When you risk everything in your life to help the greater good and your community in times of desperation, the last thing you would expect is to be punished for it. That is exactly what happened to janitors who worked overtime during Hurricane Harvey’s catastrophic path.
Angel Flores has been an employee of janitorial cleaning service, JBM, which is subcontracted by McLemore Building Maintenance, for 14 years in Houston. According to Mitú, once the building Flores worked in was hit, he was left no choice but to work around the clock, 24 hours a day, for 7 days straight. Flores said,
“What do I do? I don’t have an option,” says Flores. “They sent another two people after five days or so. But really there’s not an option. And once you’re here, you can’t leave anywhere.”
Working without breaks, Flores slept a mere 2 hours a night and lost 6 pounds in the process. In a locked-down, emergency ground-zero work environment, he “took 10-to-15 minutes to eat, because that was the less I can do. I know I didn’t have enough time. I had to go back because the trash would start piling up.” The brutal week was followed by an additional 4 days working 12-hour shifts, all in an effort to restore his community.
Flores feared that he would not be compensated for the strenuous work, and for legitimate reasons. In the past, he filed a complaint against JBM, because they were cutting his checks and not paying him his overtime earnings. When the check from his work during Hurricane Harvey came, it was short of about $100. Only after State Senator Garcia and Houston Council member Gallegos stepped in to resolve this issue, he was able to receive his rightful check.
However, the injustices have not stopped, and the company has since cut Flores' hours and even accused him of not working all of the hours he has. He stated, “they were saying I wasn’t in the building and that it looked like I didn’t clean, but I clock in and have to use a card to get into the building. I have the proof I was there.” Taking matters into his own hands, Flores has decided to form a union with other janitors and custodial workers with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Texas.