SEIU Members Rally, Demand Reinstatement of Fired Janitors at Office Building

In the commercial janitorial industry buildings change contractors frequently and profit margins can be tight for employers as global real estate titans seek ways to trim costs. Last week the Catholic Labor Network supported janitors in Northern Virginia fighting to get their jobs back after a new contractor took over the contract and promptly fired the union workforce in order to bring in cheaper replacements.

SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Local 32BJ represents is a massive union representing janitors up and down the East Coast. In some markets such as Boston, New York, and Washington, DC, they represent more than 90% of commercial building janitors, enabling them to negotiate family-supporting wages and benefits. But often in the adjoining suburbs such as Northern Virginia much of the workforce remains unorganized, and union contractors face heavy pressure from nonunion competitors. It’s not unusual for a nonunion firm employing a part-time workforce to win work away from union firms taking a high-road labor approach, creating a race to the bottom.

That’s exactly what happened recently at 1950 Old Gallows Road in Vienna, Virginia. A large nonunion contractor, K&S, took over the cleaning contract from a union firm and immediately fired the existing cleaning staff. K&S has a history of labor problems – in 2019 the company was fined $1500 for firing workers who tried to organize and join the union. Other K&S workers have reported excessive workloads and late paychecks.

During the rally, union members demanded that K&S reinstate the fired workers and join the union’s master contract. After picketing the building, activists went to the K&S offices to deliver a petition but were blocked from meeting with management. The local plans to continue pressing the company to improve the treatment of their employees.

6 replies
  1. James A Young
    James A Young says:

    I’m not sure how confident anyone could feel as they took a job on Old Gallows Road, but the real rub lay in the pathetically trivial $1500 fine levied against the employer later on, which should have been underlined in your piece. Much to be done!

    Reply
  2. RICHARD PENA
    RICHARD PENA says:

    TIME TO STOP…….K&S A COMPANY WITH LABOR PROBLEM…..JUST BOYCOTTED THE COMPANY LIKE K&S AND OTHERS……SEIU SENT THE MORE PEOPLE TO STOP ACTION…RICHARD PENA , SEIU MEMBER OF TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO.

    Reply
  3. Helen Deines
    Helen Deines says:

    Where are the Northern Virginia parishes in this ongoing problem? What a perfect example for discussing how Fratelli Tutti applies in their local communities! Francis writes about how people at the margins need to come together to promote their common interests. I am currently in a zoom study group of 200+ led by a Louisville priest. Certainly there is such justice focused leadership in the DC/Northern Virginia communities.

    Reply
    • Clayton Sinyai
      Clayton Sinyai says:

      The workers involved have done a lot of community outreach, including visits with multiple Northern Virginia priests. You may soon see some of them participate in a delegation to the GMU administration!

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *