U. S. Department of State Headquarters

On May 1, the day the new Secretary of State was sworn in, the State Department’s procurement office imposed a 30 percent cost reduction on an office cleaning contractor, according to a Government Executive article.

As a result of the reduction, R&R Building Services laid off 17 workers, some of whom have been cleaning diplomats’ workspaces for two decades. Subsequently, their cause was taken up by the Service Employees International Unit Local 32BJ.

The union publicized profiles of several workers by name, including: Lillian Gonzalez, who had worked 17 years at the State Department.

“I have three grandsons and a very sick sister who all live with me and who I need to support. I have a $15,000 loan that I’m falling behind on payments – I’m sick with worry,” Gonzalez said.

“Putting a dozen office cleaners out of work won’t solve budgetary challenges, but it will hurt their children and our communities,” said Jaime Contreras, a 32BJ SEIU vice president. “It’s immoral to make working families suffer just to save a few pennies.”

A State Department official told Government Executive in an email that the department “periodically reviews its facilities operations and maintenance activities (including custodial) to General Services Administration-benchmarked levels of service. Based on GSA comparisons, the department is realigning the level of services provided across our domestic real estate portfolio closer to the government-wide median.”

“The most recent GSA benchmarking data (2016 Operations and Maintenance Cost Per Sq. Ft.) shows State has the second highest cost of 17 departments/agencies reporting,” the statement said.

Read the full article here.