Union janitors lose jobs at St. Louis office tower after building enters receivership

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THE FORMER EQUITABLE BUILDING at 10 S. Broadway in downtown St. Louis is home to tenants including law firm UB Greensfelder, architecture firm HOK and accounting firm KPMG. – Google Maps photo

By TIM ROWDEN
Editor-in-Chief

Fifteen janitors represented by Service Employees (SEIU) Local 1 are losing their jobs at a downtown St. Louis office tower after a non-union firm took over the contract for the work.

The janitors, who worked at 10 S. Broadway, formerly known as the Equitable Building, were told by security guards Feb. 7 they could no longer work there. The building’s property manager, Colliers International, decided to replace their employer, Platinum Cleaning & Facility Services, with non-union Buildingstars, based in Maryland Heights. Local 1 said Colliers had given no indication that the 15 union janitors would continue as Buildingstars employees.

Local 1 members, community allies and local elected officials rallied outside 10 S. Broadway on Feb. 8, calling out the lowering of standards for workers at there.

“I’ve dedicated my working life, since 1980, to cleaning and maintaining the Equitable Building,” said 79-year-old Janie McKinley, a janitor at the building. “My coworkers and I don’t deserve to be tossed out like trash under any circumstances. We’re not moving on without a fight.”

Last October, the owner of the 21-story office tower agreed to a takeover of the property by investors, via a receiver, following an alleged loan default, according to the St. Louis Business Journal.  St. Louis Circuit Court Judge Michael Stelzer appointed Gregg Williams of Newport Beach, California-based Trident Pacific Real Estate to act as receiver for 10 S. Broadway, with tenants including law firm UB Greensfelder, architecture firm HOK and accounting firm KPMG.

LOWERING STANDARDS ‘DESTROYING LIVELIHOODS’
Colliers, the Equitable Building property manager, recently decided to contract janitorial services with Buildingstars, a non-union cleaning company. As a result, the 15 professional cleaners with a combined 240 years of experience at Equitable Building are losing their livelihoods.

Chris Rak, SEIU Local 1 director for Missouri and southern Illinois, said a Colliers senior property manager told him that the decision to replace Platinum with Buildingstars was made based on a lack of performance and in an effort to improve standards for tenants.

Rak strongly disagreed with that explanation.

“Trident and Colliers are cutting costs on the backs of workers, and throwing away decades of experience in the process,” Rak said. “Saving a little money on their janitorial services likely means reduced services for tenants while destroying the livelihoods of working families.” 


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