Janitors Face Poverty Wages As Back Bay Begins to Thrive

Yesterday, over a hundred community members, SEIU 615 members, and members of the Occupy Movement marched at 31 St. James Street.

Yesterday, over a hundred community members, SEIU 615 members, and members of the Occupy Movement marched at 31 St. James Street. On Friday, janitors who have worked for years at 31 St. James Street are being displaced by no fault of their own.

Capitol Properties has decided to hire an irresponsible contractor at 31 St. James Street that pays poverty wages with little or no benefits. The corporate real estate industry owns office buildings across the country and has amassed billions of dollars in cash that could be used to create jobs and raise wages and benefits for workers who clean our buildings. Richard Cohen is the CEO of Capitol Properties. Capital recently bought the Chatam Bars Inn on Cape Cod. They own office and residential properties in several estates. Despite all of this success, they are making the choice to lower standards for contracted workers in Back Bay.

Meanwhile, Rosa Garcia, a janitor at 31 St. James, is at risk of losing her only income for the six grandchildren for whom she is the legal guardian and breadwinner. “I love my children. I am the only mother they have, and I worry about them and providing for them. I hope that the building owners and people responsible for the decision of our jobs will think of us, people who have nothing. If they could take a moment and walk in our shoes, and let us keep what little we have, it would mean a lot,” she said.

Over the past several years, the janitorial industry as a whole, including workers, cleaning contractors, building owners, elected leaders, and the Boston community at large- have come together to ensure that Boston is lifting the standards of the janitorial industry. We are doing our part to make this economy work- now it’s time for the real estate industry to do its part-by creating good jobs and investing in our communities.

Back Bay office rents are some of the highest in the nation, and rents have risen between 7 and 10% in Back Bay over the last year. Trends show Back Bay’s vacancy rate going down, and rents going up, meaning that building owners in Back Bay are doing very well. However, janitors like Rosa are at risk to lose everything.

 Community members, members of Occupy Boston, and janitors expressed their concern in front of 31 St. James and vowed to return over the next two days.

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Kasey Hariman May 10, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Thanks for this great post, Sarah! I especially love the portrait of Heleodora and the image of the giant puppet.
John Keith May 11, 2012 at 04:38 AM
Great story, seems as though everyone needs to get together to figure out a solution. I think this column should give a byline to the writer - Sarah, you work for the SEIU-615, don't you? I think you should declare that. Otherwise people who come to this page will think this is a "news" story, written by a reporter. Do you agree?
Sarah Betancourt May 11, 2012 at 06:36 PM
My profile states that I work at SEIU Local 615. Just click on the author profile.
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