STAMFORD, CT-An official with W&M Properties denies charges leveled against the commercial building owner by officials with the striking janitorial union Local 531 that it illegally fired one of it workers and threatened other employees who were talking with a striking union worker at another commercial building here. The illegal firing and threats allegedly took place at W&M Properties’ Metro Center office building Downtown that caused several W&M employees to walk off their jobs on Thursday, according to Cynthia Kain, a spokesperson for the Service Employees International Union in Washington, DC.

The union released a statement on Friday, Oct. 18 stating that the fired W&M worker “lost his job two days after talking with a union organizer.” The statement continued, “Other workers were threatened with firing by a supervisor after she saw them speaking with organizers and a striker from another building.”

Jeffrey Newman, executive vice president of W&M Properties, says, “Those allegations are completely false. Nobody has been fired. Certainly not anyone with any activity relative to any union.”

Newman confirms that several janitorial workers (who were not members of Local 531) walked off their jobs last week. “We wished no one had left, but we did hire replacements to have our building cleaned,” he says.

He bristles at union charges that W&M pays its janitorial staff “$6.15 per hour with no benefits.” He charges, “We pay our part time workers $8.50 per hour and our full-time workers $11.00 per hour plus benefits. I understand that is as good or better than what the union was able to achieve through negotiations with the several building owners they do have contracts with.”

In the past week, Newman asserts that members of Local 531 have engaged in “illegal trespass” and have barged into the building lobby of Metro Center and “intimidated tenants and replacement janitorial workers.”

SEIU’s Kain says that approximately 300 janitorial workers are now engaged in the strike that began Oct. 4. The work stoppage affects commercial office buildings in Stamford, Norwalk, Greenwich and Bridgeport. A negotiating session was held last Wednesday and another meeting is scheduled for Oct. 25. Kain said that no real progress has been made on the core issues of wages and benefits.

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