Bed-Stuy Apartment Workers, Tenants Protest New Owner’s Illegal Firings & Deplorable Conditions

Bed-Stuy Apartment Workers, Tenants Protest New Owner’s Illegal Firings & Deplorable Conditions

New York, NY— Scores of workers, tenants, elected officials and union leaders came together at 1711 Fulton Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Thursday night to call on the building owner to restore good jobs for the building’s workers, who saw their pay cut and were harassed and fired because of their union membership.

Local residents joined the workers at 1711 Fulton to demand good jobs and affordable housing in Brooklyn. New owner, Vertices, took ownership of the building on March 3 and started a campaign of pay cuts, threats and intimidation that culminated in the firing of all the building’s workers on June 3. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a complaint against Vertices and its management company citing scores of instances of threats against the workers for their union activity and unlawfully refusing to bargain the workers’ pay and conditions with their union, 32BJ. The complaint also says that Vertices unlawfully fired the workers due to their union membership.

“Vertices has treated us inhumanely and we’re fighting for our rights,” said 1711 Fulton Street porter Ronnie Coppage, who worked at the building for over 40 years before being fired by Vertices. “This is a big step forward that Labor Board is going to prosecute Vertices on these charges of harassment and firing.

The NLRB will prosecute Vertices on these charges in a trial starting August 19th.

“We are standing together in solidarity and we believe that we will win this case,” said superintendent Willie Hill, who worked at 1711 Fulton for over 30 years before being fired by Vertices. “We just want to get our good family-sustaining jobs back and help make this building a good home for all the tenants.”

Community members also called on Vertices to make a commitment to improve the building’s living conditions for tenants.  According to recent media reports, the building, which currently receives a state affordable housing subsidy, has fallen into grave disrepair.

“Vertices has not been a responsible developer here at 1711 Fulton,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa at the rally. “The Labor Board complaint says the company has unlawfully refused to bargain and it has threatened and fired workers because of their union membership. That is illegal and unethical and it’s not the kind of development that Brooklyn needs. We’re calling on Vertices principal Abraham Hoffman to promote responsible development in Brooklyn.”

Elected officials also offered their support to the workers.

“Brooklyn has no place for landlords that harass tenants and workers, keep deplorable conditions, and threaten the livelihoods of hard-working men and women,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “A new day is dawning in our borough, and Brooklynites are fighting back for the good jobs and quality housing they deserve. I stand with 32BJ and the people of 1711 Fulton Street as they rally for justice.”

“I am proud to stand with SEIU 32BJ in support of the staff at 1711 Fulton Street. Workers have rights, and a new owner is foolish to ignore them. Dismissing their experience on the job will hurt not only them and their families, but also the tenants and the entire community. It’s wrong, it’s foolish, it’s illegal and it will not go unchallenged!” said New York State Senator Velmanette Montgomery whose district includes 1711 Fulton Street.

“These union-affiliated maintenance workers at 1711 Fulton Street need to be reinstated, and reinstated today,” said New York City Council Member Brad Lander. “There was no other reason for the unceremonious firing of these workers other than their union affiliation. Vertices Holding must be held accountable for ignoring national labor laws and treating their workers with so little respect, and allowing their building  to fall into deplorable conditions. Today we stand in solidarity with these workers in their request to be reinstated immediately with a fair and satisfactory contract.”

“Individuals have the right to unionize and we as a city cannot allow employers to unfairly fire workers simply because workers have union affiliations,” said NYC Council Member Mathieu Eugene. “These workers must be reinstated with a fair contract. They, like all of the hard-working people in our city, deserve a living wage. We can’t allow this unfair treatment to be tolerated for any longer– there must be justice.”

“New York City is the home to hundreds of thousands of hardworking families in the building service industry who depend on earning a living wage,” said New York State Assemblyman Walter Mosley. “When management companies try to take advantage of those workers by cutting their wages and benefits, and threatens to fire them because of their union membership, it is our duty as a community to fight against this injustice. That is why I stand with the organized workers at 1711 Fulton Street and state that labor rights must be enforced and that Vertices Holdings give these workers the justice they deserve.”

In a recently filed complaint, the NLRB says there is probable cause that building owner Vertices Holdings and building management company Shinda Management Corp. violated federal labor law in scores of instances of threats and retaliation against the building workers due to their membership in the union and/or their actions to protect the good pay and benefits they previously received under a union contract during decades of service at the building.

The owners also violated the law when they unilaterally cut the workers’ pay almost in half and slashed their benefits, the complaint says.

You can find the full complaint here: https://buildingworkers.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/CPT.29-CA-150709.Complaint-Signed-by-RD.pdfhttps://buildingworkers.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/CPT.29-CA-150709.Complaint-Signed-by-RD.pdf

Tenants are also concerned about deteriorating living conditions at the building and their future there, as press reports have indicated the building’s Mitchell-Lama affordable housing obligations end later this year and the owner would have the option of opting out of the program.

Vertices Holdings Principal Abraham Hoffman is also the CEO of Bushburg Properties, which has been called “decidedly hip” by the Real Deal and has developments in Ridgewood, Downtown Brooklyn, Bushwick and Prospect-Lefferts Gardens.

 

With more than 145,000 members, including 70,000 in New York City, 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country.

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