We all love going to the movies. It’s an experience filled with entertainment on the big screen, the smell of popcorn in the air and maybe a cute date sitting next to you.
But have you ever thought about who cleans the empty theater after they close for the night? It’s not the employees you see there during the day. They get to go home. They get paid a living wage.
The people who work overnight (and sometimes into the morning) to make sure the theater is clean for the following day are reportedly being exploited by these larger theater chains. For nearly an entire year, Variety has been working on a report about this exploitation, and it’s pretty shocking.
The report begins by telling the story of Maria Alvarez and her husband, who worked for years cleaning an AMC theater in Santa Monica, CA. They would arrive after midnight and clean all seven auditoriums. They’d clean the bathrooms, vacuumed and mopped the floors. They polished the escalators and scrubbed the concession cases.
They would typically finish just after sunrise, but on the weekends (when the theaters were really dirty) they’d often work until nine or ten in the morning. They were expected to work every single day of the week, and for this, they got paid $300 a week, or around $5 an hour.
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.
And this is what sparked Variety’s investigation. It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that this is happening all over the country, and it’s not just AMC. It’s Cinemark and and even Regal for a short amount of time.
Basically, the theater chains pass off the cleaning responsibilities to a third party who makes a super cheap bid. That third party treats their employees like sh*t, and the theater chains pretend to not know what’s going on. It’s a f***ed up system.
We can’t possibly cover the entire report here, so please click here to read it in full.[mashshare]