Hip Bed-Stuy Building Owner Hit with Federal Complaint for Illegal Wage Cuts, Firing of Workers

Hip Bed-Stuy Building Owner Hit with Federal Complaint for Illegal Wage Cuts, Firing of Workers

New York, NY— The owner of a building in Bed-Stuy, who is connected to a string of “hip” developments in Brooklyn, has been charged with illegally cutting pay, threatening and firing the workers at 1711 Fulton Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, according to a complaint issued today by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

In the 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.

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.

The workers and the union believe that the NLRB will be successful in their prosecution and have vowed to fight for justice.

“We faced threats, harassment and pay cuts for months because of our union membership and then we were fired,” said Ronnie Coppage, who was a porter at the building for over 40 years before he was fired by the new owner. “We knew that this just wasn’t right. We have the right to stand up for ourselves and our families and for our good jobs and we won’t stop until we get justice.”

The workers will join tenants at 1711 Fulton Street for a rally and march at the building on Thursday, July 30 at 6pm.

The NLRB complaint says the building owner and the management company started the campaign of illegal threats and retaliation on the first day of ownership on March 3, 2015. These continued through a 90-day period where the owner illegally refused to recognize the workers’ union, 32BJ SEIU, and unlawfully refused to bargain over the workers’ wages and conditions.

Instead, the workers, who were making good family-sustaining wages of between $22 and $26 an hour, saw the new owners cut their pay by $10 an hour and eliminate their family health coverage, pension plan and other important benefits.

After a 90-day period, during which the workers were covered by the city legislation that protected their jobs in the event of a change in ownership, Vertices illegally fired the workers because of their union membership, 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.pdf

The NLRB has set a trial date for August 19, 2015, in Brooklyn, when it will prosecute its case against Vertices and Shinda.

If the NLRB prevails at trial, Verticies and Shinda will be ordered to reinstate all the employee to their previous positions at the property, restore all the employees’ previous wages and equivalent benefits they received under their union contract before the property changed hands and pay the employees to make them whole for all the lost income and benefits they suffered since the companies took over the property on March 3, 2015. In addition, the companies must recognize and bargain with the employees’ union concerning the terms of their employment prospectively.

“As the complaint makes clear, Mr. Hoffman and his company tried to deny these workers their rights and their humanity,” said 32BJ Secretary-Treasurer Kyle Bragg. “This is not the kind of development that Bed-Stuy needs. We urge Mr. Hoffman to make a commitment to good jobs and affordable housing for working people in Brooklyn.”

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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