No Bleach and Dirty Rags: How Some Janitors Are Asked to Keep You Virus-Free

No Bleach and Dirty Rags: How Some Janitors Are Asked to Keep You Virus-Free


No Bleach and Dirty Rags: How Some Janitors Are Asked to Keep You Virus-Free

No Bleach and Dirty Rags: How Some Janitors Are Asked to Keep You Virus-Free

“Just pick up trash, check the seatbelts, cross them, make it look good, and if a tray table looks dirty, you wipe it,” she said, adding that they often did not have time to open every one. “If it’s clean, we just keep going, because we have to get off,” said Ms. Gomez, who complained to the service employees’ union.

Two co-workers echoed those details and named other potential hazards, like beginning their cleanup before passengers disembarked, increasing the risk of close contact. Sometimes they do not have time to disinfect the bathrooms, they said.

Paper towels are always available, but before the pandemic they were given one rag per shift, which they had to sign out and return. Now they are supposed to get two, one of the co-workers said. “Some nights we’re out of rags, completely out,” Ms. Gomez said.

A spokesman for her employer, JetStream Ground Services, disputed that account, saying it had added extra staff for each cleaning and made available as many rags as necessary. But rags are not supposed to be used, let alone reused, according to a spokesman for American Airlines. He called the workers’ account a troubling violation of its new standards, which he said included between-flight disinfection of bathrooms, tray tables and seatbelt buckles, as well as other frequently touched surfaces like armrests, window shades and entertainment screens.

Several contract cleaners described a Covid-19 nightmare: being expected to clean a space where someone infected may have been, and not being made aware of it.

After years of economic struggle, Steve Kelley, 54, a cleaner in Pittsburgh, cherishes his $18.07 office custodian job, especially now that working from home is becoming standard for so many organizations. “We work with the fear that we won’t be working,” he said.

But he recently learned through other building staff that several people where he worked had tested positive. He and co-workers demanded better notification. “They have to start telling us what, where, who,” he said.


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