New York – In a recent meeting with its cleaning contractor, a WeWork executive said more than 100 cleaners at the coworking start-up’s New York City offices should all be fired for organizing a union.
Threatening to fire workers for union activity violates federal labor law. 32BJ SEIU, the union the workers want to join, has filed an Unfair Labor Practice with the National Labor Relations Board. Complaint: https://buildingworkers.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/WeWork-Charge.pdf
The executive made the comment in a meeting with Commercial Building Maintenance Corp. (CBM), the cleaning company that pays its cleaners as little as $10 an hour– less than half the industry standard– to clean WeWork offices in New York City.
The cleaners launched their “We Work Here Too” campaign for fair pay on Thursday and said they will continue to fight despite the threats.
“We know we have the right to fight for good jobs and we will stand united until we win the fair pay and benefits we deserve,” said Yosel Fernandez, a contracted cleaner at WeWork’s offices at 349 5th Avenue. “It is a little scary to know the company wants to fire us just for speaking up for our rights but we need higher pay so we can support our families.”
WeWork, which has a $5 billion valuation and charges above-market rates for its New York offices, says its mission is “to create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living.”
“I can see that WeWork is a great company for the clients that work in the office,” said Saul Madera, who cleans the WeWork offices at 115 West 18th Street. “I would like WeWork to recognize how hard I work and how dedicated I am to my job but I’m really struggling to get by on just $11 an hour, which is too low for me to support my family. I’m about to be a dad and I want to be able to give the best to my child and my wife.”
WeWork would see its cleaning costs go up if CBM recognized the workers as 32BJ members. The janitors would be covered by an industry contract that includes starting pay of $18 an hour that goes up to $23.98 an hour for experienced cleaners. It also includes full family health care and retirement benefits.
“WeWork charges higher rents than building owners and tenants who already pay the union rate,” said 32BJ Vice President Shirley Aldebol. “We know WeWork can absorb slightly higher cleaning costs without much impact but the higher pay and benefits will have a huge impact on the cleaners and their families. We’re calling on WeWork to act like the community-oriented, empathetic company it says it is.”
With more than 145,000 members including 70,000 in New York City, 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country.