City Point concierges strike for right to unionize

City Point concierges strike for right to unionize
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

They shall not be moved — to another union!

The contractors in charge of concierges in the below-market-rate apartment tower at Downtown’s City Point megacomplex are trying to force their workers into joining a union they don’t like, claim the employees, who went on strike on Tuesday to demand their bosses let them join the labor guild of their choosing.

“They’re threatening us if we don’t take their union they could fire everybody,” said Gardner Soto, a Flatbush resident who is a concierge at the building officially dubbed 7 DeKalb. “They’re basically telling us to take their union or no union.”

The seven workers have been trying to organize with Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ since May, and say the benefits the current contractor LVA Group and Town House Specialty Cleaning are offering stink.

Soto is bipolar and said the health-care coverage doesn’t cover mental-health services, for instance, and the workers still have to pay when they go to the doctor.

These aren’t unreasonable demands, said a 32BJ spokeswoman.

“Most porters and concierges in the city have comprehensive health insurance and days off,” said rep Amity Paye. “They would be doing the same work, but not having the benefits.”

The workers claim their employers have punished them for their union activity, and are trying to discourage them from teaming up with the service employees union by offering more days off and a pay rise from $15 an hour to $18 instead.

In fact, the day after Tuesday’s rally, the concierges claim their bosses grilled them, and then told them they’d be reassigned to cleaning work instead of their regular duties, Paye claims.

They have reported it to the National Labor Relations board, she said.

Town House Cleaning and LVA Group are the third contractors that developer Acadia Realty Trust have brought in since 7 DeKalb opened, Soto says.

In August, the building’s workers demanded that their then-employer Kent Services pay them $18 an hour — which is what the workers at the market-rate apartment building next door earn.

Their paychecks were boosted from $12 to $15 an hour, but Soto said he still wasn’t satisfied and wants the right to unionize with whichever organization he sees fit.

He says he wants to sit down with his bosses and talk, but claims he hasn’t heard anything from the company’s head honchos yet.

“All they have to do is make the phone call and say ‘Come to work, we’re gonna sit down listen to what you guys want,’ but as of yet, we haven’t gotten any solid answers,” he said.

Town House Cleaning and Acadia Realty Trust did not return requests for comment.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill