Cleansing the New York Metropolis subway has all the time been a grimy job. However when the pandemic hit final spring, it grew to become much more difficult. When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo ordered that trains be shut down overnight for cleaning, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority turned to contractors to assist undertake the monumental process of scouring the trains within the nation’s largest transit system.
The hundreds of staff the contractors employed — largely low-income immigrants from Latin America — have been envisioned as a stopgap measure, as M.T.A. staff have been falling ailing and dying of the virus.
Almost a 12 months later, the employees are nonetheless toiling at stations everywhere in the metropolis. Some are paid as little as half as a lot because the M.T.A. staff who did the identical work earlier than the pandemic started, and plenty of with out entry to medical insurance.
Now, because the M.T.A. prepares to welcome extra passengers, the workers are pushing back, elevating considerations about their security, salaries and dealing situations.
The New York Occasions interviewed a dozen contract cleaners, together with three who in late February met with Patrick J. Foye, the M.T.A.’s chairman and chief government, to explain their job and share an inventory of “wants” with transit company management.
Their accounts paint an image of dismal working situations and spotlight their unequal remedy in contrast with transit cleaners, who’re paid as much as $30 an hour and luxuriate in medical insurance and different advantages, uniforms and MetroCards to swipe themselves into the system.
Beatriz Muñoz, 38, cleaned trains for six months final 12 months on the terminus of the Q line at 96th Road in Manhattan. When automobiles arrived that have been closed to passengers as a result of that they had been sullied, “we have been those who needed to go in there,” she mentioned. “We’d be praying to God that we wouldn’t get sick.”
Their complaints seem to point out how the M.T.A.’s contractors have relied on a labor drive that has been determined for work at a time when a whole lot of hundreds have misplaced jobs in cleansing, building and eating places.
An M.T.A. spokeswoman, Abbey Collins, mentioned the company was disinfecting the subway with the assistance of “licensed and respected outdoors corporations whose efficiency is monitored often.”
Ms. Muñoz was paid $20 an hour. She introduced her personal masks, gloves and cleaning soap to scrub her rags, she mentioned.
She and her co-workers have been advised to not drink drinks on the job so they might not want to make use of the lavatory. “It was an oven in the summertime,” she mentioned. “We needed to sneak sips of water.”
When inspectors got here, she mentioned, nobody mentioned a phrase. “In truth, we have been all afraid.”