As frontline cleaners were ensuring spaces were disinfected in the battle against COVID-19, building service contractors around the U.S. were teaming up as well.
Launched in April 2020 by seven leading organizations in the industry, including BSCAI, the Cleaning Coalition of America is focused on advocating for the interests of cleaning services professionals nationwide. Representatives of three of the founding BSCs, ABM, Harvard and Marsden, sat down with BSCAI’s Director of Government Affairs Kevin McKenney to discuss the CCA and its objectives.
“Cleaners are so very important in the fight against COVID, and we were being impacted,” said Josh Feinberg, chief strategy & transformation officer of ABM. “We said, ‘We need to do something.’”
The CCA’s goal is to represent the often overlooked cleaning professionals of America and highlight their importance in the battle against COVID-19.
Feinberg, who is also the president of the CCA, said collectively the member companies of the CCA employ about 400,000 cleaners in the country. The group’s primary focus has been establishing relationships at the state and federal government level to reinforce how important cleaners are. This helps shape important policy that impacts cleaners.
“Folks are interested in learning about our industry and learning about how essential we are,” he said. “We’re talking about individuals who are going to have influence on these decisions that are going to come out.”
Two issues top of mind are liability protection and workers compensation issues surrounding COVID-19. Brian Rauch, General Counsel for Harvard Maintenance—another founding member of the CCA—said exposure to the virus has been concerning for any company that employs essential workers. As different states adopt different workers comp and liability protections, he said business owners are concerned what these new rules could mean down the road.
“The coalition is trying to adjust liability issues and is talking to everyone we can to prevent the presumption on the workers comp side and the general liability side,” he said.
Rauch said because no one predicted the seismic impact of a pandemic on insurance—and because policies surrounding COVID-19 in particular keep rapidly changing—it can feel like a moving target.
“As we sit today—three, four months into COVID—there’s a lot of differences between what you prepare for and what actually happens when it hits,” he said. “We’ve changed our policies and procedures multiple times already because we’re getting different advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local government.”
Damon S. Fraser, chief compliance officer and general counsel for Marsden Holding—another CCA member—said it will be telling in the future to see how COVID-related lawsuits play out. COVID-19 has the potential to completely change how workers comp and liability are handled, but companies (and legislators) are still so much in the dark, it’s unclear what exactly will happen. What is happening now, though, is determining what definitions apply to the cleaning industry. Companies are also gearing up to insulate themselves from potential claims by training employees, providing personal protection equipment and following best practices outlined by the CDC.
“I compare this to a slow moving train vs. a fast moving train,” Fraser said. “Our customers are becoming more sophisticated and reallocating risks and indemnification rights on us. That’s been happening over the past 10 to 20 years. The fast moving train in the last three months—the idea of liability indemnification and then changing our standards and the ever-moving revelation of what is the right thing to do—is going faster than we’ve been progressing along for the past 20 years.”
It’s because of this that members of the CCA have taken it upon themselves to meet with lawmakers to discuss impact. They’ve also encouraged their companies and members to speak up about the importance of the cleaning industry and to promote the work its doing against COVID-19.
“Lawmakers are listening,” Feinberg said. “There’s not a building that’s going to be open, or an economy that’s going to be open, without a cleaner in there first. Make phone calls and talk about how liabilities are important. Say, ‘I’m worried about my ability to stay afloat and service the buildings that I serve.’ We’re getting to the point where we’re talking to Democrats and Republicans and they’re asking us for our opinions on what potential compromises could be.”
For members of the CCA, being in the room where it happens is instrumental in keeping the cleaning industry going.
“This is our moment to really show the importance of the cleaning industry,” Fraser said.