Manhattan Times Service workers seek security Trabajadores de servicio buscan seguridad by Gregg McQueen

Manhattan Times
Service workers seek security Trabajadores de servicio buscan seguridad
Gregg McQueen
03/09/2016

Service workers seek security<br>Trabajadores de servicio buscan seguridadService workers seek security
Trabajadores de servicio buscan seguridad

Posted by: Erik Cuello in LocalNews March 9, 2016 0 Comments

 

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Service workers seek security

Story and photos by Gregg McQueen

“We are talking about protecting our jobs,” said 32BJ President Héctor Figueroa.

“We are talking about protecting our jobs,” said 32BJ President Héctor Figueroa.

Displacement is breeding discontent.

Hundreds of building service workers gathered near City Hall on Wed, Mar. 2, asking the City Council to update an existing law to increase their job security, and help them fight back against property owners who attempt to drive down wages.

The rally, which featured a large stage erected on Broadway outside of City Hall Park, was sponsored by service worker union 32BJ SEIU.

Union members are seeking amendments to the Displaced Building Service Workers Act, passed by the City Council in 2002. The current law features a salary cap that, due to inflation and other contract negotiations, excludes many building workers, said union officials.

“This is a very important piece of legislation,” stated 32BJ President Héctor Figueroa. “We are talking about protecting our jobs.”

Loopholes in the law have left some workers vulnerable to predatory building owners who want to pay cleaners, doormen, security officers and others substandard wages with little or no benefits, explained 32BJ Vice President Shirley Aldebol.

“Now, owners can switch contractors and get rid of service workers when they want to cut costs,” Aldebol said.

Union members are seeking amendments to the Displaced Building Service Workers Act.

Union members are seeking amendments to the Displaced Building Service Workers Act.

“We need amendments to this law to protect us all,” added 32BJ member Eunice Mercedes, who said she knows workers who have lost their jobs in recent months due to gaps in the law.

“We work hard,” Mercedes said. “We don’t want to see a new contractor come in and get rid of us so they can replace us with lower-paid workers.”

The rally was attended by numerous elected officials, including Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilmembers Robert Cornegy, Daneek Miller, Ben Kallos, Carlos Menchaca, Corey Johnson, Jimmy Van Bramer, Antonio Reynoso, Andy Cohen, Brad Lander and Barry Grodenchik.

“We support expanding the Displaced Building Service Workers Act, and I know we’ll get it done because this is a Council that cares about working men and women,” said Van Bramer, the son of a 32BJ member who worked as a cleaner in the city’s school system.

The bill, known as Intro 1004, is sponsored by Cornegy, who said that the labor of service workers makes it possible for all other industries in the city to function.

“A lot of folks might not see how high-stakes these jobs really are,” he remarked.

“Now, owners can switch contractors,” said 32BJ Vice President Shirley Aldebol.

“Now, owners can switch contractors,” said 32BJ Vice President Shirley Aldebol.

The proposed amendments would raise the law’s original salary cap for protected workers from $25 an hour to $35, and include employees who work for an office building tenant with at least 30,000 square foot of space.

The amendments would also better protect workers whose building owners attempt to contract out their jobs, and extend assistance to employees whose work becomes in-sourced from a contractor to property owner.

“There would be better remedies available to service workers when a building owner tries to cut their pay or their job,” Aldebol said.

Brewer, who was a member of the City Council when the Displaced Service Workers Act was passed, said the salary cap of $25 might have made sense in 2002 but doesn’t any longer.

“The world changed since then,” said Brewer. “We have to change the law along with it.”

The proposed legislation already has 35 Councilmembers backing it, said Aldebol, but has not yet been brought to the floor of the City Council for discussion and a vote.

“We need a vote as soon as possible so that workers do not continue to fall through the cracks,” Aldebol stated.