BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Doormen at Long Island City’s Packard Square apartments won a wage battle last week, but say their fight is not over.
After months of petitioning for higher wages, benefits and the right to unionize, the doormen at the Queens Plaza luxury residence opened their paychecks on Friday to a pleasant surprise – their wages had been hiked from minimum wage to $17.58 per hour.
“It was great,” Luis Martin, a 24-year-old Packard Square doorman and Rego Park resident, said. “It’s going to allow me to save up for school. It’s going to allow me to eventually save up and get my own place.”
With the help of the service workers union 32BJ SEIU, employees have been pushing Ciampa Management, which owns Packard Square, to pay them the prevailing wage rate – more than $16 per hour, according to the Attorney General’s office. Because Ciampa received tax abatements to build Packard Square through the 421-a program, it is required to pay prevailing wage and meet a number of other stipulations.
With wages up, the doormen are now focused on unionizing and achieving benefits such as health care.
“We don’t have sick days, or health insurance, or anything like that,” Martin said. “That is something we really need, because we can’t call out of work sometimes when we’re not feeling well, because of fear of getting fired.”
32BJ SEIU also alleges that Ciampa fired two workers, Kevin and Andre Galarza, in connection to their efforts to organize. The union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in early February.
Calls to Ciampa Management were directed to vice president Joe Ciampa, who did not respond to messages.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) visited Community Board 1 last week to voice his support for the doormen in their campaign.
“I’ve been touched by these stories and I’m compelled to come before you,” Van Bramer said at the meeting. “We would love for Community Board 1 to continue to work with us to make sure that if folks are getting millions and millions in tax breaks, that they’re treating their workers right.”
Union organizer Cirilo Grullon also spoke at the meeting to urge vigilance regarding new development by Ciampa in the area, which may lead to another application, Reaction for tax abatements.
In late December last year, the Department of Buildings issued Ciampa a construction permit for a ten-story building at 41-29 24th St.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, email@example.com or @JNStrawbridge.