Armed with flags and a bull horn on Wednesday, union members rallied outside the offices of the Hartford Courant for eight janitorial workers whose jobs are on the line if the newspaper declines to renew its contract their company.
The employees of Capitol Cleaning are concerned that the state’s largest newspaper will choose to hire non-unionized workers, leaving them out of a job as soon as Oct. 1.
According to Lievanna Gore, the Courant’s administrator of marketing and creative services, the contract ran out on June 1 and the company has been reviewing its options.
“The Courant has been actively soliciting and reviewing proposals from a number of janitorial services providers, including Capitol Cleaning. At this time we have not made a final decision on a new provider. In the interim Capitol Cleaning continues to provide office janitorial services at our facilities,” she said in a statement.
The paper will continue to communicate directly with the company’s president as it comes to a decisions, Gore said.
The workers gathered in Hartford Wednesday said they felt out of the loop and frustrated. Building cleaner Ramon Garcia said he felt like the company was giving him the run-around. He said he’d been working there for 15 years and suddenly he could be out of work by Monday.
“How am I going to pay my mortgage now?” he asked. “I’ve got a mortgage. I’ve got two kids, I’ve got two car payments. It gets rough.”
Garcia, a Hartford resident, said the move will likely take jobs from people in the city and give them to folks from other parts of the state who are willing to work for less money and benefits.
“You hear about [layoffs] all the time in the news but when it really hits home it’s ridiculous,” he said.
Wojciech Pirog, a field organizer for 32BJ SEIU, said when union workers lose their jobs it creates a spiral effect. If the Courant decides to go non-union to save money, other companies may look to do the same.
“If it happens here it’s going to hurt the whole community,” he said.
The newspaper, which is owned by Tribune Co., has been in bankruptcy for years and has made staffing cuts to its news department as recently as July.
Shouting into the bullhorn at the paper’s offices across the street, Pirog said that’s no excuse.
“The Hartford Courant has thrown away its longtime janitors like old newspapers in the recycling bin. We all know the Hartford Courant is financially bankrupt. But today we also know they are morally bankrupt also.”
At that point a Hartford police officer told Pirog that without a permit to use the bullhorn, he would have to stop. He continued shouting without one.