Cindy Rodriguez is the Urban Policy reporter for New York Public Radio.
More than 10,000 people live at Flatbush Gardens and Monday they were left without the 74 custodial and maintenance staff that typically take out their trash, clean the hallways and elevators and make repairs. The workers were locked out of their jobs after refusing to accept a 30 percent pay cut.
Labor union 32BJ represents the workers. Spokesman Kwame Patterson says the owners are using the economy to take a harder stance during labor negotiations. "They have a take-it-or-leave-it approach where they say if you don't take these cuts whether it be to wages, benefits or both then don't clock in or don't come into work the next day," said Patterson.
32BJ says it's not looking for raises, only to maintain current wages. According to the union, workers earn on average between $18- and $20-an-hour.
But the owner of the complex, Renaissance Equity, said the union is expecting Manhattan wages for East Flatbush rents. The company said it met with the union ten times and presented its best and final proposal in September. It's using temporary workers until the labor dispute is resolved and said all services will continue.
Tenants at Flatbush Gardens regularly complain about Renaissance Equity and recently Public Advocate Bill De Blasio put the company on his list of the city's worst landlords. According to De Blasio's office, 44 out of the 59 buildings at Flatbush Gardens have more than 6,400 violations. The company says its spent millions of dollars putting in new roofs, new elevators and security cameras and many of the outstanding violations have been corrected.