County Board of Legislators Calls on Kite Realty to Obey the County Displaced Persons Law and Negotiate Fairly with SEIU 32BJ Workers Being Replaced by Non-Union Cleaning Firm

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WPCNR LABOR LAW JOURNAL. From the Service Employs International 32BJ. December 23, 2020:

On Wednesday, