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Condo workers go on strike

Stephon Johnson | 6/19/2014, 9:36 a.m.
Building workers at a luxury apartment building in Manhattan’s West Village have decided to go on strike.
Condo workers go on strike

Building workers at a luxury apartment building in Manhattan’s West Village have decided to go on strike.

Workers at 421 Hudson, also known as the Printing House, went on strike a week ago in response to alleged intimidation tactics from management, which included threats to fire a worker for being quoted in a local newspaper about his desire to join a union.

After The Villager reported that Printing House porter Kevin Samuel stated his desire to join a union and receive better pay, he was threatened by management with termination.

“I started speaking out, because it is almost impossible to make ends meet on my salary,” said Samuel, 58, who’s worked at Printing House for 15 years as the nightshift porter, in a statement. “I’m trying to do right by my family, but we are barely making it. These apartments go for millions, so I know there is enough money to pay us decently.”

Longtime concierge Arturo Vergara was also allegedly threatened with termination by management for vocally supporting improved working conditions. Vergara, a father of two who has worked as a concierge in the building for seven years, called out management for bullying him.

“I like the tenants at the Printing House, and I like my job,” said Vergara. “But the threats from management just because we’re fighting for a union are not right. We’re fighting for our families; on my salary, I can barely afford the $800 a month I’m paying for my family’s health care coverage.”

In response to management threats, 32BJ SEIU has filed unfair labor practice charges on behalf of the workers.

The union is quick to point out the headlines that the Printing House has made with its luxurious accommodations, its apartments being listed for as much as $14 million, right along with the fact that concierges and cleaners make as little as $12 an hour and can barely afford health care. Local publication Real Estate Weekly listed the Printing House as one of Manhattan’s “most expensive condos.”

Last year, the condo board, led by developer Myles Horn, hired what the union called “one of the most irresponsible contractors in the industry,” Planned Lifestyle Services (PLS), to act as a subcontractor and manage the Printing House building staff. PLS is a residential arm of Planned Companies, a New Jersey-based maintenance and security contractor that has a history of labor violations and documented ties to organized crime.

32BJ SEIU President Hector Figueroa isn’t a fan.

“At a time when most New Yorkers are interested in reversing the city’s spiraling income inequality, the Printing House and its developer seem determined to make it worse,” said Figueroa in a statement. “They want to make a name for themselves as innovative developers, but instead, they are becoming symbols of the irresponsible 1 percent.”

However, some residents appear to understand the importance of service workers. Melissa Dent, a long-time tenant of the Printing House, said that the employees should be compensated for hard work.

“I have relied upon the staff here at 421 Hudson since 1992, and they have never let me down,” said Dent in a statement. “They deserve the same wages and benefits as the rest of the residential workers in the city. These people have hearts of gold, and they should not be paid 1945 wages.”