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Cleaners defeat boss union opening door for workers to join SEIU Local 2

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June 18, 2018     

Cleaners defeat boss union opening door for workers to join SEIU Local 2

Labour Board declares CLAC contract with Best Service Pros invalid

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA –– In a precedent setting decision, the B.C Labour Relations Board declared Friday that CLAC’s contract with Best Service Pros is invalid.

“This is a good day for justice,” exclaimed Roshawn Nicholson, a Best worker from UBC-Okanagan and one of the worker witnesses that attended the hearings.

The cleaning contractor, Best Service Pros, conspired a 10-year sweetheart deal with CLAC, an Employer-friendly ‘union,’ before hiring a single employee, leaving cleaners at four public post-secondary institutions trapped in poverty wages with no power to bargain collectively.

The Board concluded in its decision that “the ratification process was unreasonable, and the ratification process cannot be relied upon to reflect the true wishes of the employees.”

“The tides are finally turning in our favour,” expressed Nadia Khlafa, another worker with Best Service Pros. “CLAC betrayed the workers by underestimating us and making decisions without our consultation. This is a new and exciting chapter for us in our fight to win a real union and a voice at work,” Khlafa added.

The decision however stopped short in finding that Best and CLAC committed an unfair labour practice in conspiring their backroom deal, concluding that there was not sufficient evidence of collusion.

Best still faces over 50 allegations that they committed unfair labour practices during SEIU’s organizing drive, which are still pending before the Board.

After Best Service Pros cleaners at Capilano University organized with SEIU in February 2017, SEIU launched a larger province-wide campaign against Best to organize cleaners at both non-union and CLAC sites.

From the beginning, SEIU has argued that Best and CLAC duped its employees into accepting a 10-year contract in order to ensure price stability for their clients and have continued to collude to deny workers their right to form a real union with SEIU and engage in collective bargaining.

“In order for us workers to be represented in a fair manner and for our rights to be enforced, we need a union that is for the workers and we simply were not getting that with CLAC,” Nicholson explained.

SEIU’s Justice for Janitors is a movement of workers that has successfully organized to improve wages, benefits, and job security for over 7,000 janitors across Canada. SEIU’s goal is to organize all janitors in BC, so together, workers can raise standards in the janitorial sector and reverse the race to the bottom.

For more information, please visit www.bestworkersdeservebetter.com

Contact Information

Christine Bro: 778-996-4008, cbro@seiulocal2.ca

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Justice For Janitors @ Founders Square: Black Workers Matter!

HALIFAX, NS – Janitors deserve respect. Janitors deserve dignity. Janitors deserve protection from unnecessary and arbitrary job loss. Black workers must not continue being the “Last Hired and First Fired”.

Together we must rise to end racial injustice and demand a better future for the people who keep our communities and workplaces clean.

Recently the contract for cleaning Founders Square changed hands. As a result, all the cleaners of African descent were let go. Workers were then completely ignored by both Armour Group and Deep Down Cleaning Services when they reached out to discuss continued employment.

After being ignored, the Black janitors went ahead with announcing a human rights complaint alleging discrimination. Armour Group retaliated by ending the contract a week early, banning these workers from the building, and smearing the quality of their work in the media. This resulted in daily pickets endorsed by a wide coalition of community, labour, political, and faith groups including the African United Baptist Association of Nova Scotia, an umbrella organization for 19 churches.

In a shameful display of indifference, neither Armour Group or Deep Down Cleaning have even bothered to reach out to these workers or engage in any dialogue. Instead, Deep Down has suggested that they plan on continuing their practice of discarding entire groups of workers arbitrarily in future contract take-overs. This is guaranteed to result in more sites of conflict and more disrupted lives in our community.

Building managers such as Armour Group must operate in a manner that is respectful of the lives, livelihoods, and dignity of their contracted cleaning staff. Colluding with incoming contractors to discard entire groups of workers is not only immoral, it can also so easily open the door for racial discrimination and other prejudicial hiring practices.

It is time for Nova Scotia to enact legislation to prevent injustices like this from re-occurring. The long and sordid history of racial injustice in this province demands policy changes that break cycles of economic dispossession still at play today.

