Indy janitor fights for right to fair wages [NUVO]

By Amber Stearns
NUVO | October 31. 2014

Ana Rosas used to clean the offices of Ambrose Property Group as a janitor working for Sunshine Maintenance Services.

When she hired into the position at $8 an hour, Ana knew it wasn’t enough to live on and support her family, so she asked how long until a raise would be considered.

She was told six months.

So, Ana did her job to the best of her ability. She cleaned tables, floors, bathrooms, offices and entire floors. Ana, a fellow co-worker, and her supervisor cleaned four floors in the Ambrose building every night, then walked down the block to clean another building.

After six months on the job and a clean record, Ana approached her supervisor about the raise she thought she was eligible to receive.

“Then he came back to me and said the manager (of Sunshine Management) said ‘this comes from the president.’ He said there is no money and that there are a stack of applications and the door is wide open.”

(Ana spoke with me through translator Monica Morales because she speaks little to no English.)

“Two months later I insisted again because $8 is not enough,” said Ana. “$283 a week is not enough to pay my bills, food, house, help my kids out with their education.”

Ana is the single mother of two; she has a daughter, 19, and a son, 16. Her husband died before her son was born. Her daughter is a student at Ivy Tech and IUPUI studying mechanical engineering. She says it was watching her daughter go to school and work at the same time to pay for it that prompted her to seek out more money from her employer.

“She doesn’t sleep she goes to work early in the morning then to school then back to work,” said Ana. “I know that what she is studying is really really hard and she needs to study and it makes me feel helpless because I can’t help her out.”

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 in Indianapolis got involved with Ana’s situation and has been helping her with case. With their advice, Ana approached Sunshine Management again for a raise in pay and for the right to form a union among the other employees. Both requests were denied and Ana lost her job.

Ana has since talked to Ambrose Property Group to let them know the actions of the company they hired and how their employees were treated. Their response was very positive, immediately asking what they could do to help.

“They (Ambrose) needed to know that the company they hired is paying us really low wages. I clean the president’s desk and I can see how they live,” said Ana, referring to the pictures of family, vacations, and other things that decorated the office. “How nice would that be to dedicate time to your family.”

Ana also filed a formal charge of unfair labor practice against Sunshine Maintenance and her case is under federal investigation. The regional labor board is scheduled to interview Ana as they investigate the Sunshine’s actions. SEIU Local 1 spokesperson Leslie Mendoza Kamstra says they hope Ana will be able to get her job back with a raise.

Ana says SEIU Local 1 has been very supportive in her fight for better wages and benefits and says she would do it again.

“Because we need to fight for our rights,’ said Ana. “It is enough of them stepping all over us. Our work should count.”

She also says that anyone else in the same situation should no be afraid to speak up and fight for what they deserve.

“Don’t give up,” said Ana. “There are unions. There are allies in the community, faith allies in our churches. We are not alone.

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