Boston, MA—Today, 32BJ SEIU, the union representing the laid off MBTA janitors, filed two unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against the MBTA’s cleaning contractors SJ Service and ABM Inc. for refusing to bargain over the drastic number of layoffs, the impact of these cuts on those laid off and those whose hours have been reduced or who have had their assignments drastically changed.
“These janitorial cuts have been forced down the throat of the janitors and the millions of T riders who expect and deserve clean and sanitary stations,” said Roxana Rivera Vice President of 32BJ SEIU. “Hardworking people who have been serving the riders for decades have been given 48 hours to decide about their future, their health, their mortgage without thinking of the consequences. This is not the way we should treat people in Boston or anywhere.
The charges come after weeks of protest against the MBTA plan to cut cleaning services to the bone beginning September 1. More than 70 full-time janitorial positions have been eliminated today and many more janitors who clean the T are losing their healthcare and see their hours cut. Workers have been given the impossible task of keeping four, five stations in one workday and with less hours. This means a lot of pain for the families of the laid off workers but also for the T rides will start to see more grime-filled staircases, dirty walls, garbage-strewn stations and sticky floors all over the T stations.
MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve has argued that cuts were needed to address cost overruns in cleaning contracts, due to an overrun of $16.6 million dollars from the original contract cost. The public deserves an exact accounting of the $16.6 million in overruns that are supposedly associated with this contract.
These workers are the lowest paid workers in the MBTA system, making just $18 an hour with many not even earning additional benefits like a pension or health insurance.
In addition to the workers who are losing their jobs, dozens have been asked, sometimes with just 48 hours, to decide whether to accept a part-time job with an increase workload or lose their job.
The unprecedented MBTA cleaning cuts couldn’t have come at a worse time. As Boston continues to grow, bringing more riders into the system, fewer cleaners will be available to clean up after them.
With more than 145,000 members in 11 states, including 18,000 in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, SEIU 32BJ is the largest property services union in the country.