Given that janitorial workers are disproportionately Black, Nova Scotia needs to address this as both a racial justice and an economic justice issue and follow the example of other jurisdictions that have enacted successor rights to give workers much-needed protections.

It is time for us all to treat janitorial workers with respect, and honour the vital role they play in our society. We can do that by creating systemic change that both safeguards against racial injustice and helps lift hundreds of families in our community out of poverty. The time is now to transition this industry into a place where people can once again find good, stable, and dignified work.

Front page halifax action

Together we rise for racial and economic justice. We rise to affirm that Black Workers Matter, that Janitors are not Disposable, and we unite our voices to call on…

-> Armour Group to adopt a responsible contractor policy.
-> Deep Down Cleaning Services to commit to changing how they operate when taking over contracts.
-> Nova Scotia to pass legislation that gives workers greater stability and protections against arbitrary job loss through contract flipping
-> All levels of government to pass responsible contractor policies and build social justice riders into all lease agreements with property managers where government is a major tenant.

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Best Service Pros cleaners deliver petition to Labour Board demanding workers’ voices be heard

Cleaners representing five post-secondary campuses in BC are asking the Labour Board to respect the workers’ wishes and open ballots cast in January.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – A worker delegation from Best Service Pros delivered a petition early Wednesday, signed by the majority of workers, insisting that the BC Labour Board “allow workers to decide” by opening the ballot box and counting their votes.

“Not having the ballots counted has crushed the enthusiasm we felt when we knew the Labour Board ordered a vote to happen and the feeling of accomplishment we all felt on vote day,” said Yolanda Florendo, a worker at BCIT that has been leading the union drive at her campus to leave CLAC and join SEIU’s Justice for Janitors campaign.

The petition signed by Best Service Pros cleaners at BCIT, VCC, UBC-Okanagan, Langara College and Capilano University stated that “on January 18, 2018, we had a vote where we were finally given the chance to choose what union we want to represent us. Unfortunately, the legal objections that have been raised on our application have risked not having the ballots opened.”

Best Service Pros workers from BCIT, Capilano University, VCC, Langara College & UBC-Okanagan Campus gather March 14, 2018 in front of BC Labour Relations Board.

Best Service Pros workers from BCIT, Capilano University, VCC, Langara College & UBC-Okanagan gather March 14, 2018 in front of the BC Labour Relations Board.

Both CLAC and Best Service Pros have objected to the workers’ union application with SEIU Local 2, which would see CLAC completely displaced from these public post-secondary institutions.

“The process alone of making it to a vote was a big challenge for us, and at times very stressful because Best and CLAC worked together to spread fear and doubts among my co-workers,” said Florendo.

SEIU has filed over 50 individual incidents of unfair labour practices at the BC Labour Relations Board in response to a coordinated and aggressive anti-SEIU campaign launched by Best and CLAC.

“Having the chance to vote and have our voices heard gave us a lot of hope that we can finally start making improvements at work and start building towards a better future with other Best workers at campuses in BC,” said Roshawn Nicholson, a worker at UBC-Okanagan.

“I believe workers should have the right to choose a union and that’s why our votes should be counted,” added Nicholson.

New Labour Board Chair Jacquie de Aguayo accepts and promises to review workers' petition.

Newly appointed Labour Relations Board Chair, Jacquie de Aguayo, accepts and promises to review workers’ petition to have ballots opened – March 14, 2018.

In conjunction with the delivery of the petition, a website was launched outlining the campaign and organizing efforts of Best Service Pros workers to form a union with SEIU and fight for better wages and working conditions  (www.bestworkersdeservebetter.com).

CLAC is known to be an Employer-dominated union within the Labour Movement in Canada and often negotiates sweetheart deals with Employers at the expense of workers’ rights and working standards.

Best Service Pros contacted CLAC in May 2016 and signed a 10-year ‘Voluntary Recognition Agreement’ behind closed doors and without the participation of a single worker, leaving workers at public post-secondary institutions trapped in a decade long poverty deal.

