ members clean prominent buildings in Wilmington including the Bank of America Building, the DuPont Building, Brandywine Building, Chase Manhattan Center, Citizens Bank Center, and I. M. Pei Building.
With more than 120,000 members in nine states, including 10,000 in Philadelphia and Delaware, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property services union in the country.