Working conditions of movie theater janitors

The major chains — AMC, Regal Entertainment and Cinemark — no longer rely on teenage ushers to keep the floors from getting sticky. Instead, they have turned to a vast immigrant workforce, often hired through layers of subcontractors. That arrangement makes it almost impossible for janitors to make a living wage.

Alvarez got hurt on the job, and a doctor recommended a lighter workload. When she made that request in April 2015, she was fired. The following year, she filed a California Labor Commission claim for unpaid wages, including overtime. The hearing officer awarded her $80,000 in back pay and penalties. But Alvarez could not collect. She did not work directly for AMC or its janitorial contractor, ACS Enterprises, which shielded them from liability. Instead, she worked for a couple — Alfredo Dominguez and Caritina Diaz — who had not even shown up to the hearing.

Even Dominguez and Diaz didn’t consider her an actual employee. In their minds, she was a contractor of a contractor of a contractor of AMC Theatres. AMC and ACS did send an attorney to fight her wage claim. In the end, the companies agreed to pay her $3,500 to go away.

Over the last eight months, Variety has investigated wage complaints from movie theater janitors across the country, reviewing class-action lawsuits, state labor commission records and investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor. A clear pattern emerged: AMC and other theater chains keep their costs down by relying on janitorial contractors that use subcontracted labor. Those janitors typically have no wage or job protections, toiling on one of the lowest rungs of the U.S. labor market.

After Rob Winters was barred from California, ACS took over many of his accounts, including the Regal theater at L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. Working conditions remained much the same, says Georgina Hernandez, who was a janitor there. She worked seven days a week, sometimes 10-11 hours a day, and was paid $400 a week. She quit after two years and took a job cleaning offices.

How America’s Biggest Theater Chains Are Exploiting Their Janitors, Variety, GENE MADDAUS