Mourning Job Loss

By , December 8, 2011 4:59 pm

“We been there all this time and they kicked us right out the door,” said Eddie Williams, a 20-year employee of Capitol Cleaners who has spent eighteen of those years working inside of the Hartford Courant building.

Williams is one of the janitors whose last day of work will be this Friday, due to the lost contract.

Razmik Hovannis and Anna Hit — also cleaning staff at the Courant and members of SEIU 32BJ — looked grim about their futures. Hovannis has worked ten years in the building and has been employed with Capitol Cleaners for 20 years; Hit has been with them for nine.

Although not ideal, the next move has been to try to secure their jobs at the building by applying for work with Pressroom Cleaners, the new cleaning contractor. Wojciech Pirog, a union delegate and representative for members employed by Capitol Cleaners, says the janitors have applied for work with with the new company, but have so far heard nothing.

Despite the major cut in pay, loss of health care, and pension, they want the work. Staying on with Capitol Cleaners at other job sites is impractical, as it means trying to arrange transportation from Hartford and Wethersfield, where they live, to Wallingford.

The janitors have asked the public to call Pressroom Cleaners and request that they hire the cleaners who have been let go without any kind of severance package.

Pirog described the Courant as being “the epitome of corporate greed,” explaining that while they are paying “lawyers $900 an hour for the bankruptcy thing,” and “taking money for the CEOs,” they are willing to “fire the people with the least power in the building.”

A mock New Orleans-style jazz funeral marked the loss of janitors’ jobs. Beginning at the First Presbyterian Church on Capitol Avenue, the procession, including a casket and pallbearers, made its way to the Hartford Courant building on Broad Street. Local musician, Mixashawn, on saxophone, played “When the Saints Go Marching In” along the route.

They joined members of SEIU 32BJ who were already standing in protest in front of the building. As they rallied, a “minister” eulogized the lost jobs and condemned corporate greed.

Assuming nothing changes over the next few days, Pirog said that they, the union, will be out in front of the building on Monday, making noise.

A message distributed by the Hartford Organizing Group

A message distributed by the Hartford Organizing Group

Listen to sounds from today’s protest:

Jazz Funeral for Janitors’ Jobs by realhartford

Watch the procession:

For more photos, see my Photobucket page.

5 Responses to “Mourning Job Loss”

  1. Luis says:

    Great job! Love the use of Images, Sound and Video!! (I know how much you love double exclamations:)

  2. Joanna says:

    A friend of mine just lost his job as security site manager for a company because the company he works for lost the contract. He was working there for 11 years, and although his company promised he would be placed elsewhere, that never happened. Instead his job just disappeared, as did the jobs of all the security guards who worked under his supervision. The difference is that they were not unionized employees, and had no one to fight for them or protest the company that decided to go with a new contractor.

    Here is the thing though… any company that hires contractors for cleaning, security, etc, is going to go for the company that offers them the most service for the least money. So, perhaps Capitol Cleaners should also hold some of the responsibility. Because I am sure that if their bid for the work was higher than that of the new company hired, there could have been room to lower their bid a bit by accepting a slightly lower profit while maintaining employees salaries and benefits.

    I am not too impressed by unions, particularly given their racist history and origins. And, of course, their “save the middle class” rhetoric. It is a shame that these people lost their jobs, and there is a hell of a lot of greed involved, and NOT just from the Courant.

    • Richard says:

      Kerri
      Thanks for a job well done as always.

      Joanna here are a few facts for you to consider. The Courant or Tribune companies set the maxium bid for all contactors very low. This in turn shut out any company who has decent health benifits, wages, and paid holidays via the union. In other words it effectively shut out any union contractors to the point where they would be operating at a loss in that facility. Now some won’t believe this but the profit margin of the cleaning companies is very low, like wise the Security industry compared to other companies.

      Capitol Cleaners is a union company the new company Pressroom Cleaners is not. This means any people hired will get minimum wage $8.25 and hour, no health care, and no paid holiday. While a unionized janitor makes about $13.50 per hour, has good free health care including family benifits, (paid for by the employers, greedy folks come on Joanna?), and paid holidays. Plus the added benifit of job retention when there are contractor changes as long as its a union company signing the agreement. So I gotta say I’m sticking with the union regardless. I think anyone is their right mind would. It has been a long hard fight to get to where the janitors are today, I know I was there.

      So let’s see where is the greed I have got to say as a person who was a cleaner for years, and whose partner is still a cleaner that any greed in this case falls squarely on the shoulders of the Hartford Courant.

      Its too bad about your friend. But there is a light in that darkness. 32BJ has been organizing the Security industry and has met with much success. They now are organizing state employees in CT. and hopefully in the near future will begin with others in the force. As you know I am sure, the secutity industry is no longer made up of white redneck men, but is another group of workers like the cleaners for whom diversity is not just a word but a workers lifestyle while on the job. With 11 years experience he should begin to apply at other companies. If he is any good and has something to back him up he will be snapped up right away. What company did he work for?

      Many of us too as annoyed by the save the middle class rhetoric and by the zombie slogan “We are the 99% but remember many of the folks who today are in 32BJ live very close to the poverty line or came from living in poverty. Many are immigrants who want to move up the ladder. I am not excusing this, saying it is right nor am I hoping that the bourgeois grow their army, but to think that these folks shouldn’t participate in what the system is now and offers to struggling folks no matter what the intelligentsia on the left think is classist in my book. Oh what will the working poor do while waiting for the revolution? Will the 99% even save themselves?

  3. [...] has done a great job in reporting about the event. Check out her report. Keri begins her piece, Mourning Job Loss with a statement by  Eddie Williams an employee soon to lose his [...]

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