New York – Less than two months after the contracted cleaners at WeWork’s NYC offices started a campaign for better pay and benefits, WeWork has announced it will employ its janitors directly and provide a slight increase in pay and some benefits. But there’s one catch: they have to be “fluent” in English.
The current cleaners, who launched the campaign for good jobs are almost entirely Latino immigrants whose first language is Spanish. Their English skills vary, but many fear they will not meet the standard for fluency that is included in the new job description for a “Community Service Associate.”
Some of the cleaners who could lose their jobs have been cleaning WeWork for almost 2 years. English was never a requirement.
“I’ve had my job at WeWork for a year and speaking English has never been required,” said Filomena Santelises. “I’ve worked hard and never had a problem but now I’m worried that I’ll lose my job based on this new requirement.”
The cleaners, who are currently employed by contracting company Commercial Building Maintenance (CBM) were all hired without any test of English fluency. They have been fighting to raise their wages, as they make as little as $10 an hour, which is less than half the industry standard. They were also concerned about keeping their jobs after they found out that CBM had terminated its contract effective August 23rd.
Now the news that an English test may be part of the application process to stay in their positions has many of the cleaners nervous.
“It seems completely unfair to require me to pass an English test to keep doing a job that I have been doing,” said Griselda Ferrer. “I can’t afford to lose this position.”
32BJ, which has been working with the cleaners in their fight for good jobs, said it will help cleaners who are not fluent in English pursue their legal options to remain in their jobs.
“Adding English fluency in the requirements for a job that never required it before is discriminatory,” said 32BJ Vice President Shirley Aldebol. “It appears that WeWork only wants to welcome you into their community if you speak English.”
While the Community Services Associate position requires English fluency, the description for the higher position of Community Services Lead does not include that requirement.
Click here to read WeWork’s letter to 32BJ about its plans to employ the cleaners: https://buildingworkers.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/WeWorkLettertoShirley.pdf
WeWork’s Community Services Associate job description: https://buildingworkers.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/JD_Community-Service-Associate.pdf
WeWork’s Community Services Lead job description: https://buildingworkers.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/JD_Community-Service-Lead.pdf