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Jorge Learns English: A Co-op's Win-Win Condition for Superintendent Promotion

Bill Morris in Board Operations on August 8, 2013

Yonkers, Westchester County

Aug. 8, 2013

"It's really hard to find a good super," says co-op board president Dariusz Walec. "We knew our porter, Jorge, could do all the jobs around the building. He's very handy, and he works long hours. But his English wasn't very good, and it was hard to communicate with him."

Since communication skills are more vital to a superintendent than to a porter — and since knowledgeable, hardworking, and well-regarded employees are at a premium — the board found itself in a bind. The members decided to straddle the fence.

His English wasn't very good,

and it was hard

to communicate with him.

"The board agreed to promote the porter to super — provided he worked on improving his English," says Walec. "Jorge bought some tapes, he studied, he got some help. It was slow but steady improvement, and, after a while, there were no more problems with communications. We have no regrets. Everyone loves Jorge."

Groomin', on a Sunday Afternoon

"I'm always trying to groom staffers for promotions, urging them to take courses in heating and air conditioning, plastering, electrical," adds the building's property manager, Bram Fierstein, president of Gramatan Management. "We gave Jorge the job on the condition that he improve his English. And he did it. And now he's one of my best supers."

But that happy ending was the beginning of another story that didn't play out quite so tidily. Once Jorge had been promoted, the building had to hire a new porter, and this one proved to be a disaster. He was, simply put, lazy. But since the building's two staffers are members of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, certain procedures had to be followed before the board could terminate the new porter.

"It's not that easy to push someone out in a union building," Walec says. "You have to document the employee's performance. If he's drinking on the job or committing crimes, that's one thing; but if he's lazy, it's harder to push him out. It took us three years — we gave him a second and a third chance. Union guys came to the building to check his performance. Finally, they decided he wasn't doing the job, and they agreed to let us push him out of the building."


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