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Fired Twitter Janitors Demand Jobs Back as Union Files Unfair Labor Charges, Threatens to Sue

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A crowd of protesters and the mayor gather outside San Francisco City Hall
SF Mayor London Breed was joined by union leaders and local and state elected officials at a rally outside City Hall, after which the janitors marched to Twitter's office, where they placed plungers and mops marked with the hashtag #justiceforjanitors in front of the building, on Dec. 15, 2022. (Daisy Nguyen/KQED)

Mayor London Breed called on Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk on Thursday to rehire the 48 janitors recently fired from their jobs cleaning the company’s headquarters.

The janitors — mostly immigrants and women of color — lost their jobs without severance or much notification after Twitter cut its contract with Flagship, the janitorial company that employed them.

Breed said the city gave Twitter tax breaks when it set up shop in mid-Market in hopes of revitalizing the neighborhood, and she wants Musk to “respect the people who helped make your company what it is.”

She urged him to “be compassionate, to be understanding and to work with this community that has showed up for this company day in and day out … because they deserve more than being put out in the way that they were.”

Breed was joined by union leaders and local and state elected officials at a rally outside City Hall. The janitors then marched to Twitter’s office, where they placed plungers and mops marked with the hashtag #justiceforjanitors in front of the building.

The lawyer representing the janitors' union, SEIU Local 87, said she filed unfair labor practice charges against Twitter and the new, nonunion contractor that replaced Flagship earlier this week.

Men place plungers and mops outside a building in downtown San Francisco.
The janitors placed plungers and mops marked with the hashtag #justiceforjanitors in front of the building. (Daisy Nguyen/KQED)

Attorney EmilyRose Johns vowed to file lawsuits next week against the two companies, alleging they violated city and state laws that are meant to protect displaced workers.

Twitter and the new contractor, Cabalen MB Food Group, have not returned requests for comment.

The janitors say they’re left in limbo as the holidays approach.

“With less than two weeks before Christmas, we’re trying to figure out what’s the outlook for us as far as being able to put food on the table and what our Christmas is going to look like in comparison to his Christmas,” Carolina Ayala said about the billionaire entrepreneur.

Sui Bing Liao, 56, who has worked overnight cleaning Twitter’s office for the last 10 years, said she wasn’t sure how she was going to cover her December bills. Liao says she earns less than $14 per hour, which isn’t enough to live on in an expensive city like San Francisco, but the hours allow her to work a day job caring for older people.

“When Elon Musk took over and began letting people go, we were scared. My friends told me to start looking for another job but this all happened so fast I wasn’t prepared,” Liao said in Cantonese.

Reality hit her, she said, when she showed up to work one night and was turned away at the door.

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