Twitter Sued By Janitors, As Musk Meets Chinese Officials

Twitter is being sued by former cleaning staff in New York City, after they filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the social media company.

The former janitors were part of the 80 percent of Twitter staffers terminated by Elon Musk in his mass culling of the workforce last year.

Meanwhile Twitter owner Elon Musk has jetted into China, his first visit to Beijing in three years. On Tuesday he reportedly met with the Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang, as Beijing attempts to highlight it is open to foreign business, despite tensions with the West.

Image credit: SpaceX

Janitor lawsuit

But Twitter is still mired in legal trouble.

Former janitors at Twitter offices in New York City filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Twitter over their abrupt termination in December 2022.

The lawsuit alleges that Twitter violated the Displaced Building Service Workers Protection Act by failing to retain the janitors after terminating the contract, hiring a new contractor, and not retaining the employees under the previous contract.

New York City’s Displaced Building Service Workers Protection Act requires new building owners, managers, contractors and commercial lessees to retain employees for a 90-day transition period and says they must be offered continued employment if their performance is considered satisfactory.

The lawsuit alleges the workers are owed “hundreds of thousands of dollars in back wages” for violation of the law.

The union representing the workers, SEIU 32BJ, announced that Twitter had not responded to previous letters sent to it.

“Twitter did not respond after 32BJ SEIU sent a request in December 2022 advising the company of its obligations,” the union stated. “When Twitter retained a new contractor in February 2023, NeXgen Facilities Group, the union also notified the new contractor of its obligations, but like Twitter, NeXgen Facilities ignored 32BJ’s communication.”

“My colleagues and I have faced extreme hardship after losing our jobs,” said Lucy Calderon, a former Twitter janitor whose hourly wage has dropped $13/hour since taking a temporary job.

“They got rid of us just before Christmas like we didn’t matter. I have had to change the way I live, what groceries I buy, to save money. On top of that, losing healthcare benefits has been so stressful.”

“These cleaners have kept Twitter’s building running ever since Twitter moved here seven years ago, putting their lives on the line to keep workers and the public safe throughout the pandemic,” added 32BJ SEIU President Manny Pastreich.

“They are essential to the city’s economic recovery,” said Pastreich. “We have laws in NYC that protect workers from the arbitrary whims of billionaires. We are going to make sure their rights are protected.”

Multiple lawsuits

Twitter under Elon Musk is facing numerous lawsuits, either from former staff or contractors seeking payments for outstanding bills.

Twitter for example is facing lawsuits from disabled workers alleging that policies to report in the office and log long hours at high intensity discriminate against disabled workers

It is reported that 2,000 former employees are pursuing claims against Twitter through individual arbitration.

In April Twitter’s former chief executive Parag Agrawal and two other former executives sued the company over more than $1 million (£800,000) in legal bills they say should have been reimbursed.

Former Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal. Image credit: Twitter

Musk for his part had instituted aggressive cost-cutting at Twitter since taking over, in the face of $1.5bn of annual interest payments on the $13bn of debt he used to fund the acquisition and declining ad revenues.

Cost cutting has allegedly included stopping payments to vendors, landlords and business partners, leading to multiple lawsuits.

In January in the UK, Crown Estate launched legal proceedings against Twitter over alleged unpaid rent on the company’s London headquarters.

Meanwhile the firm that owns Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters also sued the Elon Musk firm in January over what it claimed was more than $3m in rent payments.

Amazon Web Services also refused to pay Twitter for its ads, after Twitter failed to pay a contractual bill.

Twitter is reported to be $70m behind on AWS payments.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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