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Norwalk's Maritime Aquarium Brings Back Laid-Off Custodial Workers

Cleaning employees who lost their jobs late last year will return to work at Norwalk's Maritime Aquarium soon.
Cleaning employees who lost their jobs late last year will return to work at Norwalk's Maritime Aquarium soon. Photo Credit: File

NORWALK, Conn. – The Maritime Aquarium of Norwalk has reached an agreement that will bring back cleaning workers who had lost their jobs at the tourist attraction last December, officials announced.

“I’m glad the aquarium has decided to stand with us, because we have always done our best for the aquarium,” Erika Aguilera, a mother of two who had worked at the aquarium for 14 years, said in a press release. “I had not been able to find another job. I’m relieved that I can pay my bills and take my children to the doctor if they get sick.”

In late 2013, the Maritime Aquarium decided not to renew its 18-year deal with Premier Maintenance Inc., a private company contracted to provide maintenance and cleaning services there. Maritime Aquarium officials cited rising costs and budgetary concerns for the change. The aquarium hired its own crew of part-time workers to take over the workload.

Premier Maintenance the laid off the cleaning workers it had assigned to the Maritime Aquarium after the contract ended. Representatives from the 32BJ local of the Service Employees International Union, which represented the cleaners, picketed outside the aquarium earlier this month to protest the decision.

Maritime Aquarium President Jennifer Herring announced Thursday that she has renewed the contract with Premier Maintenance. Herring thanked State Sen. Bob Duff and other local officials for helping to broker the deal and “getting all the parties to work together to assure the Aquarium gets the necessary resources from the State of Connecticut to support  its tourism activities and capital needs.”

“This truly demonstrates that we can accomplish great things together,” Herring said in a statement.

Premier Maintenance will bring back many of the workers laid off in December and “has agreed to make good faith efforts to place the remainder in other locations as jobs open up,” Herring said. The aquarium also plans to keep on many of the part-timers it had hired.

“The aquarium’s decision is proof that the Norwalk community will stand up and do the right thing when economic justice is concerned,” said Alberto Bernardez, Connecticut District Assistant Leader for the 32BJ local of the Service Employees International Union. “I’m proud of my brothers and sisters who stood firm in defense of their rights, and of all the allies who stood right beside them.”

Read more about the dispute here on the Daily Voice.

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