Essential workers at two high-end residential buildings strike over harassment, pay & benefits

Stephon Johnson | 4/23/2020, midnight
Workers at two luxury apartment buildings staged a day-long walkout from their jobs protesting mistreatment, salaries and benefits this past ...
432 W. 52nd Street Google Maps

Workers at two luxury apartment buildings staged a day-long walkout from their jobs protesting mistreatment, salaries and benefits this past Thursday, April 16.

Close to a dozen workers for The Chamberlain, located on 269 W. 87th Street and 432 W. 52nd Street walked off from their jobs starting Thursday morning accusing their employer–– Planned Companies––of violating their rights to form a union, intimidating them on various occasions and denying them pay and benefits that are the standard for the industry.

“In the best of times, going on strike is an extreme step, one that workers take when they have exhausted all their options to resolve issues they have with their employers,” stated SEIU 32BJ Vice President and Organizing Director Rob Hill. “Our members have fought for fair wages, good benefits and protections in their worksite—which now include protections critical to keeping them safe during the pandemic.”

Hill said these issues are more important than ever before because as essential workers, they have to keep traveling to work every day putting themselves in harm’s way.

“The workers striking today are essential to keep these large, luxury residential buildings running and safe. But they are not being treated with the respect that essential workers deserve,” said Hill.

“Right now, I feel like Planned has gotten away with a lot, and at a time of pandemic it needs to stop. That’s why I’m willing to take the risk to strike today,” said 32-year-old porter Tunde Bello, who’s worked as a porter at the Chamberlain for 9 years. “I am worried every day as I commute from Coney Island on a crowded train, I feel every time I go out, I risk getting sick and bringing it home to my family. We have had so few gloves that I’ve had to put Purell inside and out the pairs I have.”

Planned is a company that specializes in concierge, maintenance, cleaning and security services.

On Planned’s website, the company wanted the public to know that they care about their clients. However, there weren’t any comments about the company’s workers. In a note from Planned CEO Robert Francis, he wanted their clients to know that the company is doing its best to keep them safe.

“Personally & professionally, we must do our part to make a tangible and positive difference in the lives of our clients, associates, friends and families,” wrote Francis. “We at Planned continue to take on our responsibility to provide the necessary and appropriate supplies, equipment and professionally trained associated to address and mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

But on Thursday, workers weren’t concerned about any of that. They wore masks and purple bandanas on their faces while holding signs reading “Quality Health Care Now” and “On Strike over Planned’s Unfair Labor Practices.” They also chanted “No threats, no bribes, we’re fighting for our lives!” while engaging in social distances.

Despite leaving messages with the company, attempts to contact Planned were unsuccessful.

Back on the labor front, elected officials chimed in with shows of support for the labor walk out. One former union organizer and field director turned politicians praised the workers for demanding better pay and benefits.

“Essential workers are risking their lives by continuing to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Planned Companies must do right by both their workers and New Yorkers—provide these front-line workers with essential pay, PPE, and fair wages and benefits!” said New York State Senator Robert Jackson.

"In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is reprehensible that Planned Companies treats its workers with such contempt by not paying them essential wages, not supplying everyone with adequate personal protective equipment and offering a shoddy health care plan that is unaffordable” added New York State Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal. “The workers, who are deemed essential, are literally putting their lives on the line to do their jobs.