NEW YORK, N.Y.—Workers at a Wall Street apartment building advertised as “luxury living at its finest” went on strike May 18, protesting management’s changing its vacation policy to prohibit them from taking less than a week off at a time.
“They forced one of the guys to take a whole week off when he only wanted to take one or two days,” says Christian Sandoval, a porter at 75 Wall Street for almost four years.
Sandoval, who is married with two children, says he was denied time off in February, when he wanted to go visit his recently widowed father in Florida. It didn’t bother him all that much then, but with the epidemic, “now, I’m stuck in New York, and I won’t be able to see him.”
The 32BJ SEIU building-services union said “at least a dozen” of the 15-odd workers at the 35-story building had joined the strike. They voted to join the union late in 2016, but have not been able to reach a deal on a first contract.
Workers at 75 Wall St. are paid union scale—$25.65 an hour, with about $2 more for the handyman, according to 32BJ—so the vacation policy and pensions are bigger issues. Workers who’ve been on the job for one to 10 years get two weeks vacation.
Management’s only offer was “very insufficient,” says night-shift concierge Louis Rivera, 40, who has worked there since 2010. “The union numbers are way better.” 32BJ’s pension plan is a defined monthly benefit, he added, and benefits would accrued retroactively to their starting date on the job. The condo board’s offer was a $1,000-a-year contribution to a 401(k) plan.
The building’s management did not respond to LaborPress’ requests for comment.
The roughly 350 apartments are a mix of condominiums and rentals. The condominiums currently on sale range from a $635,000 studio to a two-bedroom apartment for $2,745,000. The rentals range from $3,000 to $8,700 a month.
Another issue is what 32BJ calls “inadequate and inconsistent supplies” of personal protective equipment.
“We have it in the building, but we don’t have access to it unless the super or the property manager is around,” says Sandoval. The property manager hasn’t been seen there in weeks, so if the super’s not around, they can run out of masks and gloves. Last weekend, he adds, a coworker had to buy gloves with his own money.
It’s important, Sandoval continues, because several tenants are self-quarantining, either because they are infected or have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
“We still have to go to their floors and clean up the garbage and vacuum,” he says. “If I was single, I wouldn’t be so upset.” His children are 6 and 8.
Rivera hopes management will come to the table and negotiate sincerely. “This isn’t a situation to bash anyone,” he says. “This is just us standing up as a staff for what benefits us down the road.”