Laureta, a single mother and janitor for years at Twitter’s offices in New York City, would like Elon Musk, one of the world’s richest people and the new owner of the social media giant, to know just how he ruined her Christmas.
Like other janitors on Twitter – and many other employees at the troubled company which has shed thousands of employees – she said she never received any explanation for her sudden layoff.
“I was so happy working for Twitter. I was able to pay my bills, get babysitters for my kids. Now, it’s a nightmare for me. I don’t know how I’m going to do it or know what’s going to happen,” said Laureta, who did not want her last name used out of fear of future employment consequences. “There was no explanation. We worked Monday, the 19th, and that night we got the message. It was shocking right before Christmas. We didn’t have a good holiday. No merry Christmas, no happy new year, we were thinking about our jobs and if we were going back.”
She described having to try to explain to her six-year-old son what happened and try to reassure his concerns about having food now that she has been laid off. She has no income and will lose the health insurance for her and her children that she relied on through her employment at the end of this month.
“I want to go back to work and I want to know why Elon Musk is getting rid of us,” she added. “It’s not right that Elon Musk has gotten rid of me and all of my co-workers.”
She is one of 12 janitors at Twitter’s 245-249 West 17th St location in New York City who are protesting against the social media company’s sudden decision to lay off all janitors, who were employed by contractor Flagship Services, the latest layoffs at Twitter since Musk took over the company on October 27, 2022.
On January 10, the workers with their union, 32BJ SEIU, protested outside Twitter’s New York City offices to demand an explanation and the return of their jobs.
The workers received a notice from Twitter on the evening of December 19 that the contract with their employer and their jobs were terminated, effective immediately. They say in previous cases where a contractor was changed, Twitter had retained the same employees who have been working at Twitter since 2015.
Merita, another janitor who has worked at Twitter’s New York offices since they opened in 2015, also criticized the layoffs, especially the impact of losing health insurance, which she relies on for stomach medication she regularly requires.
“They told us to work at the last minute. We didn’t know anything. It was a shock for us. We left the building crying because we didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Merita. “It’s pretty hard because we live paycheck to paycheck to pay bills. We are very afraid of losing health insurance. I take medication. We need health insurance, that’s why we need to fight for our jobs back to have our union, healthcare, everything.”
Earlier in December, Twitter suddenly laid off janitors at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco. City of San Francisco attorney David Chiu said he was investigating whether Twitter broke the law with the sudden layoffs due to laws mandating employers retain workers for at least 90 days during a transition between contractors.
Twitter has laid off approximately half of its employees since Musk’s takeover, the manner of which has spurred numerous lawsuits or demands for arbitration.
The termination notice provided to janitors did not include any explanation for the sudden termination of the contract with Flagship Services or information on how these workers would be replaced.
“Twitter’s decision to cancel the cleaning contract for its NYC office has upended the lives of these dedicated cleaners, many of whom have worked at this location since Twitter moved seven years ago. NYC’s essential cleaners have done too much for this city to be treated like this,” said Denis Johnston, 32BJ SEIU’s executive vice-president and director of the commercial division, in a statement on the job cuts.
“They put their lives on the line to keep workers and the public safe throughout the pandemic and are essential to the city’s economic recovery in the aftermath of the pandemic. These union members and their families now face extreme hardship because of the loss of their good paying jobs with quality health insurance.”
Twitter and Flagship Services Inc did not immediately respond to requests for comment.