Union Representing Essential Workers Demands Congress Act to Protect Workers in Next Bailout

Julie Karant: 646-584-9001; jkarant@seiu32bj.org

Union Representing Essential Workers Demands Congress Act to Protect Workers in Next Bailout

Janitors, security officers & property service workers on the frontlines of COVID take fight to Congress for essential pay, PPE and layoff protection in economic relief and recovery package

 ~African American and immigrant workers hardest hit by COVID, now face mass layoffs~


Washington, D.C. – As the situation becomes dire for many of the property service worker on the frontlines of the COVID crisis, the property service workers union, 32BJ SEIU is demanding urgent action from Congress. With the House returning on April 20, essential workers—such as building cleaners, security officers, residential service workers, contracted airport service workers, cafeteria workers and parking workers who keep the public safe during the COVID-19 pandemic—are demanding that fourth bailout package protects them and their families.

Alarming new data out of NYC shows that African Americans and Latinos are twice as likely to die of COVID-19 as white Americans are. Most workers who perform essential property service functions are immigrants and people of color who live in low-income neighborhoods and must commute to commercial centers, airports, or more affluent, neighborhoods to get to work, further risking exposure to the Covid-19 virus on public transportation. Many property service workers have little or no protective equipment or PPE, even though they face exposure on the job.

“Essential workers are putting their health on the line every day to keep our cities safe and healthy, while they and those close to them are getting sick and dying,” said Jaime Contreras, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU, which represents over 20,000 property service workers in the D.C. area and Baltimore, over 2,000 of whom have been laid-off without pay. “Property service workers are struggling without any additional pay for their essential work during this crisis and many have no personal protective equipment (PPE). Congress should do all it can to ensure essential workers who are exposed have full access to emergency relief like layoff protection, essential pay and personal protective equipment to avoid infection.”

“They treated us as worthless objects, without taking into account that we are human beings,” said Norma Ferrufino who lost her job cleaning the Postal Square Building in D.C. after a federal cleaning contractor, Electronic Metrology Laboratory, LLC (EML) decided to use fewer office cleaners than its predecessor.

“Every day I go to work in fear of being laid off and that I might infect my children,” said 32BJ member Annette Brown, a single mother of two from Baltimore City who cleans, maintains the safety, sanitation and essential operations to fight the spread of the COVID- 19 virus at a Kaiser facility in Baltimore County. “We don’t get any extra pay or other benefits to help us get through this crisis. We are scared and confused. People are dying. Single parents like me need help getting food. If I get sick and have to leave my kids, who is going to help provide for them and who is going to feed them?”


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, including over 20,000 in the D.C. area and Baltimore, MD, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers

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