On 49th Avenue in Long Island City there stands a beautiful building of luxury apartments, LHaus, where a two-bedroom is listed for more than $1.4 million.
Despite the luxury living enjoyed by the wealthy tenants, the building service workers do not have health insurance for themselves or their families.
To fight the lack of coverage, dozens of building workers joined by Service Employees International Union 32BJ and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) stood outside the building last Wednesday in protest.
“I’ve been working at the LHaus for the past four years,” a worker named Ricky said. “For the past two years or so, we’ve been trying to get health benefits just so we can go to the doctor for regular checkups.”
Ricky said he and his colleagues have met several times with their employers to no avail.
“I’m disappointed that they won’t give us benefits,” he said. “I feel like they don’t appreciate what we do for them. You know, face to face during work everyone is nice but underneath it really makes me angry.”
Ricky learned how hard it can be without benefits earlier this year when he injured himself at school, which is a block away from Elmhurst Hospital.
“They charged me $700 for an ambulance ride just down the block,” he said sounding frustrated. “Then on top of that, another $800 for the crutches, Tylenol and visit with the doctor.”
Ricky said his colleagues have faced similar situations, placing some in thousands of dollars of debt.
No representative came outside to meet with protestors, which Ricky said was upsetting.
“They knew we were here,” he said. “Since the rally there hasn’t been much development between the board and us. No one wanted to hear what we had to say.”
Though the lack of health insurance is tough, Ricky said he is going to continue to fight.
“Just because they tell me no, doesn’t mean I don’t deserve it,” he said. “We had a very good turnout from 32BJ, which I appreciate. Everyone that showed up went through the same experience as us and to hear their stories, it made me feel better to know I wasn’t alone in this and that others got through it, so I can too.”
A representative for LHaus couldn’t be reached and no deal has been struck between the board and the service workers as of press time.
“Everyone deserves healthcare,” Ricky said. “It doesn’t matter what age, race, gender you are. Everyone should be able to go to the doctor and get a checkup or go to the hospital if they need to.”