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New York – Scores of WeWork’s former contracted cleaners held a candlelight vigil tonight for their lost jobs.
WeWork today introduced new building service jobs that pay $15 an hour and include some benefits but of the more than 120 contracted cleaners who have cleaned their offices for up to three years or more, it appears that fewer than 15 of the contracted cleaners have been hired for the new positions.
“We didn’t hear anything from WeWork after we applied for the new jobs so we went to work as usual today,” said Blanca Montes, who worked at WeWork NOMAD. “When we walked into the office a WeWork receptionist said that we no longer worked there. It was shocking to be treated this way after almost a year working there and feeling like part of the community.”
Janitors who cleaned the offices at WeWork sites across the city held their vigil at WeWork’s headquarters at 115 W. 18th Street to call on WeWork to hire them for the new jobs and respect their call to have a union.
The workers believe they weren’t hired for the new jobs because of their union activity.
“It’s clear that WeWork is retaliating against us for joining the union,” said Mercis Gomez, a contracted cleaner at WeWork Empire State who was told today that she no longer had a job. “When we asked the community manager about getting hired for the new jobs she strongly encouraged us to ask for our union cards back.”
32BJ SEIU, the workers’ union, has filed an Unfair Labor Practice with the National Labor Relations Board.
For the last three years, the cleaners at WeWork—most of whom are Latino immigrants— were employed by a contractor who paid them as little as $10 an hour. After they started a campaign for better jobs, WeWork responded with a plan for new building service positions that pay $15 an hour and provide some benefits. But today more than 100 cleaners found out that WeWork has hired new cleaners to replace them. The cleaners are calling on WeWork to hire them to do the cleaning they have been doing faithfully for months or even years. They are part of the community and have had a lot of member support. That support has been building with an increasing number of WeWork members signing a petition in support of the cleaners’ campaign at www.weworkheretoo.org
“As a multi-billion dollar company with a stated mission to create spaces where its customers can ‘make a life, not a living,’ WeWork cannot afford to give their workers anything less than a wage they can actually live on,” said New York City Councilmember Margaret Chin who joined the workers at the vigil. I urge WeWork to do the right thing and rehire these workers so that they can continue to do their jobs at a fair wage with benefits. These workers, and the families they support, deserve nothing less.”
New York City Councilmember Corey Johnson, State Senator Dan Squadron and Deputy Manhattan Borough President Aldrin Bonilla also joined the workers at their vigil.
With more than 145,000 members including 70,000 in New York City, 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country.