Union members voiced dissatisfaction with benefit packages granted to workers at new luxury Long Island City buildings and asked for support, at a Community Board 2 meeting in Sunnyside last Thursday.
CB 2 members tabled a resolution that would send a letter to the building’s ownership company, TF Cornerstone, in favor of the workers’ requests. The board’s consensus was to research the issue before supporting the workers and Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ.
The issue will be revisited at the May 2 meeting.
TF Cornerstone owns buildings in Manhattan and Queens and is developing seven condos in Long Island City on the waterfront on a 21-acre parcel on Center Boulevard.
The buildings’ janitors, doormen and security guards are not permitted by the company to unionize, said 32BJ representatives.
TF Cornerstone did not return several phone calls by press time.
Contacted later, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said TF Cornerstone has not met with the union.
“They should meet with the union to at least talk,” he said. “I believe in fairness as a core belief and principle.”
Nonunionized C.F. Cornerstone workers can opt to participate in a 401k retirement plan. The workers would put 6 percent of their weekly pay into the fund and the company contributes 3 percent of their weekly pay.
“None of the workers that I have spoken with do the 3 percent. These are hourly workers. The 3 percent is a maximum and even if it was 3 percent it’s much less than what the pension is for union workers,” 32BJ Organizing Coordinator Joe Eisman said.
As 32BJ members, workers would receive upon retirement after at least 25 years of work a $1,200 pension each month for the rest of their lives, Eisman said.
Jose Santos of 32BJ said because of the benefits he receives from his job, not with T.F. Cornerstone, he sent his child to school and can retire with a small pension.
“They do not have the same benefits I was able to have,” Santos said. “They’re [TF Cornerstone workers] doing their work without the benefits they were promised.”
Another critique of the current benefit is training packages offered through C.F. Cornerstone. Workers may choose to take a training course with an outside technical school. The company will reimburse them $1,000.
“There is an attendance requirement of 9 out of 10. However, the workers have no job security at these nonunionized Cornerstone buildings,” Eisman said.
He said workers could sign up for the class; however, then their job could call them in during a conflicting time. This could push them over the attendance bar and therefore cost them the reimbursement.
A total of 435 residents out of 485 occupied units at the T.F. Cornerstone building at 4720 Center Blvd. signed a petition stating “[the building’s] workers deserve the same wage and benefits afforded to 31,000 residential workers across NYC.”
A flier was also sent to all residents with the pictures of 12 of the building’s workers asking for support.
“I want to enhance skills and to receive a better benefit and be treated equal without favoritism. [Favoritism] has always been an issue,” Danny Carranza, who works at the TF Cornerstone building in Manhattan, said.
Employees at the 505 W. 57 St. building where Carranza works filed with the National Labor Relations Board last year, which ruled they have the right to organize.
However, since the ruling the building’s staff has not reached a majority agreement to organize.
The employment-at-will rule, on page 2 of the TF Cornerstone handbook, states that the company and worker can terminate employment at anytime.
The union is satisfied with the wages offered to the TF Cornerstone workers, said Eisman. Workers start at about $16 an hour.
“We won’t be able to keep this level of benefits if this building lowers the standards,” he added.