Improved law would further prevent the unfair displacement of longtime workers by low-road contractors
WHITE PLAINS, NY – On Monday afternoon at 3:30, members of the Westchester Board of Legislators will join workers and union leaders to announce proposed changes that would close loopholes in the county’s Displaced Service Employees Protection Law. First passed in 2013, the law was intended to correct a jarring inequity for workers who clean, secure and maintain office towers, malls and other commercial buildings. As employees of cleaning contractors, these workers are subject to sudden job loss when a property owner replaces one contractor with another. The law helps mitigate that unexpected loss by providing a temporary, 60-day period of job protection. The original law closely mirrored similar laws in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Montgomery County, Maryland.
The proposed changes would address problems of transparency and fairness, and close loopholes that allow some employers to skirt the law. For example, the current law states that contractors must employ at least 15 service workers to qualify for coverage – a number often far below the number of workers needed to clean a medium-sized office building, thereby allowing some employers to avoid the law.
“The county’s displaced worker law created an important cushion so that janitors, security officers and others who live on modest paychecks wouldn’t suddenly find themselves unemployed,” said Lenore Friedlaender, Assistant to President of 32BJ SEIU and union leader in the Hudson Valley. “This important fix to the law would stop some employers from trying to evade their responsibility by creating tiny companies that can skirt under the threshold, and it would provide the clarity needed for good faith communication between the employees and employers. We are grateful that a bipartisan group of legislators is tackling this issue on the heels of our Justice for Janitor’s Day celebration in the Hudson Valley. We held that celebration in front of 1 & 3 Barker Street, a building where five longtime, hardworking women suddenly lost their jobs when low-wage Zobber Janitorial came into the building last fall.”
“I lost my job from one day to the next,” said Gabriela Silva, a former cleaner at 1 & 3 Barker Street. “I have rent to pay, children to support, and I depended on my paycheck. It was a shock to my family and we are still struggling.”
Legislator Kitley Covill, one of the primary co-sponsors of the changes, said, “The law has worked for the most part to protect workers and give them an avenue for redress when new employers fail to retain them, or give them the information that the law requires. However, loopholes in the law also have allowed projects to be divided so as to sidestep requirements under the current law. These changes we’re proposing will address that by lowering the threshold for covered contractors from 15 to 5 employees, and add other new protections to help Westchester’s working families.”
With 175,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 4,500 in Hudson Valley, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.
# # #
SOURCE: Frank Soults, 32BJ SEIU