NLRB upholds decision to pay wrongfully terminated janitors

Stephon Johnson | 5/12/2016, 5:57 p.m.
The National Labor Relations Board upheld a previous decision requiring Eastern Essential Services to pay janitors for lost wages and ...
Janitor Pixabay

The National Labor Relations Board upheld a previous decision requiring Eastern Essential Services to pay janitors for lost wages and benefits.

In 2014, 36 janitors lost their jobs when a new contractor, EES, refused to hire them because of their union affiliation (32BJ SEIU). Their union then filed a complaint with Administrative Law Judge Steven Davis, who ruled that EES broke the law and ordered EES to offer the workers their jobs back with retroactive pay.

“This is about justice,” said 32BJ SEIU Vice President and New Jersey State Director Kevin Brown. “For 15 months, the janitors struggled to pay their bills when they were illegally terminated because of their union affiliation. These men and women suffered and so did their families. Eastern Essential Services should be held accountable and pay the janitors for their lost wages and benefits.

“And EES must remedy its illegally slashing wages and benefits for the workers it employed in these buildings. Furthermore, this case should serve as a lesson to irresponsible contractors that there could be a hefty price to pay if you break the law and engage in union busting.”

According to 32BJ officials, back pay could total between $500,000 and $1 million. But NLRB hasn’t yet calculated the amount of back pay.

Workers returned to their jobs last September at buildings such as One Meadowlands Plaza in East Rutherford, 120 Mountainview Boulevard in Bernards Township and 300 Lighting Way in Secaucus.

Marie de la Torre, an office cleaner, said that all the effort that she and other workers put into securing these jobs has been worth it.

“This decision is so gratifying because we fought so hard to right this wrong,” said de la Torre in a statement. “We marched, rallied and protested in the heat, rain and snow for more than a year to make our voices heard. And now it’s clear that our fight wasn’t in vain. The NLRB decision is further proof that when workers stand up for their rights, they can win.”

It’s unclear if EES will appeal or choose to settle this case.