August 25, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, New York — About 50 fired WeWork contract cleaners marched on the company’s W. 18th Street headquarters on Monday night, denouncing the terminations and calling on the multi-billion dollar co-working company to hire back those left jobless.
The Latino workers, who are technically employees of an outfit called Commercial Business Maintenance [CBM], say that they showed up for work as usual on Monday morning, only to be told that they no longer had jobs cleaning WeWork’s co-working offices.
CBM terminated its contract with WeWork back in June, as cleaners — making as little as $10 an hour — fought for better wages and the right to form a union.
Earlier this month, the workers learned that they would have to satisfy an English language proficiency requirement before WeWork would consider hiring them back directly.
But, it turns out that the 120 or so CBM contractors left jobless might never even have had a chance to save their jobs since WeWork had already started replacing them months ago.
In a letter sent out subsequent to last night’s demonstration, WeWork managers explained: “For many months we have been evaluating the best way to integrate services previously performed by a contractor, Commercial Business Maintenance (CBM). CBM terminated their contract with us on June 25th and those contracts contained restrictions on our ability to recruit and hire the CBM employees. CBM released us from our contractual restrictions on July 31st.”
Despite WeWork’s insistence that it is in the process of interviewing all former CBM contract employees for open positions, the company reportedly only has 25 spots left to fill, while only about a dozen CBM contract employees have been successfully hired back.
“It is unacceptable for them not to hire you back and pay you a decent living wage so that you can support your families,” Councilmember Margaret Chin [D-1st District] told workers at Monday night’s rally. “They are a new economy — so what? If you are doing business in New York City, you have to pay our workers fairly. If not, [they’re] not welcome. They have to hire all of you back.”
WeWork has 17 co-working locations throughout the city — seven of them in Concilmember Chin’s Manhattan district. WeWork also has a presence in other major cities around the U.S., including Boston where workers rallied for better wages and benefits earlier this month. The company enjoys locations in Israel, Britain and the Netherlands, as well.
In a curious twist, WeWork in NYC will reportedly now begin providing English language tutors to those staffers needing to brush up on their communication skills.
All along, the union representing CBM contract employees, has maintained that in addition to being discriminatory, WeWork’s English sudden English language requirement was just a way to weed out workers who have spent months fighting for better wages and the right to organize.
Yesterday, 32BJ SEIU filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board.
“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 among the many to learn she no longer had a job this week. “When we asked the community manager about getting hired for the new jobs she strongly encouraged us to ask for our union cards back.”
State Senator Dan Squadron [D-26th District] and Deputy Manhattan Borough President Aldrin Bonilla also joined Councilmember Chin in blasting WeWork, and calling on the company to hire back the CBM contractors.
“I kind of like the idea of what WeWork does,” the state senator said. “I kind of like the innovation. But there’s nothing innovative about working with a contractor that does not pay living wages. And there’s nothing innovative about preventing people from getting rehired for their jobs and getting a fair wage.”
Bonilla stressed the need for workplace justice.
“What [WeWork] needs to understand is that worker justice is what innovation looks like publicly.,” he said. “Without worker justice, you cannot open shop in this city and think that you’re going to prosper.”