About 30 protestors gathered Friday morning outside Nova Place in the North Side in support of cleaning staff who had been laid off after the building changed contractors.
Early this month, 12 cleaners found out they had lost their jobs and were invited to reapply for their positions at a $8.60 an hour wage -- a substantial decrease from their previous salaries of more than $15 an hour. This is according to their union, 32BJ SEIU.
According to the Post-Gazette, the new contractor, Checklist Facility Maintenance, employs workers represented by the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council #57 of Western Pennsylvania.
"The painters union should really be ashamed of themselves that they undermine another union," said Charese Carter, one of the former Nova Place workers. "They put  union sisters and brothers out of work."
In a statement, the company that owns Nova Place, Faros Properties, said they gave the previous contractor a 30 days notice that they would terminate business with them due to the expiring contract. However, the laid off workers said they did not know they lost their jobs until July 2, when they were not allowed to enter Nova Place.
Donte Battles said he worked on the cleaning staff for one year, and was blindsided by Nova Place's decision to start a contract with a company that didn't recognize the existing workers' union.
"It's been a little over a year that this building has been unionized and we're very proud of that," Battles said. "It's hard work that we put into making this building union so that we could afford to have living wages where we could survive, pay our bills and live comfortably."
Checklist did not respond to a request for comment.
Last summer, SEIU-backed cleaners of the Ellis School in Shadyside were laid off after the contractor was switched. The private school said the decision was unrelated to their union membership, but because "the needs of our students were not met to our satisfaction."