A group of families celebrated Father’s Day last Sunday by participating in a union strike at 1735 York Avenue and E. 90th Street.
Members of 32BJ who work at the building — along with their children, some of the tenants, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Council Member Ben Kallos — were there to protest their treatment by Bonjour Capital, which bought the building from Glenwood Management. The strike started last Thursday and ended Monday morning.
“As far as I understand it, they haven’t come to any conclusion about going back to our regular pay, and we don’t have benefits,” said Marcella Elson, the Hamilton’s shop steward. She is one of 14 remaining union members who work in the building, out of the 17 who were there when Bonjour took over in May.
Bonjour has announced that it would be de-unionizing, and cut workers’ pay from $23 per hour to $12, while extending the work week to six days and declining to offer any benefits. Elson said she and her colleagues have not heard anything from Bonjour since the strike started, though the company did send a letter to the building’s tenants. The letter called the strike a “scare tactic” and described the union’s conduct as having a “loose grip on reality.” It also alleged that the strike was unlawful because it did not notify management, the tenants or the service companies management hired to replace the union. Bonjour Capital could not be reached for comment.
The union’s district director John Santos insisted that 32BJ would fight for the workers’ rights as long as it takes. “[Bonjour] has a game plan, and that game is that they’re greedy and are trying to make all the money off the workers’ backs,” Santos said. “We’re in it til we win it.”
Santos and Elson also expressed appreciation for the support of the building’s tenants, who provided them with coffee, food and support during their strike. “Things are heating up in the building,” said L. Gail, a tenant who asked to be identified by her first initial so as not to be singled out by the management. “There was overwhelming support by the tenants for the strikers at our building. My personal experience, and many others at the building, found a definite lapse in security. Bonjour Capital hired a few temporary people to be at the front door. However, since they could not distinguish the tenants from outsiders, people were just walking in and out of the building.” Gail also pointed out lapses in cleanliness and timely delivery due to the fact that the UPS and FedEx workers would not cross the picket line.
Elson, who has worked at the Hamilton for more than 21 years, is preoccupied by worries of how she will pay for diabetes medication now that her wages have been cut almost in half. “It’s frustrating, especially when it comes to the end of the day and there’s no money,” she said. “We’re determined that we’re going to see it out. We’re going to stay and fight.”