FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Cleaners at the co-working space WeWork say they've been fighting for the right to unionize and earn higher pay — but their efforts have prompted WeWork management to threaten to fire them, SEIU 32BJ said Friday.
A WeWork executive who learned that the the co-working space’s cleaners were trying to organize a union threatened them and said they should all be fired, according to government filings.
32BJ filed an unfair labor practice charge after the executive made the comments in a meeting with their cleaning contractor, Commercial Building Maintenance Corp.
Workers said they were "a little scared" but "standing united."
"I can see that WeWork is a great company for the clients that work in the office," Saul Madera, who cleans the WeWork offices at 115 West 18th Street, said in a press release. "I would like WeWork to recognize how hard I work and how dedicated I am to my job but I'm really struggling to get by on just $11 an hour, which is too low for me to support my family.”
"This allegation is false," WeWork representatives said in a statement. "We absolutely did not and would not threaten the employment of anyone who works at one of our locations because of any union activity. Moreover, since all of these individuals are employees of our contractor, we do not even have the right to terminate their employment."
The company has not been notified of any charges from the National Labor Relations Board, officials added.
CBM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
If the janitors were to unionize, they would be covered by an industry contract with a starting pay of $18 an hour, up to $23.98 an hour for experienced cleaners, with benefits, union officials said.
"We know we have the right to fight for good jobs and we will stand united until we win the fair pay and benefits we deserve," Yosel Fernandez, a contracted cleaner at WeWork’s offices at 349 5th Avenue, said in a statement. "It is a little scary to know the company wants to fire us just for speaking up for our rights but we need higher pay so we can support our families."