Monday, Service Employees Internation Union Local 87 in San Francisco went out on strike. Ordinarily, a janitor’s union local striking wouldn’t make national news, but this local provides cleaning services for Twitter headquarters.
It started last week when 20 cleaning crew members were told that Friday would be the last day they were needed at Twitter headquarters. Twitter headquarters is serviced by a company called Flagship Maintenance Solutions. As expected, this company devotes part of its website to its role in mitigating climate change (huh? wtf?) and its inclusion and equity program.
From the various accounts, it seems like Twitter had opted not to renew its contract with Flagship after a period of negotiations. The people left on the job were a skeleton crew designated to stay on until a new contractor could be found.
Monday, many of the remaining janitors joined a handful of former Twitter employees on the picket line outside Twitter headquarters.
— California Labor Federation (@CaliforniaLabor) December 5, 2022
They were demanding severance and advance notice of layoffs and whatever from Twitter, apparently unaware that Flagship, not Twitter, was their employer. Twitter responded to the illegal job action by locking out the offenders. Twitter then canceled the contract with Flagship, essentially firing the janitorial staff.
San Francisco law requires the new contractor to give the fired crew the right of first refusal unless they are fired “for cause.” I suspect that the illegal walkout on Monday let Twitter check that box so they can refuse to rehire anyone who participated.
The SEIU Local has the legal services of celebrity attorney Lisa Bloom who will probably be as much use to them as she was to Harvey Weinstein. It is impossible to read her threat, “We are hitting Twitter and Elon with every applicable claim; from promissory estoppel, to breach of contract, to breach of their implied agreement, to violation of the warn act, to civil rights violations, everything but the kitchen sink,” and not imagine the Jackie Chiles character from Seinfeld.
It is hard to see what kind of legal case the fired janitors have. They aren’t Twitter employees. When the contract with Flagship was terminated, Flagship was on the hook for any required severance benefits unless the contract specified otherwise. Even if the contract termination was improper, that is an issue for Twitter and Flagship to sort out. My gut feeling is that it will be difficult for the strikers to muscle their way into a new contract, nor will their tenure be very long if they are successful.
On the whole, I think the firing of Twitter staff and the termination of the striking janitors is a great signal to the company that Twitter is in business to serve its customers and to make money. It doesn’t exist to provide a cushy lifestyle and give a bunch of little fascists the power to determine what can and can’t be said by others (Former Twitter Safety Executive Defends His Ridiculous Censorship of the Babylon Bee and Libs of TikTok). Furthermore, I think the prospect of non-stop labor agitation and harassment by the San Francisco City government (Forbes Sics San Francisco Building Inspectors on Elon Musk’s Twitter for Letting Employees Sleep at the Office) has already got Musk looking for cheap commercial property in Texas.