Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper


Miami's Great Divide: The Poorest Clean Offices of the Richest 

By Stephanie Carroll Carson

MAIMI, FL - Miami is known for its high-rise office buildings and affluence, but a growing disparity between the wealthiest and those who clean up after them has some labor groups crying foul.

For the last three years, Henry Urbina, father of three, has been working at a swank downtown Miami office building, encountering white-collar workers whose clothing may cost more than he makes in a week. And a labor union that wants to represent the workers says Urbina is one of thousands of cleaners in Miami making $8000 less per year than people doing the same jobs in other big cities.

Through a translator, Urbina says his hourly wage varies weekly depending on his job assignment, from $7 to $9 an hour.

"No... I am not receiving a fair wage. If they could pay me less, they would. They vary our wages as they please."

Urbina and other Miami building cleaners and security workers have begun to organize with the help of the service workers' union SEIU local 32BJ, seeking what they say are fair and consistent wages.

Forbes magazine recently labeled Miami the "most miserable city" in the U.S., noting its high cost of living, low wages for blue-collar workers, and violent crime.

Eric Brakken is the director of SEIU 32BJ in south Florida. He says if employees like Urbina were paid fairly, they could offer a greater contribution to the community.

"If we build a bigger middle class, we build a better city. If folks don't have access to health care from their employer, they wait 'til they get very sick and go to the emergency room, and we all end up paying for that."

Urbina cleans floors in the office building that houses Wells Fargo, a company reporting significant profits in the last year. He believes he is unfairly compensated considering the amount of work that's involved.

"What they are doing is unfair... We have no medical insurance; the job is hard on our bodies."

According to the labor union, office cleaners in Miami earn $4 an hour less than building cleaners working in other large metropolitan areas with costs of living similar to Miami's.  

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.