A Salute to Those Who Do

Categories: ISSA 100th Anniversary, ISSA Insights

By Matt Vonachen | August 9, 2023 << Back to Articles

In the landscape of society, millions of unsung heroes work diligently behind the scenes, often unnoticed and underappreciated.

However, as the global cleaning industry, we recognize each one, whether they work for building service contractors (BSCs) or as in-house service providers (ISPs).

By now, all of you know my background with my family-owned BSC company, spending more than 55 years serving our clients. So, when I speak of recognizing our front-line workers, do I mean those from the contract cleaning segment? Not at all. I recognize all who do the work and all who manage them, from those who clean the smallest doctor’s office to those who handle the tons of debris in a sports venue.

As ISSA celebrates its 100th anniversary, we have been spotlighting the early founders, the supply chain that ISSA was built on, the manufacturers who make the products, and recently the incredible women in our industry who are helping take us to the next level. Now, it’s time to focus on those who do the work. Whether a BSC or ISP, you must be recognized for all you do. And at ISSA, we do our best to make all that happen globally.

I often think, what do people know about our workers? It might not be much. We are there often at night and typically prepare a building for the next day’s use. A trash bin is full at night and empty the following morning. Magic! The restroom has litter on the floor, and the mirrors need cleaning, and the next morning, it’s all pristine. Magic! Joking aside, what we do is just expected. It has to happen. And yet the value can’t be diminished.

Without all those who do the work—the front-line workers and those who manage them—the world would stay strong. I don’t say that lightly. Think back to the New York sanitation strike in 1981; if you don’t remember it, look it up. It was devastating. It didn’t take many days to bring the city to its knees. New York City was buried in trash because the workers didn’t show up.

All those residents might not have paid much attention to sanitation workers in the past, but they definitely knew who they were and desperately wanted them back when they missed a day or two.

But let me toss this thought at you: Is it just about cleaning? Cleaning is the core of what we do, but it isn’t all we do. Beyond cleaning, front-line workers play a pivotal role in creating a welcoming environment in establishments. Whether it’s a school, an office building, or a public facility, they work tirelessly to ensure that spaces are clean and aesthetically pleasing. From arranging furniture to setting up classrooms or conference rooms, their efforts contribute to a pleasant ambiance that enhances the overall experience of visitors and occupants.

Our front-line workers also play a vital role in maintaining safety and security in our surroundings. They keep a vigilant eye on the premises, identifying potential hazards such as slippery floors, broken equipment, or malfunctioning systems. They assist in running the building—under the watch of their BSC or facility management. They ensure the well-being of all individuals within the premises. Their contributions go beyond cleaning and extend to being the eyes and ears that help maintain a secure environment for everyone.

Our front-line workers often become familiar faces in the places they serve. They develop relationships with the people they interact with daily, be it students, employees, or visitors. Their friendly demeanor and willingness to lend a listening ear can profoundly impact the emotional well-being of those around them. A simple smile or a kind word from a custodian can brighten someone’s day and create a sense of community within an organization or institution.

It is time to acknowledge and salute the front-line workers who silently but significantly impact our lives. Their unwavering commitment to cleanliness, safety, and community building creates a foundation upon which we can all thrive. Together, as ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, let’s create a culture that celebrates the often-underestimated role of janitors and custodians in shaping our world.

About the Author.

Matt Vonachen is president of ISSA and the CEO of Vonachen Group, a commercial and industrial service provider based in Peoria, Illinois.