Workers gathered legislative support as they rallied Oct. 5 outside the headquarters of the real estate group that fired its unionized cleaning staff as soon as it took over the lease of a Midtown office building.

The Sioni Group, which bought the 19-story Midtown office building at 6 E 45th St. in September, left the six-member cleaning crew — several of whom had worked there for decades — suddenly without health benefits and a stable job. 32BJ SEIU, the workers’ union, has been fighting to get the workers their jobs back, but union leaders said the Sioni Group has so far refused to meet with them.

“The new owner took over the building and the same day they took over, they kicked the workers to the curb like garbage,” said 32BJ Executive Vice President Denis Johnston.

New York City has a law called the Displaced Building Service Workers Protection Act that is aimed at requiring owners like the Sioni Group to keep service staff for at least a 90-day transition period, but since building in question is under 100,000 square feet, it falls outside the scope of this law, allowing Sioni to fire the workers with little notice, said Johnston.

Assemblymember Tony Simone said that the exceptions to this law probably need to be revisited, and that he would offer state legislative solutions if needed.

Michael Delecce, one of the fired workers who worked at the building for 19 years, faces daunting medical debts as a result of the firing. One of Delecce’s two daughters, has a major surgery scheduled for November that he was counting on his benefits to cover, but with his insurance set to shortly expire he’s not sure how he’s going to pay for it.

“It’s just a terrible situation. It’s very wrong,” said Delecce.

Senada Ljesajin, who had worked at the building for close to 29 years, said she was ready to retire when she hit the 30-year mark and attained the pension plan she had been working toward, but now she may have to change plans.

“This is about a greedy manager, not caring about anything but making an extra buck and doing it on the backs of hardworking 32BJ members and turning around and cutting people just before retirement,” said Assemblymember Alex Bores, who represents the building’s district.

The union contract dictates that since the previous owner of the building failed to get its buyer to agree to a union contract, it has to pay the worker six months wages and some liquidated damages, but that arrangement does not address the loss of benefits for the workers.

The Sioni Group, which owns a portfolio of office buildings in Manhattan, reportedly bought the building for $26.8 million. The company did not respond to a request for comment from LaborPress by the time of publication.

“If you can spend $27 billion for new buildings, you can definitely hire back the six to seven workers you laid off who have families in this city,” said Simone. “

During the rally, the legislators, several workers and 32BJ leaders attempted to enter the Sioni Group’s headquarters to meet with its executives but were turned away.

“We’re gonna be out here as long as it takes to get these workers back,” said Bores.

Fired cleaner Michael Delecce stands to lose out on benefits that his family depends on
32BJ members rallied outside the headquarters of the Sioni Group


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