JERSEY CITY, NJ - More than 100 Hudson County luxury rental building service workers, including doorpersons, porters, handymen, and others walked off their jobs on Friday demanding hazard pay as well as paid quarantine leave.
Holding a banner that read “Planned: Protect Us Like We Protect the Residents,” the workers walked a picket line at their buildings before coming together in front of 77 Hudson and 99 Hudson, two of the luxury residential buildings operated by Planned, the residential and commercial building services contractor. 99 Hudson is the tallest building in New Jersey, and the third tallest condo building in the country.
The walkout came about a week after the workers represented by 32BJ SEIU sent a petition to Planned Cos, which oversees operations for many buildings throughout New Jersey. But the issue has been ongoing for about six months over wages, sick leave, and alleged intimidation and harassment at work, workers and union officials said.
The workers are looking for $2 an hour raise, as well as 14-days paid sick leave if they are forced into quarantine as a result of COVID-19, Kevin Brown, Vice President of 32BJ and New Jersey State Director, said, adding that workers are currently not getting the health benefits they need and many are making as little as $11 an hour.
“We’re taking the streets because Planned has yet again failed to respect the workers’ right to organize free from retaliation,” Brown said “This is unconscionable at any time. During a pandemic, it's downright despicable.”
Some workers had been intimidated for their organizing efforts, Brown said, a claim refuted by Ben Martin, a spokesperson for the Parsippany-based Planned Cos, who said that the company respects the rights of the workers to protest and that the union’s assertions were wrong.
Martin said the company provided health benefits for its workers and has established a $500,000 fund to help employees affected by the pandemic, a fund to which the union would not contribute. Martin also said the company supplied safety equipment to its workers.
Several elected officials including Jersey City Council President Joyce Watterman, Ward E Councilman James Solomon, and Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea joined the protesters with the county legislator saying that the Hudson County government has gone out of its way to provide many of the things these workers are seeking to their own, including hazard pay.
“We gave our workers $6 per hour hazard pay and many of them are doing similar jobs as these workers are,” O’Dea said. “We also pay our workers if they are quarantined.”
Watterman said the workers should have proper medical care and a living wage.
The work of the men and women on the picket line is “is crucial to keep the New Jersey economy thriving and should be treated as such,” Watterman said, sharing her belief that all should have proper medical care and be earning a living wage.
“Progress and development cannot only happen with brick and mortar,” Solomon, who said the workers deserve respect shared. “True progress comes from investing in our people and our communities.”