Wilmington, DE – Last night, Wilmington City Council members passed a new resolution that urges top commercial building owners to follow the vast majority of owners who create good jobs by hiring responsible cleaning contractors. Two rounds of charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board against Optima Cleaning Systems, which pays cleaners in Wilmington as little as $7.50 per hour, without meaningful benefits.
“I am asking Companies in the City of Wilmington to be as charitable with their workers as they are with nonprofit organizations,” said the bill’s sponsor, At-Large Council Member Loretta Walsh. “These workers can barely sustain themselves let alone a family. Our companies need to step up to the plate and pay these workers a true living wage and benefits.”
Council Member Hanifa Shabazz co-sponsored the resolution which calls on M&T Bank, Pettinaro Enterprises, and Delle Donne & Associates to hire responsible contractors who provide family-sustaining wages with guaranteed access to quality affordable health care. These owners currently use Optima which pays wages such that cleaners may be eligible for taxpayer subsidized assistance such as food stamps. A recent Gallup poll found that almost a quarter of Delaware residents did not have enough money for food at some point in the last year—ranking it the third hungriest state in the nation.
The charges filed allege that Optima engaged in a discriminatory scheme by unilaterally transferring or threatening to transfer all former union employees at a Newark property to a building where the company lost the account. Prior charges alleged that the contractor refused to hire cleaners at the Christiana Corporate Center because of their support for 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union.
When Optima took over the cleaning contract at the Center on July 1st, the company refused to hire a majority of the incumbent cleaners, cut wages and eliminated most benefits for the workers who remained. 32BJ is asking for a 10(j) injunction in conjunction with the charge, asking the NLRB to seek a federal court injunction requiring Optima to preserve the pre-violation status quo while the unfair labor practice cases are proceeding.
“I have to work a second job and I still can’t make ends meet or support my family like I need to,” said Russell Marshall, a downtown cleaner and father of three. “I live paycheck to paycheck and can’t always provide things for my kids, like school. We work hard and all we are asking for is a fair raise or more hours to help us keep our heads above water.”
With more than 120,000 members in nine states, including 10,000 in Philadelphia and Delaware, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property services union in the country.