Currently, the BC Labour Relations Board is conducting public hearings on whether the CLAC contract constitutes a valid collective agreement. SEIU maintains that the CLAC contract is invalid and has been used as a strategy to prevent workers from being part of real unions and participating in collective bargaining.

SEIU Local 2 is engaged in organizing Best Service Pros workers across the province.

SEIU’s Justice for Janitors is a movement of workers that has successfully organized to improve wages, benefits, and job security for over 7,000 janitors across Canada. SEIU’s goal is to organize all janitors in BC, so together, workers can raise industry standards and reverse the race to the bottom.

Watch Justice for Janitors on Breakfast Television Vancouver

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Campus shutdown at Capilano University averted after workers reach tentative deal

SEIU Local 2 cleaners at Capilano University were set to walk off the job Monday in protest of poverty wages

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA ––Capilano University cleaners reached a tentative deal late Thursday with their Employer, Best Service Pros, as they began mobilizing for strike actions scheduled for Monday.

“We feel very proud and this truly is a victory for us that we all fought hard for,” said Delia Tanza, who is a cleaner and member of the Bargaining Committee. “Today was the first time after months of bargaining that Best started taking us seriously and were able to offer us something more than poverty wages.”

Last Tuesday, the cleaners unanimously voted yes to take strike action and returned to the bargaining table in a legal position to do so.

Capilano University Cleaners, employed by Best Service Pros, during their unanimous strike vote on Tuesday, February 13th, 2018.

Capilano University Cleaners, employed by Best Service Pros, during their unanimous strike vote on Tuesday, February 13th, 2018.

“The most rewarding part is the power we felt as workers knowing that we have the campus community behind us and that they were ready to stand next to us if we had to walk off the job,” said Analou Espina, another member of the Bargaining Committee.

Early Thursday, faculty and staff unions at Capilano University, including the Capilano Faculty Association, MoveUP and CUPE 1004, committed to standing in solidarity with the cleaners and honouring their picket line during a coordinating meeting set up by the BC Federation of Labour.

“The Capilano Faculty Association stands in solidarity with SEIU Local 2 and calls on university management to implement a policy that supports Living Wages and Benefits for all direct and contracted workers on campus, as a broader ‘Justice for all Campus Workers’ initiative,” said Brent Calvert, President of the Capilano Faculty Association.

The cleaners’ union drive with SEIU Local 2 and commencement of bargaining had also given rise to a larger campus-wide campaign calling for a Living Wage and Benefits for all direct and contracted workers on campus.

The cleaners at Capilano University have been in first contract negotiations with their Employer, Best Service Pros, since September.

“There were definitely times when we felt tired and frustrated, but this all goes to show when workers come together and refuse to give up, we can make real gains for ourselves and our families,” Tanza added.

Workers are all smiles after learning that their dedication , persistence and courage has finally paid off.

On Thursday, February 15th 2016, workers are all smiles after learning that their dedication , persistence and courage has finally paid off.

Last February, despite an anti-union boss fight and fear campaign, the cleaners at Capilano University voted to unionize with SEIU Local 2. Best Service Pros put up numerous legal objections at the Labour Board to prevent workers from joining SEIU, but their ballots were ordered unsealed in June after a positive decision from the BC Labour Board.

SEIU Local 2 is engaged with organizing Best Service Pros workers across the province.

SEIU’s Justice for Janitors is a movement of workers that has successfully organized to improve wages, benefits, and job security for over 7,000 janitors across Canada. SEIU’s goal is to organize all janitors in BC, so together, workers can raise industry standards and reverse the race to the bottom.

For more information, please visit www.justiceforjanitors.ca

The Service Employees International Union is the largest and fastest growing union in North America, with 100,000 workers in Canada and two million workers across Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico.

Contact Information

Christine Bro – 778-996-4008, cbro@seiulocal2.ca

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Capilano University workers react to disappointing government minimum wage increase as they gear up for strike votes this week

Cleaners at Capilano University and campus allies are calling for a Living Wage and Benefits for all workers on campus.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA –– Capilano University cleaners say $15 an hour is needed right now, not in 2021, as they prepare to take strike votes this week.

