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Cleaners risk health to work during coronavirus pandemic, then lose jobs
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Lissette Serrano asked for a mask while she did her job cleaning toilets and picking up trash at a busy rest stop on a Connecticut parkway. She was told there were none.
Soon after, Serrano came down with coronavirus symptoms and was told by a nurse to isolate for 14 days. When she told her boss she could not leave home, Serrano said, she was fired.
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“She had said, ’That’s just an excuse, you don’t want to go to work,” the 49-year-old Serrano, speaking through a translator, said in Spanish of her employer. “This is not an excuse.”
Serrano is one of about 3,000 cleaners in New York’s Hudson Valley and Connecticut’s Fairfield County who belong to the Service Employees International Union, make just over $16 an hour and in the past couple of months put themselves in harm’s way to disinfect offices, train stations and other public areas with little protective equipment, said Alberto Bernardez, a union district leader.
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Many, like Serrano, lost their jobs when buildings closed or when they were forced to stay home with COVID-19 symptoms, he said.
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