New York, NY – Today, former janitors at Twitter offices in New York City filed a lawsuit against Twitter and a new non-union cleaning contractor over their termination in December 2022. The lawsuit, which was filed in federal district court in Manhattan, alleges Twitter violated New York City’s Displaced Building Service Workers Protection Act by failing to retain the janitors after terminating its cleaning contract and hiring a new contractor, and for failing to properly communicate with the workers and their union 32BJ SEIU.
New York City’s Displaced Building Service Workers Protection Act requires new building owners, managers, contractors and commercial lessees to retain building service employees for a 90-day transition period, and to then offer employees continued employment if their performance is considered satisfactory.
The lawsuit, filed by Brooklyn-based workers’ rights firm Kakalec Law PLLC, follows mobilizations by the 32BJ SEIU Twitter janitors in NYC, where they spoke out about the economic hardship Twitter’s actions have caused the janitors and to demand local law be followed.
The lawsuit alleges the workers are owed “hundreds of thousands of dollars in back wages.” The lawsuit also asks the court to order the workers’ “reinstatement to employment and retention for at least ninety days.”
Twitter did not respond after 32BJ SEIU sent a request in December 2022 advising the company of its obligations. When Twitter retained a new contractor in February 2023, NeXgen Facilities Group, the union also notified the new contractor of its obligations, but like Twitter, NeXgen Facilities ignored 32BJ’s communication.
“My colleagues and I have faced extreme hardship after losing our jobs. They got rid of us just before Christmas like we didn’t matter. I have had to change the way I live, what groceries I buy, to save money. My daughter was already helping me pay the bills, and now she took a second job after I lost my union job,” said Lucy Calderon, a former Twitter janitor whose hourly wage has dropped $13/hour since taking a temporary job. “On top of that, losing healthcare benefits has been so stressful. I need benefits for my asthma, tendonitis and arthritis. I’m rationing my tendonitis and arthritis pills now. But I’m going to keep fighting for justice! My colleagues and I are all facing extreme hardship. Many of us are single mothers and fathers. We are the breadwinners of our families.”
“These cleaners have kept Twitter’s building running ever since Twitter moved here seven years ago, putting their lives on the line to keep workers and the public safe throughout the pandemic. They are essential to the city’s economic recovery. We have laws in NYC that protect workers from the arbitrary whims of billionaires,” said 32BJ SEIU President Manny Pastreich. “We are going to make sure their rights are protected.”
“Twitter’s failure to comply with New York City law has left our clients out of work for over six months. We are proud to stand with these brave members of SEIU 32BJ who are stepping forward to enforce New York City’s Displaced Building Service Workers Protection Act – a longstanding City law that was designed to ensure stable employment and income for the workers who clean and take care of NYC’s large office buildings, and prevent exactly this type of situation,” said attorney Hugh Baran, of Kakalec Law PLLC, which is representing the workers.
32BJ SEIU represents over 20,000 commercial office cleaners in NYC.