Broadway’s essential workers get wage increases, benefit boost with new contract

Hundreds of Broadway’s custodians, elevator operators and restroom attendants have come to an agreement on a new contract with theater owners and management that includes a pay bump and an increased pension contribution from their employers.

“We have gone through a lot over the past two years,” said Lorraine Feeks, 51, who has worked on Broadway with Jujamcyn Theaters for 29 years. “When Broadway returned, we were given all sorts of new cleaning duties. We do the hard jobs and we are risking infection, that makes us essential.”

In the new contract, the essential workers will get wage increases, increased pension contributions, and continued paid family healthcare which is 100% covered by their employers.

About 230 cleaners from four companies — Jujamcyn, Nederlander, Shubert and Circle in the Square, which collectively manage 16 Broadway theaters — were represented by Local 32BJ in the contract negotiation. Their last four-year agreement was bargained in 2016; that contract was extended twice during the pandemic. As a result, workers didn’t receive any wage increases in more than three years, despite the rigorous new COVID safety protocols which they said made their jobs more stressful, dangerous and demanding.

“It can be hard to see the important work we do on Broadway, cleaning tirelessly to keep theatergoers safe,” Martha Aristizabal, who has worked for the Shubert company for more than 12 years, said in Spanish via a translator. “Since we came back to work, we have been asked to do a lot more to keep everyone safe. It feels good to get a new contract that reflects the contribution we have made during the pandemic. We deserve these raises, we deserve continued health coverage, and we deserve better retirement security!”

Aristizabal, 56, previously told Gothamist she works two shifts at the Ambassador Theatre making $20 an hour. In the mornings, she works as a custodian, cleaning backstage spaces and hallways. And in the evenings she acts as a manager’s assistant, interacting with theatergoers. She said that she and other workers have lived in “constant fear” of getting sick because of their proximity to so many people.

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