New York City – Concourse Village workers, tenants and hundreds of their supporters rallied outside the apartment complex this afternoon to protest the co-op board’s proposed four-year wage freeze for their maintenance staff. Though the contract expired in 2011, workers and their union, 32BJ SEIU, have bargained in good faith with the co-op board for the past two years to no avail. Now, sixty-seven porters and handypersons are about to lose their health insurance and pension if an agreement with the board is not reached soon.
“The workers and 32BJ have offered the board economic concessions that will cover much of the increased costs for a new contract,” said Héctor Figueroa, 32BJ SEIU President. “We want the new contract to be fair for everyone. Residents deserve to live in clean and healthy buildings, and workers deserve to be compensated with wages and benefits that will keep their families in the middle class.”
32BJ SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Kyle Bragg added, “Concourse Village residents will likely have to pay $1.3 million in withdrawal liability because the workers’ pension plan will not allow Concourse Village to remain in the plan without a current labor contract. The board claims the four-year wage freeze will save the residents money, but two long years of negotiations may end up costing them a lot more than giving the workers a new contract.”
Hector Ramos, the workers’ union shop steward, expressed his concern for the future of his coworkers’ families, “Many of the men and women that work with me here depend on our health insurance to cover medical bills and medication that we could not otherwise afford. Others are gearing up for retirement after serving the residents of Concourse Village for over forty years!”
Many Concourse Village workers depend on their health insurance to offset hundreds of dollars in medication for high blood pressure, dialysis and even diabetes, as is the case for Jose Repollet, a maintenance worker at Concourse Village since 1967 looking forward to retirement.
“We cannot accept a four-year wage freeze because it would leave us struggling to make ends meet. The cost of living won’t stop rising just because our wages freeze. What I don’t understand is if many of the members of the co-op board are working people just like us, why do they insist on leaving us and our families out to dry?,” added Lawrence Canty, a Concourse Village porter.
“Concourse Village maintenance workers deserve to be paid the same as all other 32BJ property service workers in the Bronx, nothing less,” said Assemblywoman Vanessa Gibson. “I urge the co-op board to come back to the table with realistic proposals that keep good jobs in our communities.”
32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country, with more than 125,000 members in eight states and Washington, D.C., including 67 porters and handypersons in Concourse Village.