New York, NY – Over 100 trade unionists rallied outside 30 Wall Street on Thursday — the latest salvo in an ongoing struggle to win back the jobs of building service workers who were unceremoniously fired and/or had their wages and benefits slashed earlier this year after managers of the post address brought in a non-union sub-contractor.
“What happened here is that management outsourced their job,” John Cancel, a business agent for Local 94, told LaborPress. “The company they outsourced to turned around and said, ‘We are a non-union shop — and you guys are only going to get $15/hour.'”
Colonnade Management outsourced the workers’ jobs to Prime Cleaning Solutions, a company known for cleaning rental homes and commercial buildings with eco-friendly products.
“We said, no way, no one works for $15 an hour for what we bring to the table,” Cancel continued. “We went to management, and they said, ‘The contract is not with us'” — but we know that management calls all the shots. That is why we are here.”
Phil Baffuto, an executive board member of Local 94, shared Cancel’s sentiments.
“The new owner of this building kicked out two members of Local 94, then offered them their jobs back at a 75-percent decrease with no benefits —they were certified to run a building like this,” an incredulous Baffuto said shaking his head. “At Local 94 — our main job is [High Voltage Integrated Circuitry] & heating and air conditioning — so our licenses are through the Fire Department.”
Workers at Local 94 need to get a Refrigeration and Machine Operations License to run the turbines for the chillers in buildings like the one at 30 Wall Street — all of which takes three to five years to acquire.
“They worked here approximately 15 to 30 years,” Baffuto added. “They had little to no forewarning. The building was sold, you have income and expenses, and these two guys were a part of those expenses — bottom line. Then they got a bunch of guys that were non-union to replace these two guys, who are now out of work.”
32BJ SEIU members who also worked at 30 Wall Street had their jobs upended as well.
With the outbreak of the coronavirus — the workers could not have lost their benefits at a more terrible time.
“They did not only lose all their health benefits — but their pension, annuity and essentially their training benefits as well,” Baffuto said. “They have no coverage to lean on [now] if something happens to them.”
But the fight is even broader than that, according to Baffuto.
“We are here in these buildings to protect [them] because it is all about fire safety. You need certifications to run the equipment — and God forbid if there is a fire — who knows where to go [now] to make sure everyone evacuates properly or to make sure that a sprinkler system is working. No one thinks of these things.”
Bill Caramico, a trustee at Local 94, believes this is not just an attack on the union itself — but on the entire middle class.
“We are not going to leave until this is over,” Caramico said. “This is what people better start realizing. We are here for our children and grandchildren.”
The workers who had their livelihoods turned inside out were all under contract. Unfortunately, as Caramico said, “Big businesses in this country don’t honor such things anymore.”
Coincidentally, 30 Wall Street happens to sit right next to a Trump property. Since Donald Trump has been in the White House — big business has found it a lot easier to fire U.S. workers with little notice and few repercussions. That, according to the Economic Policy Institute, is because of changes made to the National Labor Relations Board over the course of the Trump presidency.
“When you are working for $15 an hour — do you know who is paying for that? You and I,” Caramico added. “Without proper wages, these workers will end up on welfare, food stamps and Section 8 [housing]. Why should these people be forced to have to get that relief from the government when the big businesses can afford to pay for them to have a halfway decent life with benefits? We are right next door to the guy that says, ‘Let’s make America great!'”