Wilmington, DE – State Representative John Kowalko, New Castle County Councilman George Smiley and Wilmington City Councilman Michael Brown joined office cleaners today in a delegation to M&T Bank to urge executives to hire a more responsible cleaning contractor. 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union has filed a second round of charges with the National Labor Relations Board against Optima Cleaning Systems.
The contractor has engaged in a discriminatory scheme by unilaterally transferring or threatening to transfer all union employees at a Newark property to a building where the company is losing the account.
“M&T should join the majority of commercial properties in Wilmington who use responsible contractors that don’t hurt our economy with poverty wages,” said Kowalko. “Our communities cannot afford irresponsible contractors that shortchange hardworking men and women.”
Optima pays cleaners in Wilmington as little as $7.50 per hour, without meaningful benefits which is nearly $2.00 per hour below the established industry standard. The company’s wages leave many cleaners eligible for taxpayer-subsidized assistance such as food stamps. With almost 30 percent of people in poverty in 2010, the poverty rate in Wilmington is almost double the national average.
The elected officials and cleaners displayed a six-foot-tall poster with a photo of Maria Albarran, a laid-off cleaner, with her two children that reads: “I am struggling to pay my bills and rent and the medicine I need for my daughter. If I don’t get my job back I’m in danger of losing my apartment.”
32BJ has already charged Optima at the NLRB with refusing to hire cleaners at the Atapco Christiana Corporate Center because of their support for the Union. When Optima took over the cleaning contract at the Center on July 1
st, the company refused to hire all of the cleaners, cut wages and eliminated most benefits for the workers who remained. The Union is asking for a 10(j) injunction in conjunction with the charge, which means that the NLRB could seek a federal court injunction against Optima to preserve the pre-violation status quo while the unfair labor practice cases are proceeding.
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. MT&T Bank, one of 13 buildings that Optima cleans.