A group of service workers at a Hell’s Kitchen apartment building walked off the job May 2 on a short-term strike after the building owner made workers’ jobs more difficult in the wake of a successful union drive in September 2022.

It’s the third building where residential 32BJ workers have gone on strike in pursuit of a first contract since February.

32BJ SEIU has filed an unfair labor practice charge on behalf of the building staff at the Chatham 44 Condominium over seven different violations with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of the workers. National labor law prohibits employers from punishing members who are exercising their right to join a union or refusing to bargain in good faith.

Though the National Labor Relation Board’s investigation process typically takes months to produce a decision, the union has recently had some luck extracting concessions from employers at other apartment buildings as the NLRB’s process unfolds.

In both the strikes that took place in Manhattan luxury apartment buildings in February, doorpeople, porters and handypersons have been able to make progress. At the Jardim building on 527 West 27th St., where workers went out on a 24-hour strike on February 15, workers have won back health insurance, which the employer had unilaterally canceled without notice in the midst of bargaining a first union contract at the building.

At 56 Pine, where workers went on strike to protest unilateral changes to staffing levels, resulting in no break times, workers have won back breaks.

While the labor actions have resulted in gains, the workers’ overarching fight for a collective bargaining agreement, the agreement at the heart of union negotiations, continues to be unmet at both buildings.

The grievances that led to the most recent strike were even more far-reaching. Workers are alleging that the owner of the building of the Chatham 44 Condominium ignored their calls to bargain, added responsibilities to the unionized workers, disciplined workers unfairly, made threats to workers who continue to exercise their rights, reduced the staff without notice and replaced workers with independent contractors. The manager of the condo did not respond to a request for comment.

Gregory Morris, a concierge at the building, described how the building superintendent began adding new responsibilities to the employees in the years after the union drive. In January when he was leafleting to raise awareness about the owners’ refusal to bargain with the union, the superintendent allegedly told him that he could discipline and fire him for his union activities. Another worker also made statements that the superintendent has been trying to “scare us and let us know that at any moment we can be suspended and reprimanded.”

“He has been making working at the site really uncomfortable ever since we won recognition with the union,” Morris said in a statement.

In spite of the leafleting, the workers’ demands that management sit down at the bargaining table have so far been ignored.

32BJ Concierge Gregory Morris pickets to bring his employer to the bargaining table.jpeg
Photo is courtesy


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