“For months, we have been asking for a Living Wage in our negotiations with Best Service Pros. Even $15 an hour is not considered a Living Wage in Vancouver. With $15 right now, we would be in a better position to get closer to a Living Wage,” said Analou Espina, one of the members of the SEIU Local 2 Bargaining Committee.

On Thursday, Premier John Horgan announced a phased wage increase schedule that would bring the minimum wage up to $12.65 an hour this June and would reach $15.20 in 2021.

The cleaners at Capilano University have been in first contract negotiations with their Employer, Best Service Pros, since September and have currently reached a deadlock in mediations.

The cleaners’ union drive with SEIU Local 2 and commencement of bargaining has given rise to a larger campus-wide campaign calling for a Living Wage and Benefits for all direct and contracted workers on campus.

Delia Tanza speaks to crowd of supporters on November 29 solidarity rally about the need for public support to win a Living Wage and Benefits for contracted cleaners across the province.

Delia Tanza speaks to crowd of supporters on November 29 solidarity rally about the need for public support to win a Living Wage and Benefits for contracted cleaners on campus.

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Toronto Holiday Meeting & Year End Celebration

2017-12-09 Holiday Party

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Janitors’ union drive at Capilano University gives rise to campus-wide Living Wage Campaign

Joint worker-student delegation calling for a Living Wage and Benefits for all campus workers win meeting with University President

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA –– Capilano University President Paul Dangerfield was unavailable to accept a joint student-worker delegation Wednesday attempting to deliver a petition and open letter that calls on the university management to implement a formal Living Wage and Benefits policy for all direct and contracted workers on campus.

“The President was conveniently out of the province,” said Daniel Pringle, who is a founding member of the Student Worker Alliance Group (SWAG) and one of the rally organizers. “It appears that this campaign is having a real impact on the campus administration. As a university and public institution, we need to be fair and set higher standards that extend to everyone who works here,” added Pringle.

The joint delegation, backed by dozens of supporters, marched to the President’s office and were told he was out of the province but they refused to leave until an assistant scheduled a Monday morning meeting.

“Cleaners at Capilano University should not have to be working two and three jobs; people should be able to make enough to support themselves with one job, said Shaunti Bains who is a student and founding member of the Student Worker Alliance Group (SWAG). Paying low-waged workers more helps the entire community.”

Under the initiative ‘Justice for all Campus Workers,’ over 50 students, faculty and supporters gathered in solidarity with low-wage workers in front of the President’s office, including the Capilano University Faculty Association, MoveUp, the Hospital Employees’ Union, CUPW, the BCIT Faculty & Staff Association, Migrante, and the BC Federation of Labour.

The delegation wanted to give an open letter signed by over 50 stakeholders at Capilano University as well as a petition signed by over 1,200 students to the President directly, which they plan to do at Monday’s meeting.

The campaign was launched in September and coincided with the commencement of bargaining for the contracted cleaners at Capilano University.

“Best Service Pros keeps saying they are restricted because of their contract with the University,” said Delia Tenza who is a cleaner at Capilano University and member of the Bargaining Committee. “We are getting tired and we need the University to help us and stand up for good jobs.”

Delia Tanza speaks to crowd of supporters about the need for public support to win a Living Wage and Benefits for contracted cleaners across the province

Delia Tanza speaks to crowd of supporters about the need for public support to win a Living Wage and Benefits for contracted cleaners across the province

Earlier this year, the cleaners employed by Best Service Pros won their right to join a union with SEIU Local 2 after an anti-union boss fight and long legal battle at the BC Labour Board. Their ongoing struggle to negotiate a first contract has exposed the fundamental problem of how the tendering process is creating a race to the bottom at public post-secondary institutions.

“In the name of profits, university contracting-out policies have been instrumental in deteriorating working conditions for the most precarious workers on campus. As part of the university community, we call upon Capilano University to “make your mark” and adopt a Living Wage Policy that will make the University a special place for working and learning,” said Luis LM Aguiar, Professor of Sociology at UBC- Okanagan and research specialist on global unions, cleaners, and neo-liberal universities.

