Cleaners at WeWork offices in Manhattan who joined a union have lost their jobs, according to the union representing the workers. The union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board for unfair labor practices, alleging that the cleaners lost their jobs directly because they support the union.
Rachel Cohen, a spokesperson for the union which represents building workers in New York, SEIU 32 BJ, said around 100 workers at different WeWork locations across New York City found that they were locked out of their offices when they arrived at work yesterday morning.
The cleaners joined the union around June this year because they were being payed $10 per hour, well below the $17.99–$23.98 per hour that unionized cleaners make, with no benefits, according to Cohen.
Soon after the cleaning staff announced that they wanted to unionize, Commercial Building Maintenance Corp. (CBM), the company that WeWork contracted the cleaners through, said workers' contracts would be terminated Aug. 21.
In a letter sent to Fusion this morning, WeWork said they were announcing some "exciting changes" in their New York City offices. The letter said:
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. We are in the process of interviewing all of the former CBM employees that have applied for open positions, and many have already been hired in these new roles.
A statement on the company's website outlines that the new contracts offer workers wages of $15–$18 per hour (still less than what unionized workers make, according to SEIU 32 BJ), health insurance, 401K plans, and equity in the company.
Although the unionized workers were able to apply for the new jobs, only a small number were offered positions: Fifteen of the 129 workers originally employed WeWork have been re-hired, with another 25 spots available.
Some cleaners told DNAInfo that they applied for jobs but still hadn't heard anything by the time they were locked out of their offices this week.
"I worked there for a long time," cleaner Maria Sdewald told the site. "I don't know what else to do. I'm still hoping they'll call."
But the company says they will give all the cleaners a fair chance to re-apply for jobs, and will eventually interview all former CBM workers who applied.
"WeWork has interviewed or will interview every CBM employee who applies for one of our new jobs. We hired the best candidates, period. Any suggestion that engaging in union activity hurt applicants is patently false," a WeWork spokesperson told Fusion in a statement today.
Cohen said that in New York City cleaners usually stay with the buildings they work in even if contractors change.
"The cleaners are connected to the job and the building, not just the contractor," she said. "We believe that these cleaners should get these better cleaning jobs and they should get the union that they want, and they should actually get not just 15 an hour but what is the standard wage, the prevailing wage for cleaners in New York City, which starts at 18 an hour."
CBM did not respond to a request for comment.