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NLRB fights for Flatbush Gardens workers over 2010 lockout

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 2/3/2012, 3:55 p.m.

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed an injunction against Renaissance Equity Holdings, the owners of Flatbush Gardens, to end what they called an illegal lockout and reinstate over 70 building workers who were forced off their jobs back in November 2010.

The filing, under Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act, would reinstate the workers-porters and handymen-at their wages and benefits prior to November 2010 while court proceedings continue. It now goes before a federal judge.

"By taking this step, the NLRB is affirming our long-held view that the Flatbush Gardens lockout of workers is unlawful," said 32BJ SEIU President Mike Fishman in a statement. "We hope it will lead the employer into finally complying with the law and doing what's right. Their illegal lockout has wreaked havoc on these workers' lives-they and their families have suffered through financial and emotional strain, some of them have lost their homes and all of them will lose their health care on February 1."

On Nov. 29, 2010, the workers were locked out by Renaissance Equity Holdings after they refused to accept a 30 percent cut in wages and benefits. With the NLRB's help, the union filed unfair labor practice charges on Renaissance, claiming that the lockout was unlawful and Renaissance negotiated in bad faith. Last spring, New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams joined Flatbush Gardens workers on the picket line to speak out against a plan to cut wages and benefits. David Bistricer, who oversees the housing complex, is on the city's Worst Landlords Watchlist.

According to 32BJ, the union and NLRB subpoenaed financial documents from Renaissance during the trial. The documents showed that Bistricer and other shareholders in the Flatbush Gardens housing complex paid themselves over $37 million between the years 2007 and 2009, which the union said was concealed from them at the bargaining table. The documents also showed that the family members of shareholders were paid fees from the property's operations, including lease payments on a Lexus driven by Bistricer's son. This is what motivated the NLRB to file an injunction and end the lockout.

One worker feels optimistic about NLRB's filing. "I feel good about this because I am facing eviction and losing my family health care," said handyman Shawn Williams, who also lives at Flatbush Gardens. "This has caused so much stress on my family. I'm anxious to get back to work."