SEIU Wins in Jersey, adds Philadelphia Workers to Campaign
Suburban Philadelphia janitors are the latest workers to join the nationwide Justice for Janitors movement, sponsored by the Washington-based Service Employee International Union (SEIU). They join janitors in Northern New Jersey and Baltimore who also are uniting this year to attempt to win living wages, affordable health insurance and more full-time hours.

For example, janitors who clean buildings in Hudson County, N.J., recently came to an agreement with cleaning companies; the agreement ensures wage increases from $5.75 to $10.75 per hour.

SEIU union leaders have worked with major cleaning companies and in-house operations across the country, during the last year, to provide them with living wages and health insurance.

Mergers & Other Moves

Facility Service Alliance (FSA), has been selected by Troy, Mich.-based retailer Kmart Corp., to provide janitorial service in 23 central and southeast states, and heating and air conditioning maintenance in 11 central region states. The contract has a combined value of more than $100 million over 24 months.

FSA is an alliance between FBG Service Corp.; Control Services, Inc.; Varsity Contractors and Four Seasons Mechanical Services. The alliance was created to offer retailers a comprehensive bundle of services.

•Pulex SRL, a Brescia, Italy-based window-cleaning equipment company, was given an award for innovation by Italian cleaning association AFIDAMP at Pulire 2001, an annual trade show held recently in Verona, Italy.

• Pacific Steamex's new 14- and 18-inch dual motor upright Genius vacuums have received UL/CSA (Underwriter’s Laboratories Inc.) safety approval.

• Tina Hatch of Farmington, Utah has been selected by the ISSA Foundation, a Lincolnwood, Ill.-based scholarship fund affiliated with the International Sanitary Supply Association, to receive the Robert H. Apple Award in the amount of $2,500 for the 2001-2002 academic year.

Manufacturer Profiled on MSNBC Show
Boise, Idaho-based backpack vacuum manufacturer Pro-Team Inc. was featured in a June 12 segment of the MSNBC show “Champions of Industry.”

"The Champions of Industry cable television series showcases the best and brightest companies in today's global marketplace, and brings viewers closer to industry leaders who stand apart in their respective fields due to their goals, commitments and achievements," says Celia Bullock, spokesperson for the series.

Pro-Team’s development of backpack vacuums, as well as the company’s commitment to indoor air quality and cleaning for health were profiled on the show, Bullock says.

Mold Connected to Cleaner’s Heart Failure
Since last month’s publication of “Is There Money In Mold?” in Contracting Profits, we’ve received quite a bit of feedback from readers. One story was from Kathy Zoll, owner of World Wide Drying, Taunton, Mass: Doctors believe job-related mold exposure caused her husband’s heart failure and subsequent transplant.

In 1989, Tom Zoll followed the flood waters of Hurricane Hugo up the Atlantic Coast, reports his wife Kathy.

“After Tom was down there for three months, we believe he was exposed to a virulent mold that knocked out his formerly healthy heart pump,” she explains. “The doctor believes it was Aspergillus.”

The damage was so great, Tom was put on a heart transplant waiting list, and seven years ago, received his new heart.

“We felt the damage was job-related,” says Kathy. “We went to a lawyer and found out that unless the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control] actually did a study and found a pattern of [heart-pump failure] among these types of workers, worker’s comp wouldn’t honor the claim.”

Kathy now runs the company, while Tom sits on the sidelines, lending his knowledge but unable to return to field work. The company originally was planning to be franchised throughout the U.S., but Tom could no longer keep that up, so operations were pulled back to the East Coast.

Tom’s prognosis is good, although he must take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of his life. The Zolls still are researching any remaining legal options.

Mold Tip: Clean or Replace?
Restoration contractor Servpro Industries Inc. has put together a report, “Understanding Mold in the Property Restoration Industry.” The report offers this advice on deciding whether to clean mold from a surface — and if so, how to do so — or whether to discard and replace the materials.
  • For nonporous materials (Glass, metals, hard plastics, etc.): HEPA vacuum first to remove loose molds. Then, clean visible mold using a detergent solution.

  • For semiporous materials (Wood and concrete): HEPA vacuum first to remove loose mold. Then clean with a detergent solution, brush with wire brushes or sand using a sander equipped with a HEPA vacuum collection system.

  • For porous materials (Wall board, ceiling tiles, insulation): Remove and safely dispose of the materials if the mold has spread beyond a small area.

However, the report acknowledges there are no set guidelines on what constitutes a “small area,” and the authors suggest HEPA vacuuming and washing surfaces, if possible, then determining whether they have been restored properly or if the surfaces should be removed.

Bush Considers Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants
The Bush Administration is considering suggestions made by a task force led by Secretary of State Colin Powell and Attorney General John Ashcroft to create a guest-worker program for illegal Mexican immigrants.

Contractors historically draw from an immigrant-rich labor pool, which could be greatly expanded if illegal workers were granted amnesty. Also, such a policy could cut down on the amount of time and paperwork BSCs need to spend on verifying a potential employee’s legal work status.

The guest-worker program would allow Mexicans to come to the United States and work on a temporary basis, and possibly eventually giving more than 3 million Mexicans legal residence.

Although blanket amnesty initially was floated by Bush and others, after enduring criticism from Congress, the task force is not actively considering it.

However, the White House not explained in detail how many of the current undocumented Mexican residents of the United States might benefit from the guest worker program under consideration.

"We are working on getting [Mexicans] legal status over a period of time," says Mercy Viana, White House spokesperson. "Mainly, we are working with Mexican officials to create an orderly, humane, legal and safe migration."

Discussions of amnesty for illegal Mexican immigrants began earlier this year when President Bush visited Mexican President Vicente Fox. Both presidents expressed an interest in reducing illegal immigration.

Every year, 1.5 million Mexicans are arrested for trying to cross the 1,984-mile border.

President Bush’s staff is currently studying the recommendations made by the task force, but no decisions have been made yet, Viana says.

At the same time, Senate majority leader Tom Dashle (D-S.D.) is calling on President Bush to create a program for all immigrants, not just Mexicans.

Stephen Lerner, building services manager for Service Employees International Union, a Washington-based union representing 200,000 building service workers, agrees with Senator Dashle.

"We believe there should be amnesty for all immigrants," Lerner says. "We think a bill that legalizes immigrants will help stabilize the workforce."

Mike McNamara, government affairs counsel for Building Service Contractors Association International, Fairfax, Va., says granting amnesty will not change the way contractors recruit and hire employees. But this federal initiative would help ensure BSCs have an adequate workforce.

By Amanda Tuffli, Contributing Writer