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Politics & Policy

Twitter Abruptly Fired 48 Janitors. SF Can Now Sue Companies That Do the Same

Written by Bay City NewsPublished Apr. 06, 2023 • 4:56pm
A sign at Twitter headquarters is seen in San Francisco on Dec. 8, 2022. | Jeff Chiu/AP Photo, file

The San Francisco City Attorney is now authorized to bring civil action against janitorial, security and building maintenance contracting companies if they abruptly terminate jobs.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance on Tuesday that aims to better protect workers from unlawful layoffs.

The ordinance comes after 48 Twitter custodians were abruptly fired in December after the social media company cut ties with Flagship, a janitorial company.

Janitors marched from City Hall to the Twitter headquarters on Market Street to demand their jobs back, which they alleged they lost without severance or proper notice. San Francisco's head policymakers like Mayor London Breed, state Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblymember Matt Haney spoke in support of the workers.

READ MORE: Elon Musk Apologizes for Mocking Laid-Off Twitter Employee

Under current city police code, security, janitorial and maintenance services contracting with a building must retain employees who were working with the building's prior contractor for the first 90 days, otherwise called a "transition employment period."

The ordinance passed on Tuesday allows labor standards regulators to facilitate the transition period, obtain employee information and share it with a building's successor contractor.

Under the new amendment of the police code, the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement is permitted to investigate violations, order relief like backpay and penalties, and create pathways for companies to appeal violations.

The policy also allows both aggrieved employees and the city attorney to file suit against a successor contractor for injunctive relief if it fails to retain workers.

"Our law is set up to be very clear to say if you displace workers, they have a just transition period. You have to notify them," said Supervisor Ahsha Safaí during Tuesday's meeting. "With this legislation today, we essentially say the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement now can come in and enforce this law.

"It's unconscionable that a company and a person like Elon Musk would target the lowest, lowest wage workers and treat them without dignity and respect," Safaí added.

Supervisors Myrna Melgar, Matt Dorsey, Rafael Mandelman and Hillary Ronen requested to be co-sponsors of the ordinance before the board unanimously passed it.

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