The janitors say most of them lost their jobs and others lost most of their income in the city's recent switch to a non-union janitor service. About a dozen janitors held a small protest in front of City Hall on Thursday.
Just over a dozen workers held up banners that said, "Respect our contract" and "What do we want? Affordable healthcare." They urged the city to find a union janitorial service that could rehire them.
The SEIU-represented employees say that the city terminated its agreement with their company, GCR, when it refused to pay for increased benefit costs in a new contract. The city then temporarily hired a non-union janitor service, which, by law, was supposed to rehire all the janitors, said Rafael Ramos, internal organizer for the SEIU.
Instead, only five of the 14 were hired, Ramos said. One worker said his hours were cut from 40 hours a week to 12, his pay cut from $13.70 an hour to $9.25, and all health care, seniority, vacation and sick leave benefits were lost.
"The new company, they don't have anything," the worker said as Ramos interpreted. "Just $9.25 an hour — that's it."
City officials had a different take, pointing the finger at the janitor's employer, GCR, for giving up on contract negotiations and issuing a 10-day notice to the city to find a new janitorial service provider.
"After many months of negotiating, GCA issued a cancellation notice with 10 days' notice to the City," said Kimberly Thomas, assistant to the city manager, in an email. "The city had to secure temporary services in the interim with IMS until it bids for a new provider. Second, because GCA terminated janitorial services to the city (with 10-days' notice), the Janitorial Displacement Act does not apply. The City still took multiple measures to provide an opportunity for the temporary vendor, IMS Janitorial, to consider GCA employees for employment."
Thomas stressed that the IMS contract is a temporary one until a new janitorial service provider could be found.
A city employee walking by said he knew some of the janitors and said felt bad for them, particularly the ones who had learned the city well and went above and beyond their duties as janitors.
"It's a bad time of year, it's terrible, with the holidays and Thanksgiving coming up," the employee said.