Wilmington, DE – Members of 32BJ of the Service Employees International (SEIU) today announced their endorsement of candidates for office in Wilmington, New Castle and Delaware state, inspired by their support for responsible economic development to help move families out of poverty and protect the middle class.
Endorsed candidates include Harris McDowell for State Senate, State Representatives Stephanie Bolden, Deb Heffernan, Earl Jaques, Helene Keeley, John Kowalko, Ed Osienski, New Castle County Council members John Cartier, Tim Sheldon and George Smiley, and Wilmington City Council members Michael Brown, HanifaShabazz, Loretta Walsh and Justen Wright.
“These candidates understand that government should use its power to ensure companies invest in our communities by creating family-sustaining jobs,” said Wayne MacManiman, 32BJ Mid-Atlantic Director. “They will make certain that our tax dollars only support responsible contractors who we can trust to treat workers fairly and provide quality services.”
Nearly 500 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.
As part of an effort to raise worker and industry standards in Delaware, 32BJ 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 in the city. 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.
The Union is asking for a 10(j) injunction in conjunction with the charge, which means that the labor board will take the case to federal court, and seek a federal court injunction against Optima, to preserve the pre-violation status quo while the unfair labor practices are proceeding.
At a Wilmington City Council committee meeting on economic development on Monday, Optima Cleaners and union members provided testimony illustrating how Optima’s practices threaten to undermine worker and industry standards throughout the region. 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 in July in front of the MT&T Bank, one of the buildings that Optima cleans.
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.