Southeast Financial Center Janitors Protest for Unpaid Wages

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photo by Marc Averette via Wikimedia Commons

Most days, Juana Reyes stays past 10 pm to pick up the half-eaten lunches and crumpled printouts left behind by bankers and traders at the Southeast Financial Center, which houses heavy hitters like Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. But for the last four years, the 60-year-old Nicaragua native says she and her coworkers have been stiffed on overtime.

The janitors staged a protest at the building this afternoon to demand back pay. "We are being cheated," Reyes tells Riptide.

Reyes says she's personally owed more than $2,000 in unpaid wages.

"I only make $12,000 a year so that is more than it might seem to many people," she says.

The janitors' protest was staged with the help of the Services Employees International Union (SEIU), the labor giant that is trying to organize the building's staffers. The group's Florida director, Eric Brakken calls the allegedly unpaid work "exploitation" and "wage theft."

City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado appeared at the protest to speak in support of the workers.

"This group of people is the landscape of Miami," he tells Riptide. "They are Cuban-Americans, African-Americas, Haitians, some Central Americans. They are what Miami is. I think it is only fair that if they work and did the time that they get paid."

Jantrex Building Services didn't answer Riptide's calls seeking comment on the protest.The owners of the Southeast Financial Center declined to comment.

Reyes has been picking up garbage and dusting at the building for 16 years, but says she only started having problems four years ago when Jantrex became her new boss. Now she's unable to pay bills from recent colon and gall bladder surgery and to support her four children in Nicaragua and in Miami.

"The money is ours," Reyes said. "Not theirs. We earned it."

SEIU plans to help the workers file a legal claim later this week, Brakken says.

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This is a very scary but all too frequent practice of these low pay, no or low-benefit cleaning companies. They bargain low-bid contracts below the costs to actually clean the building, then make a profit by cheating the workers out of their pay. Since the workers many times are fearful or unable to risk making trouble by demanding pay for hours worked, the company gets away with paying below minimum wage. If  not represented by a union, most workers just quit after weeks of working without wages. It's a great scam. I personally witnessed this from a company contracted to clean a hospital. One worker clocked 80 hours over 2 weeks and was paid for 3 hours. No overtime was ever paid. Because the workers had a union, a company rep and the union rep had to correct the checks every payday for a year. The company wasn't used to having any oversight and eventually did not renew their contract since they had to pay the workers. Governor Scott and the Republican majority legislature tried to pass a law to prevent local municipalities from having wage-theft laws. So nice they are looking out for the workers who make $12,000 a year and get robbed of $2000 by a corporation.


The Is Wrong In So Many Way People Work Hard For Penny's. No Benefits. And Then You Take Away Their Overtime! YOUR Building Is Clean Everyday

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