Philadelphia – Joined by Congressman Bob Brady (D-CD-1) and Rabbi Avi Winokur of Society Hill Synagogue, janitors and security officers—members of 32BJ SEIU—today tried to gain access to the Eyeforpharma conference to challenge TEVA Pharmaceutical executives in attendance to take the “$10 Toilet Cleaning Challenge.” The challenge is the result of TEVA tossing out the union cleaning contractor at its Frazer location last year, resulting in 10 immigrant janitors losing their jobs. The group entered but was told the TEVA executives were no longer at the conference.
“We can’t tolerate TEVA’s unscrupulous business practices in our country. How does a billion-dollar company balance its budget on the backs of immigrant janitors who made less than $12 an hour? It’s unconscionable. Those of us in Congress are looking into this matter because we will not allow businesses to come into our country and undercut industry standards that have been established and maintained,” said Congressman Bob Brady (D-CD-1).
Armed with toilets, mops, brooms, and gloves the workers tried to gain access to the conference taking place at the Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill. The challenge sheds light on the low-wages paid to contracted janitors at TEVA’s local facilities, most of whom make less than $10 an hour with no meaningful benefits. Despite reporting net revenues of $19.7 billion in its 2015 and an impending $40.5 million purchase of Allergan, the Israeli pharmaceutical company fired the union contractor opting for cheaper labor. The union cleaners made less than $12 with benefits while cleaning the Frazer facility, just miles from the company’s U.S. headquarters in Horsham.
In a show of solidary, members of the Irish union, SIPTU, today wore stickers in support of the fired U.S. janitors. In addition, there has been an outpouring of support for the janitors from Israeli and American labor unions, more than a dozen members of Congress, and local rabbis who are calling on TEVA to rehire the janitors.
““TEVA”s actions violate the spirit of Jewish law and tradition. These janitors weren’t top earners making millions of dollars like some of TEVA’s top executives. They were working towards making a living wage. They do the jobs most of us don’t want to do, but instead of taking out the trash, they were treated like trash without dignity and respect. It’s wrong,” said Rabbi Avi Winokur of Society Hill Synagogue and POWER.
“Thousands of commercial office cleaners across the country are working towards a pathway to the middle class. They are earning a living wage to lift themselves out of poverty. They work for real estate and pharmaceutical companies who respect industry standards set across the nation. TEVA wants to come here and try to work around these rules. We will not tolerate it. We are here today to let TEVA know we will not stop until we get justice for these men and women,” said Gabe Morgan, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU PA and DE.
With 155,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 22,000 in Pennsylvania, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.