BROOKLYN — Workers and tenants at The Addison in downtown Brooklyn protested building owners who have collected tens of millions of dollars in tax subsidies through the 421a tax subsidy program, but refuse to ensure their workers are paid prevailing wage, which is required by law. Workers have been making as little as $13 an hour, receive no sick days, and don’t have access to affordable health insurance.
A majority of the tenants who live at The Addison have signed a petition in support of increasing the workers’ pay and their right to join a union free of intimidation. The workers and tenants delivered the petition to building management today, which included more than 180 signatures.
“I work full time, and I still can’t support my family. We don’t go to the doctor when we’re sick, because I don’t have health insurance,” said Michael Greene, a concierge who has worked at the Addison for two years. “I go to work when I’m sick anyway since they won’t give us any sick days.”
“We work in harsh working conditions. Many times there’s no air conditioner in the summer and no heat in the winter,” Greene continued. “We’re not asking for a lot. We just want what other workers like us have.”
The Addison receives 421a tax subsidies and is required by law to pay its workers prevailing wage, which is about $22 plus benefits. The building will receive a total of $42.6 million through the city tax abatement program. This year alone, it will save close to $3 million. Even as workers struggle to pay their own rent, building owners are raking in top dollar for the building’s prime location. A one-bedroom is currently listed at $2,975 a month.
In a last minute move, after weeks of pressure and organizing, workers on Friday received a paycheck that reflected a raise to $17 an hour. They still have no affordable healthcare, no sick days or personal days, and there is no guarantee that the wage increase will continue. The building is still out of compliance with the 421a requirement.
The spirited Monday afternoon protest took place in front of the Addison, located at 236 Livingston St. in Brooklyn. Workers held signs, handed out leaflets and led chants. Several tenants joined the protest.
“The Addison is receiving millions of dollars in tax payer money, but they are paying wages that keep families at sub-standard raises,” said Kyle Bragg, Secretary-Treasurer of 32BJ SEIU. “We need to hold building owners accountable for the promises they made to the city and to their workers.”
The city spends about $1 billion each year on the 421a program. A recent 32BJ survey found that close to half of the 57 buildings that are part of the 421a program and are required to pay prevailing wage are not in compliance.
With 145,000 members in 11 states and the District of Columbia, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property services union in the country