The cleaners’ fight to improve their working conditions has inspired a group of students to come together and form the Student Workers Alliance Group (SWAG), that is pushing forward a policy of a Living Wage on campus and other social justice issues affecting workers and students.

In October, the Capilano Student Union also produced their own statement on making Capilano University a Living Wage Campus stating that, “post-secondary institutions should be social leaders and work toward ensuring that workers on campus (whether employed directly or contracted-out) are paid a living wage, and that living wage and benefits policies should guide these institutions’ decisions for both their tender and non-tender contracts.”

SEIU Local 2 has been urging the university to be pro-active in working with service providers to move toward a Living Wage policy, but, to date, nothing concrete has been forthcoming.

SEIU Local 2 is also engaged with organizing Best Service Pros workers across the province.

SEIU’s Justice for Janitors is a movement of workers that has successfully organized to improve wages, benefits, and job security for over 7,000 janitors across Canada. SEIU’s goal is to organize all janitors in BC, so together workers can raise industry standards and reverse the race to the bottom.

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Capilano University student group organize panel to highlight fight for Living Wages and Benefits

Nov. 22. Student Worker Alliance Group.

Nov. 22. Student Worker Alliance Group.

The Student Worker Alliance Group are pushing university stakeholders to stand in solidarity with all workers on campus

Dozens of students and supporters gathered Wednesday November 22 in the Capilano University Student Union Lounge at a panel organized by the newly formed Student Worker Alliance Group (SWAG) to discuss what a Living Wage would mean for low-wage workers on campus.

The panel, called “A Dialogue on Justice,’ included Tom Walker, Labour Studies Professor at Simon Fraser University; Kimball Cariou, Editor of the People’s Voice newspaper; Deanna Ogle from the Living Wage for Families Campaign; and Máire Kirwan, Director of Staff Membership at the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU).

Delia Tanza, Analou Espina, and Stephan Scott, who are cleaners at Capilano University and members of the Bargaining Committee, were also able to attend the panel and share their personal stories and struggles that led them to form a union with SEIU Local 2 earlier this year.

Delia Tanza reiterated the need for public support on campus for the cleaners to win a fair first contract and explained to the audience; “I want a union, and my coworkers want it, because we want safety and benefits…  We work for very little salary, just one job is not enough for us… I am a single mom and work 3 jobs.  I work in the morning, I work here [Capilano University] at night, and I work Saturday and Sunday…  So, hopefully people here at the University can help us.”

The energy in the room was high as the crowd and panel members discussed what a Living Wage means for workers and their families; in particular, for contracted service workers who have been put in more precarious situations due to constant contract flipping and a competitive bidding model that has created a race to the bottom.

Kirwan elaborated on what HEU contracted workers said a Living Wage would mean for their lives and families. “They said that they’d be able to go home at night to say good night to their kids, or they wouldn’t have to survive on the foodbank, or they would be able to do something fun with their kids because they would have a little extra money. These are things that many of us take for granted.”

Deanna Ogle discussed examples of some successful Living Wage campaigns that have forced Employers to provide Living Wages to all direct and contracted workers, but still, there is a lot of work to be done.

A Living Wage in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland is $20.62 an hour yet as Ogle explained “almost 1/3 of families in the Lower Mainland are not earning a Living Wage.”

The overwhelming stance was that governments and public institutions should be the ones leading the way in setting higher standards.

The panel also discussed some of the challenges in winning a Living Wage and the need to keep on organizing workers and fighting for improvements.

“You can’t take anything for granted. We all have to fight to win every single battle, but you always know any gain that you make is in danger of being pushed back… There are no easy short-term solutions. Yes, having a union is almost always better than not having a union, but it’s not the end of the struggle,” said Kimball Cariou.

The Student Worker Alliance Group was founded in conjunction with negotiations of the contracted cleaners at Capilano University and have been working on pushing forward a policy of a Living Wage on campus for all workers with plans to take on other social justice issues affecting workers and students.

