Kathryn Farrell in Building Operations on June 13, 2014
At the West Village condominium The Printing House, reports The Villager, developer Myles Horn bought 104 of the building's 184 units in 2011 with the goal of converting them into 60 larger units. Most of these conversions are complete, and some have even sold, with prices ranging from $1.5 million for a studio up to $7 million for multi-bedroom apartments.
Despite the posh accommodations, the building's non-union staff is struggling, with the condo's doormen, porters and maintenance workers earning only between $13 and $16 per hour. And now their increasing interest in unionizing is having drastic repercussions.
Kevin Samuel, a porter who has worked at the property since 1986, spent a nonstop week working at the building two years ago, when superstorm Sandy hit, in order to help keep it running. His compensation for his trouble? Not hours of overtime time, as expected. Instead, he was offered a one-time, take-it-or-leave-it offer of either a week of vacation or $500.
Horn and the company that manages the building's employees, Planned Companies, have since denied raises to Samuel and another long-term employee. For these and other reasons, the staff is seeking unionization. As of Wednesday, June 11, the building workers have gone on strike. As a spokesperson for 32BJ tells Habitat, "After The Villager newspaper printed a story in which Printing House porter Kevin Samuel expressed a desire for better pay and a union, management threatened to fire him."
Resident Supporting Workers
Although there haven't been any developments since, the residents — particularly those who have lived in the building for many years — appear to be behind the workers.
Melissa Dent, a resident on the sixth floor of the Printing House since 1993, said, "I wouldn't be here without these workers. They're my family, they're here for me. And it really makes me angry that they're selling apartments here for millions, but they're paying these guys horrible wages. I think it sucks."
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