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Fired WeWork Cleaners Find Support at Picket Lines

By Gwynne Hogan | August 28, 2015 11:02am
 A group of workers who lost their cleaning jobs at WeWork on Monday picketed the company's headquarters on Thursday.
A group of workers who lost their cleaning jobs at WeWork on Monday picketed the company's headquarters on Thursday.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

CHELSEA — Users of WeWork's co-working space on 115 W. 18th Street were met with a picket line of two dozen cleaners when they arrived to work Thursday.

As they passed the former employees who lost their jobs earlier this week, reportedly for attempting to unionize, many expressed concern about what had happened to them and said they were disappointed with how WeWork handled the situation.

"This challenges the WeWork community ethic," said Jordan Baram, 33, co-founder of Dipjar that makes a gadget so you can tip using credit cards and has used the WeWork's space for a year. 

"I'm disappointed in WeWork, that they couldn't do better with this."

Since losing their jobs on Monday, cleaners have visited several WeWork sites handing out fliers explaining why they were no longer cleaning buildings.

"I miss you, I miss you," Luz Collantes, 59, said workers outside of the Madison Avenue building told her when she saw them Wednesday. Collantes had worked there for a year, she said.

The cleaners' contract expired on Sunday. It had been suddenly canceled by the company that employed them, Commercial Business Maintenance, just a few weeks after workers announced they were going to unionize.

WeWork said earlier this month that it would be hiring around 100 new cleaners directly, offering higher wages, benefits, a 401k and equity in the company. English tutors would be provided for those who needed them, a spokeswoman said. Former cleaners were invited to apply.

A listing for the job said the applicants should be "grateful."

A spokesman for WeWork said that the company was hiring 95 full-time positions and still has 25 left to fill as of Thursday.

"WeWork has interviewed or will interview every CBM employee who applies for one of our new jobs," she said. "We hire the best candidates, period."

The company would not say how many CBM employees it had interviewed, but said that 15 of the 129 original workers had been rehired. Most of the workers that a DNAinfo reporter spoke with had not had interviews with the company.

Even on Friday, days before their contract expired, cleaners still did not know what their fate would be.

"We're in limbo," said Carlos Angulo, 26, in Spanish, who worked as a cleaner at WeWork for the past two years. "No one was dignified enough to tell us what [was going on]. They never told us anything."

Many showed up to work on Monday only to find that their building IDs no longer let them in.

"This is just insane," said one woman who said she worked at the 18th Street WeWork offices for several months, but declined to give her name. 

"We're used to seeing them. They do good work. There was no reason to fire them."

"Nobody likes this," she added. 


#wework cleaners who recently lost their jobs take to headquarters handing out fliers about what happened.

A video posted by Gwynne Hogan (@fritsyg) on

Several people who work in the WeWork space on 18th Street said they were concerned by what had happened and had signed a petition sent to WeWork management.

Some had posted on an internal message board and others had taken piles of fliers from the cleaners and left them in communal spaces.

"You don't want an underclass, that's terrible" said Noah Pryor, 25, who works for Fedora. He described the situation as a "dystopian, two-tiered society."

Baram, of Dipjar, said he had gotten close to the woman who cleaned his office, who he said always asked about his wife while she was pregnant. 

"For her to be let go is really, really shi**y," he said. "I don't buy the fact that they were qualified workers on Friday and on Monday they weren't."

Baram said he was happy that new employees would be offered benefits and better wages but that he thought those jobs should have been offered to CBM employees first.

"They were a very important fixture [of the community]," he said.