Marcus Johnson, Custodian & Frontline Hero

Marcus Johnson is a custodian at BC and member of 32BJ SEIU who has been reporting to work throughout the coronavirus crisis. Marus shares his story with us as part of the Greater Boston Labor Council's #FrontlineHeroes series. Our series profiles the work of union members and everyday heroes who are working on the frontlines during the global pandemic. Stories are updated weekly. To read other Frontline Hero stories, click here: https://gblc.us/tag/frontline-heroes.

Marcus Johnson takes the T to Boston College every day to his job as a campus custodian, as he's done for the past 14 years. Marcus performs the critical work of cleaning and disinfecting campus buildings, which still house 300 students.

Marcus' work was always critical to the safety of campus, but now he admits, the stakes are much higher. "It's nerve wracking. There's a potential for me to be infected every time I wipe a counter. It's a job I chose to do, but at the same time, it's different. I don't have the option to work from home. My broom won't push itself."

Marcus appreciates the extra recognition he and other frontline workers are receiving right now, "It's great to be recognized - everyone would love that. People never noticed us before, and now everyone wants to say, good job." But, he asks, "What happens when we go back? Will we go back to being 'just them,' just the custodians? A lot of us have lost our lives - custodians, cashiers - these are the people that were taken for granted before - and now we're cleaning your bathroom so you wont get sick."

Marcus continues, "It's a real eye opener for America to see what people do - what minimum and low wage people do. The workers you said were not worth it - not worth even $15 an hour - are the ones on the frontlines now. We've got to do something in America to recognize these people - to recognize us. We're gonna be here when you're home and we need you to say, we're worth that $15 an hour - we’re worth more. We're worth health insurance. We don't have the luxury of being home and our lives are worth it."

Marcus is a member of 32BJ SEIU and values his role as a union member and activist. "Thank god for unions. If we didn't have unions I don't know where we would be - it's our rights, our livelihood, our life." From the earliest days of the crisis, Marcus has been in contact with his union and coworkers. "The first call I got was from the union," he said, noting that 32BJ had been in talks with the university about safety and protocols and constant communication with himself and other members.

Marcus lives alone in the South End and regularly checks in on and helps his elderly neighbors. He misses seeing his kids and grandkids. For a closing thought, Marcus wants to convey this simple but critical message: "What I want people to know is that we count too. In this crisis we're facing major risk and we're in the same boat as other frontline workers. It's just that simple: We count too."