Rally in Brooklyn supports
locked-out building workers
|Rally for locked-out building workers at Flatbush Gardens in Brooklyn, New York, April 26.|
BY SARA LOBMAN
BROOKLYN, New York—More than 300 workers joined a spirited rally outside Flatbush Gardens apartments here April 26 to support 70 locked-out maintenance workers and porters at the large housing complex.
The workers have been fighting a lockout by Renaissance Equity Holdings since Nov. 29, 2010. Landlord David Bistricer hired replacement workers when the union refused the company’s “best and final” offer that would have slashed pay by more than 30 percent, cut vacation time, and forced workers to pay for health insurance.
“We’re here fighting for better conditions,” Alan Jones, one of the Flatbush Garden workers, said. “I started working here 10 years ago for $8.50 an hour. I’ve finally worked my way up to $20 and they want to push me back nearly to where I started. I rent a studio apartment here too,” he added. “So every month I give them back $850!”
The rally participants were overwhelmingly members of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) who are building workers at various apartment buildings and complexes throughout New York City. “I came down to show support,” said James Watkins, a porter at Kings Village apartments, also in Brooklyn. “It’s them today, but it could be us tomorrow.”
Members of the Flatbush Gardens Tenants Association also participated in the rally. “Before they went after the workers, the owner here went after the tenants,” said Michele Purdie, who has lived in the apartment complex for more than 15 years. “Four years ago they tried to put in individual meters to force each tenant to pay for electricity. We stopped that. But then they took photos of people’s air conditioners and started charging for that. Now they go after the workers. The union has to fight for the unemployed and others, not just their members.”