Union cleaners out, non-union in at 815

UPDATE 3:30 P.M. Statement from the Church Center

The Episcopal Church

Office of Public Affairs

[February 5, 2010] The following information is from Linda Watt, Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church:

Budget constraints have prompted The Episcopal Church to review all contracts and to implement cost-cutting measures where possible.

A major item in our facilities budget is the cleaning/housekeeping service that covers 815 Second Ave. in New York City, including the Ad Council and Episcopal Church associated agencies as well as DFMS offices. This line item was cut substantially in the budget.

A Request For Proposal (RFP) was issued as part of normal business operations. The RFP was issued to both union and non-union firms, including minority and women-owned businesses.

Following a thorough review of the proposals submitted, Benjamin Enterprises, a minority-owned firm, has been awarded a one-year contract for housekeeping services at The Episcopal Church Center effective January 4, 2010.

Business practices for Benjamin Enterprises are in line with the values, practices and priorities of The Episcopal Church, including a comprehensive compensation package, laudable employee relations practices, and the use of eco-friendly supplies. We look forward to working with their management and staff.

Linda Watt

Chief Operating Officer

The Episcopal Church

Nine workers at 815 (The Episcopal Church Center) found themselves abruptly without work on December 30 due to a “normal business procedure” and “budget constraints” according to Church Center public relations comments in the NY Daily News:

They worked for years cleaning and maintaining the Episcopal Church Center in midtown Manhattan. But after they were fired on Dec. 30, nine hard-working people are in desperate need of divine intervention.

“We came to work on Dec. 30 as every day, hoping to leave a little earlier to celebrate the new year,” said Bronx native Héctor Miranda, a father of three. “But when we got to the building we were told that we no longer worked there. Just like that. They picked the date well to fire us.”

Now, without the means to support his family, Miranda has no idea how he will pay the rent.

“Even worse,” he said, “without health coverage I don’t know how I am going to pay for my wife’s treatment. She is a diabetic, you know.”

The workers lost their jobs – which paid standard wages and benefits – when the church canceled the contract with Paris Maintenance, a union cleaning contractor, and replaced it with the nonunion Benjamin Enterprises.


“It needs to be clear that looking for a new contract is a normal business procedure,” said church spokeswoman Neva Rae Fox.

But a church is not supposed to be a business and Saavedra, the single mother of a 12-year-old daughter, said: “One would expect better from church people, one would expect them to be examples of fairness and kindness.”

For Alsaidy, an immigrant from Yemen and an American citizen, losing his job has been devastating. The father of six frets about losing the family’s health care coverage.

“I have to work to support my family,” said a desperate Alsaidy. If I cannot make the mortgage we could lose our house.”

Linda Watts, chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church, put out an official statement: “Budget constraints have prompted The Episcopal Church to review all contracts and to implement cost-cutting measures where possible,” she said.

No mention of the plight of the nine men and women thrown out to the streets or of lending them a helping hand.

Do as I say not as I do? Many Deputies and Bishops demonstrated in Anaheim against Disney during General Convention 2009.

General Convention 2006 passed this resolution:

Resolution Number: 2006-D047

Title: Support Worker Unions and a Living Wage

Legislative Action Taken: Concurred as Amended

Final Text:

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention support actively the right of workers to form a union, and increase the support in our cities and states for passage of “living wage” legislation; and be it further

Resolved, That the Convention commit the Church at all levels to contract solely with union hotels in its meetings, or to obtain confirmation that local prevailing “living wages” are paid by all hotels the Church uses; and be it further

Resolved, That the 75th General Convention strongly urge the Church Center staff and especially the General Convention Planning Office to assure that dioceses that host events of The Episcopal Church comply with GC2003-A130 and provide a living wage for their employees; and be it further

Resolved,That we commend to the Church at all levels the services of Informed Meetings Exchange (www.inmex.org), a new non-profit agency committed to helping organizations make informed decisions regarding convention and meeting planning.

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