58 members of 32BJ SEIU, including a Fort Lauderdale wheelchair worker, have passed away due to COVID-19
(Miami, FL) – US Rep. Donna Shalala (FL-27) joined janitors, security officers, and airport workers on a press call Tuesday, April 28, to demand that the next bailout package include protections for the essential property service workers that are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we watch the number of deaths and cases from the COVID-19 pandemic continue to grow, we must make sure that the next legislative package that passes the House protects property service workers. These essential workers keep our nation moving in our time of crisis,” said Rep. Shalala.
The property service workers who are members of 32BJ SEIU, spoke about the dangers that they face on the job. To date, 58 members throughout the country, including a wheelchair attendant at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, have passed away due to the pandemic.
“We risk our lives every day to ensure the buildings and health clinic are safe and sanitized for the public, but many of us are struggling without adequate pay,” said Odeimy Melendres, a janitor at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine and member of 32BJ SEIU. “We’re on the front lines of this crisis, helping to prevent the spread of this terrible disease. As essential workers, we deserve essential pay, personal protective equipment, and layoff protections.”
“Airports are already dangerous places. You can imagine the risks we are taking during this pandemic,” said Koran Henderson, a security officer at MIA who screens for security risks, including weapons. “We come into contact with hundreds of people daily. And yet many security officers don’t have health insurance or paid sick days. We don’t get additional pay, even though our jobs are hazardous. And there is no protection from getting laid off.”
“We are asking that the federal government do more than just thank us, we deserve to be paid appropriately for our work and to be protected on the job,” added Henderson.
Last week, Representative Shalala led 92 Members of Congress in writing a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy urging them include protections for property service workers in any future legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the lawmakers asked that the next legislative package include provisions to provide personal protective equipment, expanded paid sick, family, and medical leave, as well as fair compensation – supported by payroll tax credits to employers – to these essential workers.
32BJ SEIU’s proposed protections include:
Essential pay for essential workers and PPE: (1.5 times regular rate of pay) supported through employer tax credits to address extraordinary costs associated with additional transportation and childcare needs, as well as heightened exposure risks.
Worker-centered economic relief and stimulus: keep contracted property service workers on payroll: Layoff protection so that essential workers can maintain wages, healthcare to support their families and our economy when the crisis is over.
Build Worker Power through mandated worker-industry sectoral bargaining structure to improve working conditions for transit hubs receiving government assistance.
With more than 175,000 members in 11 states, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.