“The Williamsburgh Savings Building was once a towering symbol of pride, but now it is a towering symbol of greed,” said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, who joined the union for Thursday’s protest. “If we have to be out her every afternoon to send Dermot a message, we will. And that message is that New York City is a union town, and it will always be a union town.”
According to Kyle Bragg, vice president of 32BJ, the building staff at Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, which includes doormen, maintenance and janitorial staff, are being paid a wage comparable to the one earned by union members, but are not receiving the pension, health, and training benefits that are afforded union workers.
“It’s incredible that luxury condos of this nature are selling for exorbitant prices and still they employ non-union workers,” said Bragg. “These units sell for millions of dollars, and yet the building’s owners are still making money off the backs of their workers.”
According to representatives of 32BJ, the building’s 11 member staff is wholeheartedly in favor of joining the union, but they are fearful of being fired if they speak out. One employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the primary reason that the staff members want to join 32BJ is for the better health care.
“What they are giving us is not a real type of health coverage,” the employee said. “It doesn’t cover medication, and also doesn’t cover our family members.”
Aside from minor salary confusion within the first months of the building’s operation, there have been few problems for the employees, but they still seek the security of union employment.
“I have a mortgage to pay, and we can’t afford to lose our jobs,” the employee continued. “As part of the union, we’d feel more secure working there. Without it, they can fire us for any reason.”
According to the employee, the staff at the Williamsburgh Savings Building asked for a better health plan that would include dental care, vision, and family members, but Dermot said that a more expansive plan would cost too much.
“I don’t understand how they can sell apartments for so much and not provide us with a reasonably priced health plan,” they said.
The Dermot Company did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
To further assist the workers in their efforts to join the union, Assemblyman Jeffries indicated that he would ask State Comptroller Thomas diNapoli to divest the state pension fund from their investments with the Dermot Company and other companies that do not use union labor.