Service Workers protest low wages in Park Slope
by Ricky Casiano
Apr 24, 2013 | 1445 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Luxury housing developers in Brooklyn and Queens are cheating employees out of pay and benefits owed to them, workers say.

The service workers union 32BJ SEIU led a protest in Park Slope last Wednesday accusing developers of the Arias Park Slope — a 95-unit rental property at 150 Fourth Avenue - of capitalizing on millions in property tax breaks, but failing to provide the prevailing wages and benefits as agreed to in the tax law back in 2006.

Jose Casillas said he worked at the building for a year for only $10 an hour with no benefits, and was one of five workers fired after they tried to join the union in February.

“I am here fighting to get my job back,” said Casillas, a former concierge at Arias. “I want the benefits and to be in the union, that is my right.”

The management of the Arias Park Slope, Invesco Inc., could not be reached for comment.

Arias Park Slope is one of 92 luxury buildings in Brooklyn and Queens that currently participate in the 421-a tax exemption program that grants city buildings significant tax exemptions in exchange for concessions like affordable housing, prevailing wages of about $22 an hour, and paid benefits such as sick leave and vacation for the buildings’ service workers.

There are about 600 workers in the 92 buildings that are affected by the 421-a program.

“What they are doing is illegal and needs to be addressed,” said Councilman Stephen Levin, who also came out to the protests with Comptroller John Liu, Councilman Brad Lander and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio. “We will not stand for this. We will go after them.”

More than 100 service workers also joined the rally. They have filed prevailing-wage complaints with city officials at Housing Preservation and Development and with the National Relations Board office in Brooklyn.

“I have a family and bills to pay,” said Fidel Vazquez, another former employee of Arias. “ $8.50 an hour is not enough. It’s sad and humiliating. Why can’t they pay us decent wages?”

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