“This is the dirty rag and these are the clean ones — supposedly — but just as dirty.”
Contract workers cleaning the subways of COVID-19 say in cellphone video the supplies they use are dirty and the personal protective equipment (PPE) they’re given is inadequate. One of the workers claims their lives are in danger while they’re not even able to make the subways safer.
What You Need To Know
- Contract workers cleaning subways say supplies are dirty and the PPE is inadequate
- One worker says she doubts they’re removing coronavirus from subway cars
- She says they were only given a disposable gown to clean in when they heard an inspector was coming
“Everyone may be unhappy, but nobody will speak because of this fear, because tomorrow there is no work,” a female worker told NY1 in Spanish.
She says she is fed up with being scared of working in conditions she claims are dangerous. She cleans the subways for the MTA, working for contractor LN Pro Services LLC.
She claims the company gives out the same old rags each day for an entire shift, and mops which are not cleaned properly after each shift, nor are they able to clean them during shifts.
“The mop ends as you see it: black. We started using it since this morning,” she said over cellphone video from inside a Queens subway station.
She says workers feel they’re only spreading dirt and, they presume, COVID-19 around the cars rather than removing it.
“We are supposedly disinfecting, and that is a lie. We are not disinfecting,” the contractor worker said. “If you clean your house with a dirty mop the whole day, you are not cleaning your house; you are simply spreading the same dirt inside your house.”
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NY1 is not revealing her name, but she says she’s willing to come forward and show her face, knowing it puts her job on the line, because she wants to force the company and MTA to make safety improvements.
She claims workers are given one face mask per day regardless if it breaks or gets dirty; gloves that fall apart frequently, which they cannot replace until they finish the car they're working on; and only Thursday, after two weeks of work, when they heard an inspector was coming, were they allegedly provided a disposable gown to clean in that they must reuse for each shift.
“So you are not only fighting the coronavirus — if not any number of infections — and if you do not have good gloves, if you do not have a good mask, if you do not have at least a suitable suit, you come home with absolutely all the bacteria, with all the dirt, with everything that you receive all day there,” the contract woker said.
“This is not an isolated issue,” explained Maritza Silva-Farrell, who is the executive director at ALIGN, a nonprofit that works with unions advocating for worker’s rights. ALIGN is pushing a petition called HERO, or "New York Health and Essential Rights Order," asking the governor to mandate by executive order PPE and COVID-19 healthy safety protocols for all essential workers, with investigative powers to hold employers accountable.
“The employer is not providing the materials and equipment that are adequate for subway cleaning to prevent any spread of the virus,” Silva-Farrell said.
Lily Sierra, the CEO of Professional Cleaning of LN Pro Services LLC, responded to the claims in an email:
“Our focus on our team's health has always been a priority and specially now working through this pandemic. We are always supervised heavily by our contractors and MTA personal at all times. They supervise the work that we perform and we are one of the top performing companies. If our cleaning resulted in infectious and dirty work, I am confident that the years of experience of the inspectors would have pointed out. We have never gotten this feedback. None of my employees have contracted the virus working within the trains during this pandemic ... We have managers who supervise our employees throughout their shift from start to finish. Their duty is to immediately replenish any gear that needs to be replaced."
In a statement, MTA spokesperson Abbey Collins told me, "Pursuant to MTA contracts, third-party vendors are required to provide proper PPE to all workers. We have conducted daily spot checks on these contractors, including observing LN Pro's operation yesterday, to ensure the quality of work and safety of employees, which is the MTA's number one priority. That said, we will investigate any claims and take whatever action is required.”
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