Another group to clap for: Building service workers. Call Congress and demand they get the help they deserve.
A janitorial staff member wipes a railing at NorthPark Center mall on Friday, May 1, 2020 in Dallas, Texas.(Ryan Michalesko/AP)
There is no denying that it is the sacrifices of frontline essential workers that are keeping our city safe during this crisis. As many New Yorkers have sheltered at home, doing their part to break the chain of infection, others have continued risking their own health to keep needed services running. Every day, people recognize these workers in a variety of ways like cheering health-care workers, thanking letter carriers with notes and tipping food service workers generously. While these gestures represent the best in New Yorkers, some essential workers go unacknowledged and do not get the gratitude they deserve.
Although the work of some building service workers goes unrecognized, their contributions are no less valuable. Without the porters, cleaners, doormen and women and security officers who secure and sanitize our buildings, it would be virtually impossible to take the steps necessary to confront this virus in our city. They are there to make sure door handles are clean, trash goes out, buildings are secure and the plumbing keeps working as millions of New Yorkers shelter in place.
Today, Tuesday, these heroic women and men will get some of the recognition they deserve as we celebrate Essential Building Service Workers Appreciation Day and ask our fellow New Yorkers to call on Congress to provide the safeguards and protections they need to do their jobs safely.
New Yorkers can show their appreciation for workers like Ena Softley of East Flatbush, an office cleaner for over 25 years. Ena just recovered from a five-week battle with COVID-19. Nearly all of Ena’s coworkers have been laid off and she prays she will not be next so she can continue to pay her mortgage and help her family. Without her health-care coverage, made possible by her union contract, she would not have been able to visit the doctor and get the prescriptions she needed while she was sick with coronavirus. After doing her job heroically and sacrificing her health, Ena deserves better than a layoff notice.
We’re speaking out for all building service workers like Ena who have survived COVID-19 and the many who have not.
One in 100 New Yorkers is a member of union 32BJ SEIU and an essential building service worker keeping buildings clean and safe every day. To date, 90 of our members up and down the East Coast have lost their lives to COVID-19. Our members are mostly immigrants and people of color who live in some of New York’s hardest-hit neighborhoods. The outbreak is revealing a long-standing divide in our country between those who can work from home, afford to see a doctor and take sick days, and those who cannot. Every single person in the country — regardless of how old they are, the color of their skin, where they were born, or how much money they make — needs equal access to protection and to economic support during this pandemic.
We mourn the tragic loss of our members and all who have died from this virus. We will honor the memory of the members we lost by demanding employers and the federal government take measures to safeguard lives.
All essential workers should be supported and compensated for their sacrifice. That's why we're telling Congress it must ensure essential workers have full access to emergency relief like essential pay, layoff protection pay and personal protective equipment to avoid infection.
We’re calling on all New Yorkers to join us in a day of recognition for the often-unrecognized essential building service workers who have risen to this task with such dedication and care for our city. Hang a sign in your window, post a message of thanks on social media, tell your doorman you appreciate him, but most importantly, pick up the phone and tell your member of Congress to protect the health of essential building service workers and ensure they can take care of themselves and their families.