This Wednesday, SWAG and SEIU Local 2 will be organizing a rally to stand with low-wage working people on campus and deliver a petition and open letter to University President Paul Dangerfield that calls on all stakeholders to implement a formal Living Wage and Benefits policy for all campus workers.

See Event Details …

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Blog Post on The Capilano University Student Worker Alliance Group

Tucked away in the economically privileged North Shore of Metro Vancouver, Capilano University is an institution that includes the concepts of “an ethic of fairness” and “a commitment to our communities” in its strategic vision, yet the contracted cleaners on campus are currently making poverty wages. Cleaners are forced to work two, sometimes three jobs, to survive life in Metro Vancouver, an area with an ever-increasing cost of living, as wages remain stagnant. The trend of institutions contracting out labour has pushed industry standards for the private janitorial sector to rock bottom, as cleaning companies compete against each other in a competitive bidding process. This creates a “race to the bottom,” as price of the bid becomes the number one determining factor as to which company wins the contract.

However, the cleaners at Capilano University have fought back, and came together to fight for better working conditions by unionizing with SEIU Local 2. Despite an aggressive anti-union campaign their employer, Best Service Pros, waged, followed by legal challenges forcing the ballots from the vote to remain sealed for months, the cleaners did not give up. In June of 2017, the ballots were finally unsealed, and the cleaners won their union with a majority “yes” vote. The fight has continued this fall at the bargaining table. The cleaners are not alone in this fight though, as students, staff and faculty from Capilano university have stepped up with to stand in solidarity with them.

Campus-wide support

Upon finding out about this injustice, some Capilano University Students decided to come together and build a campaign to support all workers on campus.  It was a facebook post that informed Leticia, a second year Creative Writing Major from Port Coquitlam, about the issue. She heard about the problem and wanted to help. Shaunti, a Global Stewardship student, attended a film screening and met some of the cleaners directly, from there she was eager to start a club, quickly pulling her friend, Daniel, on board. Shaunti, Daniel and Leticia would become the founding members of the Capilano University Student Workers Alliance group, “SWAG,” for short. From there, Mansoureh, Marjan, Elmira and Meltem wanted to volunteer for a cause they cared about, and quickly started attending club meetings. Vick, another student angry about the exploitative system all workers are subject to, soon joined as well.

New Logo with words

The Campaign So Far

The club meets once a week, and meetings are open to all to discuss how to move the campaign forward, such as promoting the petition and open letter to more members of the Capilano University community. Club members attended a presentation from the Living Wages for Families campaign, learning more about how to pressure an institution most effectively to pay all its workers, both direct and contracted, a living wage. They have brainstormed and thought ahead, and handled logistics of event planning. The group is putting together a panel event to be taking place on Wednesday, November 22nd at 2:30pm in room LB 195 on campus at Capilano University, which will feature some of the leaders from the cleaning team at Cap U, along with another worker leader from the University of Washington who was intrinsic to the successful campaign for a minimum of $15/hour minimum wage on campus. Additionally, an organizer from the Living wage for Families campaign will speak to put everything in a broader context. Students have been very dedicated to promoting this event, talking to their teachers, classes and friends about it.

Students have also engaged directly with the President of Capilano University, Paul Dangerfield. Club members attended a “Student Voice” event, that was aimed at getting students to talk to the president about what they think would make the student experience outstanding. SWAG members feel that paying all workers on campus a living wage would improve their university experience because knowing injustices are taking place at Capilano University takes away from their educational experience. The president eventually stopped addressing the concerns students brought forward, but they were not deterred and stayed after the event to ensure a face to face conversation happened.

Looking towards the future

The goals of the group are for Capilano University to implement a Living Wages and Benefits Policy for all workers on campus, both direct and contracted, so that nobody who is a part of the campus community is forced to live in poverty. The group would like to see this movement expand to other university campuses too, as the problems with contracted and low-waged workers is not isolated to Capilano University. They plan to continue to meet, organize, and bring more students into the movement, and are looking forward to continuing to push for justice!

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Toronto Star: Sweeping updates to workplace protections become law

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