A group of service workers at a Financial District condo walked off the job Wednesday on a short-term strike after the building owner reduced the size of the staff in the bargaining unit to the point where the understaffing allegedly hurt their ability to take meal breaks.

The decreases in staffing come amidst a four-year fight for a first-time contract. The workers of the Halstead Management condo building at 56 Pine Street won a union election to join 32BJ SEIU in July of 2019 and have been pushing ever since for a collective bargaining agreement.

It’s the second building where residential 32BJ workers have gone on strike in the past in pursuit of a first contract over the past two weeks. Service workers in the FIDI building, where apartments are listed for over nearly one million dollars, said that management have made repeated changes to their working conditions without recognizing their union rights to bargain over them.

“They have failed to replace workers, keeping us understaffed, making it impossible for some colleagues of mine to even take lunch breaks. They’ve made changes to our schedules that are not fair. They should have to bargain about that,” wrote Lead Concierge Michael Palmieri, who has worked at the building since 2007.

The workers filed an unfair labor practice on Tuesday about the unilateral reduction in staffing and its ensuing impacts on their breaks. The workers are in the process of appealing to the state Department of Labor to enforce basic labor rights around this issue. The apartment management company did not respond to LaborPress’s inquiry.

Last year, the workers filed another labor complaint that management had changed their schedules without bargaining or consulting with their union. That charge was related to sudden changes in workers’ schedules and is still pending. During the strike on Wednesday the workers began collecting petitions from the residents of the building on their behalf.

The fights at 56 Pine Street and another nearly identical situation with 32BJ workers at a Chelsea condo reflect the challenges of forcing an obstinate building owner to sit down and negotiate a contract for years after workers have joined a union. Over the last five years, 32BJ has organized 2,614 new workers into its New York Metro Residential division, and begun to help them to fight for their union rights.

Staff said they just want a stable workplace. The cuts to the workforce have upended the lives of the workers, Palmieri said. Suddenly people are forced to work swing shifts, and others who weren’t hired for overnight shifts are forced to work them.

Building employee Michael Ramirez said that he had to start doing the overnight shift after his wo-worker passed away, and there’s no window for him on that shift to eat dinner.

“When people leave, they change workers’ shifts and fail to hire anyone new. It’s not fair and is adding a lot of stress to our lives. I just want to be able to focus on my job and have a basic level of stability in my life,” he said.

“Workers at 56 Pine Street walked out of their building to rally against cuts to their workforce on Wednesday.”


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