RESPECT + CONNECT MEETINGS HELP BUILD A HEALTHY WORKPLACE
After tensions over COVID safety and other issues at ERMC, cabin cleaners and management came together to hold the first of a series of informal meetings they hope will build trust and a healthier working environment. Called “Respect +Connect Meetings,” these talks between coworkers and managment aim to solve problems before they turn into crises.
“We started this meeting to build the relationship between workers and management so we can understand each other. We’re asking to be respected—no matter who you are or where you come from. We are a multicultural workforce and many of us speak English as a second language. The key is communication and respect.”
Want to start a Connect + Respect meeting at your airport worksite? Call Marilyn Coronell at 206-448- 7348 ext 324.
COVID safety measures were so inadequate for some Sea-Tac cabin cleaners that they had to do something. Workers faced crowded vans, crowded breakrooms, and company secrecy surrounding positive COVID cases.
After uniting around these issues and holding labor management meetings, cabin cleaners have been able to push the companies to adopt stronger worker protections. Workers speaking out played a major role, breaking the story in our newsletter, on social media, in the news and even before Congress. Selam Andarge deserves respect for testifying about her working conditions to the United States House Ways and Means Committe. Likewise, Sadia Bultum (pictured above), spoke out to CNN Travel.
“We need rules,” Bultum told CNN. “Like, avoid close contact employee-to- employee. Respect the rule of 6ft distance. Let the employees know if we’re exposed so we can quarantine. Keep the breakroom clean and our areas clean and disinfected.”
The barbers at JBLM had long enjoyed good contracts with strong union rights. That changed 2 1/2 years ago, when their contract was taken over by a new company. The new boss cut their pay, eliminated their credit card tips, and tried to pit them against each other—all to break their union.
“He came in here with an iron fist,” said Batista. “He had the military police called on us twice in one week, accused us of stealing. It was so stressful. I had a panic attack and had to go to the hospital. My husband and my children are all military. They told me to quit my job. But I couldn’t let someone wreck our lives like that.”
“When he cut our pay, some barbers lost their homes. We fought as a union and won the money back. But in 6 months, he ruined some people’s lives,” said Mamerto.
But the barbers were relentless, tenacious—and united. Our union filed dozens of NLRB charges until the employer finally lost the contract, and a new employer took over. Now the barbers are negotiating a contract that will secure their fair pay and the respect they deserve.
“It’s like people say, United We Stand, Divided We Fall. Support your coworkers and know that your union is your backbone. Don’t ever think, ‘Oh I’m poor, my family is poor,’ or you will stay at the bottom for life. If you have the support of your family and friends, you can change the world,” said Batista.
Back in 2018, SEIU6 janitors spoke
out in Olympia and in the media
to draw attention to the issue of
unmanageable workloads in janitorial. Lawmakers listened, and now L & I is conducting a janitorial workload study.
The next phase of the study is a statewide survey. All janitors should watch their mail for a letter from SHARP with a PIN#. Be sure to keep this PIN—it will allow you to take the survey, either on paper or online.
Janitors who fill out and send in their surveys will get a $15 gift card.
The more we speak up about workload, the stronger our chances of making a change.
Questions about the workload study? Call Matt at 800 2387348 0r 2064487348 ext 307
Valdez: I heard about it from an SEIU email.
SEIU6: What are you studying in college?
Valdez: Business Administration with a focus on Information Systems. I’d like to become an IT specialist.
SEIU6: What’s it like taking all your classes online?
Valdez: The classes can be rigorous and you have to motivate yourself. It’s more interactive than you’d think. People want to help each other, so it’s easy to make study buddies. It’s mainly adult learners who are changing careers.
SEIU6: Is it hard balancing work and college?
Valdez: It’s made me a better officer because I have to manage my time carefully. It’s made me sharpen my skills and my focus, and figure out what works for my learning style.
SEIU6: How was the application process?
Valdez: Easy. I hadn’t filled out a FAFSA in a long time, but it wasn’t hard. Once my paperwork was submitted, the program administrators were quick to reach out to me and they’ve been very helpful and supportive. You get the feeling that the folks behind the SEIU Free College Program really want you to succeed.