NEW YORK — More than 100 workers, community members and local elected officials marched to the lobby of a luxury High Line building Thursday evening. Assembly Member Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) called the co-op board chair Michael Walsh to request a meeting to discuss the right of the building’s doormen and concierges to organize a union without intimidation but was unable to reach him. Assembly Member Gottfried did reach another board member, who promised to set up a meeting.
Having achieved their goal, the protesters filed peacefully out of the building, where one-bedroom apartments rent for $3,700 a month. The Marais, a 107-unit co-op built in 2003, is located at 520 West 23rd St and has several prior labor violations, including intimidating its workers.
Tenants enjoy much sought-after views and have access to the beautiful elevated park, but owners have refused to improve the working conditions.
“We want what most people want,” said Manny Vasquez, who has worked at 520 West 23rd Street as a concierge for over 9 years. “We want to be able to come to work, be respected and be able to provide a decent life for ourselves and families.”
Elected officials joined the protest.
“A building works better when the management and the building employees work together,” said Assembly Member Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan). “New Yorkers who have the resources to live in a building like this have a moral obligation to treat their employees with respect and fairness.”
“I’m proud to stand with the workers at 520 West 23rd St,” said Corey Johnson, City Councilmember for the 3rd district. “No employee should be denied a decent wage, health coverage or sick leave. I also believe we must continue the conversation with residents of these buildings so they understand that in an area experiencing great growth spurred by public tax subsidies, we should support working men and women who are seeking the protections and benefits of union membership.”
Union officials called on building owners 520 West 23rd Street Corp. and board president Michael Walsh to make improvements at the Marais.
“We’re asking Mr. Walsh to sit down and discuss these workers’ right to organize a union and how they can maintain some dignity on the job,” said Kyle Bragg, Secretary-Treasurer of 32BJ SEIU. “Together we can help make Chelsea a better place for its residents and for its workers, and keep New York a place that working people can raise their families and thrive.’”
With 145,000 members in 11 states and the District of Columbia, including 75,000 in New York City, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property services union in the country