Newark–A huge victory for displaced office cleaners came today from the National Labor Relations Board. Administrative Law Judge Steven Davis ruled cleaning services contractor Eastern Essential Services (EES) engaged in unlawful actions when it refused to hire incumbent janitors at three office buildings in Secaucus, East Rutherford and Bernards Township because of their union affiliation and slashed wages and benefits. As a result, the judge has ordered EES to make the workers whole for any losses in earnings and benefits and offer them jobs at the New Jersey office buildings where they previously worked; One Meadowlands Plaza in East Rutherford, 300 Lighting Way in Secaucus, and 120 Mountainview Boulevard in Bernards Township. Current employees who have been earning less than union standard wages must also receive back pay for the wage and benefits reduction per order of the judge. The back pay and benefits may well come to several hundred thousand dollars.
The decision stems from a complaint filed by 32BJ SEIU alleging EES discriminated against all 33 workers because of their union membership and also unlawfully refused to bargain with 32BJ. The judge found merit in both allegations and noted there was “strong evidence of anti-union motivation”.
The displaced office cleaners are thrilled with the judge’s ruling and are eager to get back to work. “I have not been able to find a job and it has taken a toll,” said Maria de la Torre, who has been struggling to feed her family since she lost her job last summer. “I am happy about the judge’s decision because we can get our jobs back. I worked at 300 Lighting Way in Secaucus for 21 years. It’s like a second home to me. ”
Many of the former employees are longtime office cleaners who had worked at the office buildings, some for decades. Many of these men and women who have families to support have struggled to make ends meet since they lost their jobs last summer.
32BJ Vice President and NJ State Director Kevin Brown attributes this victory to the cleaners who marched, rallied and fought for an entire year to right this wrong. “When workers stand up for their rights they send a clear message to employers that they must respect them and treat them fairly,” said Brown. “The judge’s decision should be a wakeup call to irresponsible building owners and contractors that we won’t sit back and allow them to come here and bust the union with illegal tactics that bring down wages and hurt working families.”
The decision orders Eastern Essential Services to offer employment to the former cleaners within 14 days and remove from its files any reference to the unlawful refusal to hire the employees. And within three days thereafter, notify them in writing that this has been done and that the refusal to hire them will not be used against them in any way.
With 145,000 members in 11 states–including more than 10,000 in New Jersey–32BJ SEIU is the largest property services union in the country.