Hartford CT— State Senator John Fonfara (D-Hartford) and City Council Members Luis Cotto and Larry Deutsch joined building cleaners at the Hartford Courant and dozens of their supporters in a rally outside the newspaper Wednesday to protest the Courant’s decision to end its contract with its longtime, unionized cleaning contractor effective December 1st. The Courant’s action is a blow to the eight cleaners who will be out on the street, and to the community of Hartford, which will lose good jobs with fair pay and decent benefits – the kind of jobs that give families a foothold into the middle class.
“This decision by the Courant is an example of why our state and our nation are facing a growing gap between the very wealthy and everyone else, and why so many working families are falling into poverty,” said Juan Hernandez, Assistant State Director for Connecticut 32BJ SEIU. “It is particularly disturbing that this action comes at a time when the Courant’s owner, the Tribune Company, has a program offering millions of dollars in bonuses to management if the company ‘maximizes’ profit this year. We are concerned that managers in this program may get big bonuses on the backs of these hardworking men and women.”
The eight building cleaners are employed by Capitol Cleaning, a unionized contractor that pays the workers at least $13.50 per hour with benefits that include paid personal days and vacation time, health insurance and a retirement plan. Typically when building owners fire unionized contractors to cut costs, they hire nonunion companies whose workers earn the minimum wage with little to no benefits.
“The men and women who work hard every day cleaning the Courant building depend on their jobs and their benefits to support their families,” Senator Fonfara said. “The Courant’s termination of its contract with its cleaning company means these workers are at risk of losing these good jobs. That would devastate their families, and move our local economy a step further in the wrong direction. The Courant needs to set an example by hiring a contractor that will treat the workers right.”
Epifania DeJesus, who has worked cleaning the Courant building for 16 years said her husband suffered a stroke a few years ago and now they both depend on her health insurance and income. “I’m stressed out because I think, ‘What am I going to do?’”
With more than 120,000 members in eight states and Washington, D.C., including 4,500 in Connecticut, 32BJ SEIU is the largest union of property service workers in the country.