April 18, 2013
By Marc Bussanich

Service workers protest firings at Arias apartments
Service workers protest firings at Arias apartments

Brooklyn, NY—Building services workers were fired on February 28 for organizing themselves to demand their employer pay them higher wages mandated by law. The 421-a legislation provides tax incentives to real estate developers so long as they pay prevailing wages of about $22 an hour. According to the fired workers, they were earning about $10 an hour. (Watch Video)

They were joined by supporters outside the Arias Park Slope luxury apartment building on Wednesday evening to demand that they be rehired and paid outstanding wages due them.

The 421-a legislation was introduced to stimulate development in the city. It includes a mandate for developers to build at least 50 units in order to qualify for the tax benefits. If they build 50 or more units without any affordable housing options, they’re required under 421-a to pay prevailing wages and benefits to service workers.

According to 32BJ SEIU, the union trying to organize the service workers and help them secure the mandated prevailing wage, the owners of Arias, Dallas-based Invesco Real Estate, are just one of a number of developers who are reaping the public tax benefit without complying with the legislation’s prevailing wage mandate. About 92 luxury buildings in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan benefit from tax exemptions, which is costing the city approximately $1 billion annually.   

Fidel Vazquez used to work as a concierge for VIP Concierge Services that employed him at Aria for almost one year, but said he was let go because he and his co-workers reached out to 32BJ.

“I came into work on Thursday evening (February 27) and was told that I no longer work here,” said Vazquez.

Jose Casillas was also dismissed. He said that Arias’ management told him and five other workers they were being let go because their contracts expired.

“They [Adellco] claimed the contract expired, but it was because we wanted union representation due to no overtime, low wages and no pension. When they got wind that we signed union cards, they fired us,” said Casillas.

The union has filed an unfair labor practice against Arias’ owners with the National Labor Relations Board to have the workers reinstated.

Throwing their support behind the fired workers, mayoral hopefuls Bill de Blasio and John Liu told the crowd it’s not acceptable for developers to get tax breaks while the workers get shafted.

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