United States: Feds force sacking of unionised, migrant janitors

ABM janitors protest their sacking. Photo by David Bacon

Federal immigration authorities have pressured one of San Francisco’s major building service companies, ABM, into firing hundreds of its own workers.

Some 475 janitors have been told that unless they can show legal immigration status, they will lose their jobs in the near future.

ABM has been a union company for decades, and many of the workers have been there for years. Olga Miranda, president of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 87, said: “They’ve been working in the buildings downtown for 15, 20, some as many as 27 years.

“They've built homes. They’ve provided for their families. They've sent their kids to college.”

Nevertheless, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security has told ABM that they have flagged the personnel records of those workers.

Weeks ago, ICE agents sifted through social security records and the I-9 immigration forms all workers have to fill out when they apply for jobs. They then told ABM that the company had to fire 475 workers who were accused of lacking legal immigration status.

ABM is one of the largest building service companies in the country, and it appears that unionised janitorial companies are the targets of the Obama administration's immigration enforcement program.

“Homeland Security is going after employers that are union”, Miranda said. “They’re going after employers that give benefits and are paying above the average.”

In October, 1200 janitors working for ABM were fired in similar circumstances in Minneapolis. In November, more than 100 janitors working for Seattle Building Maintenance lost their jobs.

Minneapolis janitors belong to SEIU Local 26, Seattle janitors to Local 6 and San Francisco janitors to Local 87.

ICE Director John Morton said the agency is auditing the records of 1654 companies nationwide.

“What kind of economic recovery goes with firing thousands of workers?” Miranda asked. “Why don’t they target employers who are not paying taxes, who are not obeying safety or labour laws?”

[Abridged from ZNet.]