“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.
Listen to sounds from today’s protest:
Watch the procession: