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MBTA janitors protest impending layoffs

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MBTA janitors held a sit-in outside and inside Governor Charlie Baker's office to protest budget cuts that will likely mean layoffs.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Contract janitors for the MBTA staged a noisy sit-in at the governor's office Thursday, warning that impending layoffs could lead to overflowing trash cans and longer waits to clean up soda spills and pools of vomit at train stations.

Chants of "No justice, no peace" punctuated a second straight day of high-profile opposition to the cutbacks.

On Wednesday, the Boston City Council passed a resolution in support of the janitors, while union activists crashed a gubernatorial bill-signing ceremony, a few wearing cockroach outfits meant to highlight the mess they contend will soon be coming to MBTA subway platforms.

"We're not going to stop," said José Fajardo, 37, who has been a janitor at the T for 13 years. "We're not going to lay down until the end. We're going to keep fighting."


Officials with Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, which represents about 300 janitors who work for a pair of T contractors, say 76 full-time workers face layoffs effective Sept. 1. A couple dozen of them, according to the union, will have a chance to take part-time jobs.

Other janitors, outside the 76, have been told they must accept fewer hours or schedule changes in order to stay employed, union officials say.

The staff changes come after the T moved to curb spending on janitorial services with two companies, S.J. Services and ABM, which were paid more than their contracts required in recent years.

Neither firm responded to requests for confirmation on the number of layoffs. But Chas Strong, a spokesperson for ABM, said in a statement that the company "is pleased to continue providing cleaning services for the MBTA and has full confidence that the current level of cleanliness will not be disrupted."

Joe Pesaturo, a spokesman for the T, said in a statement that the agency "will hold the contractors accountable to the cleaning standards in the contracts through a rigorous system of daily inspections and will enforce penalties if the cleaners do not perform to the agreements' standards."


Two years ago, union activists staved off plans for about 90 layoffs with a campaign strikingly similar to the current one — staging protests, enlisting Boston city councilors, and donning cockroach costumes.

But back then they were lobbying former governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat whose administration ultimately stepped in to forestall the cuts. Now, they are contending with Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican who has made reining in costs at the always-strapped MBTA a signature cause.

At the protest Thursday, janitors hoped to win a pledge for a sit-down with the governor, but they left without it.

"I'm truly worried," said Marlene Lopez, 35, a janitor from Chelsea who had not yet learned about the fate of her job. Speaking through a translator, she gestured at her 7-year-old son: "I have to think about him and his future."

Lizzy Guyton, a spokeswoman for Baker, emphasized that it is ultimately the contractors who make staffing decisions. "The administration appreciates the hard work of those who maintain MBTA facilities but the workers negotiate with a private company," she said, "not the state."

David Scharfenberg can be reached at david.scharfenberg
. Follow him on Twitter @dscharfGlobe