Rain began to fall on rallying 32BJ Service Employees International Union on Wednesday as they marched in front of the building on 10 Montieth Street in Bushwick, but the rain only seemed to make their chants louder.
The union workers were protesting against their employer PBS Facilities Services and their affiliates. They accused the company of illegal firings, withholding pay, and the right to organize for higher wages and benefits. Their affiliates, Dynamic Building Services, are the contractors at the property in which they held their protest.
State Sen. Julia Salazar (D-Bushwick, Cypress Hills, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, parts of Bedord-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, East New York) held a sign and marched with the rallying workers before taking the megaphone. She called for justice ahead of a trial with the National Labor Relations Board on October 17, which alleges the company was firing and punishing workers for trying to organize and petition for better conditions.
“We know that every worker has the right to organize in their workplace for better work conditions. However, PBS Facilities Services and their affiliates have been violating that right. They have fired seven workers across four of their buildings always in retaliation for them organizing. That’s not right, that’s not right, and we don’t have to put up with it,” Salazar said.
Salazar described one of the firings:
“Platinum, one of the affiliates of PBS Facility Services, they fired the doorman named Jonathan Morales. They fired him simply for delivering a petition with the union. They fired him and didn’t just affect Jonathan. As all of you know, as any worker knows, you are not the only person who is affected if you lose your job,” she said. “Jonathan provides for his mother, and so he’s not the only person who is affected when he lost his job.”
“In a couple of weeks, PBS is going to have to answer in front of the NLRB in court,” she added.
Assembly Member Maritza Davila (D-Bushwick, Williamsburg) then took the megaphone and said that it was very personal to her as she had a brother who has been a part of 32BJ for 25 years. She then rallied the union pointing out the importance of democratic organization in the workplace.
“It’s important that they understand that if you’re going to build developments like this in our community, we deserve. We want respect. We want prevailing wages. We want good safe jobs for our families. We demand it. We’re not asking, we’re telling you. We want it and as long as we don’t get it, we will be here every single day,” Davila said.
She then pointed to the building, noting its extravagance.
“Look at this, this monstrosity. We cannot afford to live here. I can’t afford to live here. You can’t afford to live here. So at least do the right thing by the community. Give them their jobs,” she said to applause and chants of 32-BJ.
For the last few months, workers who have worked at buildings contracted by PBS Facility Services, said they have been fired for trying to organize their workplace. Other workers have had their wages withheld from them and harassed by the employer. This has particularly been rough on doormen and porters.
One worker, Ashley Mejia, 24, said that she began working at the 10 Montieth Street building and is owed about $17,000 over the past 6 months. She began working at the building in March and the problems were almost immediate. When she first began they promised her a pay rate, then it was coming the next day, and eventually, they said they lost her paycheck, said Mejia.
“Everyone around was getting paid what they were supposed to get paid and then they started to lose my checks. It was insane. I started to feel cornered like I couldn’t ask or talk to anybody. It was just very uncomfortable,” Mejia said.
Mejia also stressed that the company shouldn’t overlook the role of the doorman and porter in the building.
“I feel like the doorman and the porter are the lifeblood of the building. You can’t receive anything. We are the face of the building. The porter staff they’re like the heart of the building, otherwise, it’s not maintained. Without any of us it’s like you can’t really go in the building,” she said.
This is not the first time that PBS Facilities and their affiliates has been accused of breaking labor laws. In August, affiliates Dynamic Building Service settled in a similar case for over $56,000. This trial, they’re accused of withholding over $60,000 and harassing and illegally firing workers.
Emails to PBS Facilities Services for a response were not returned.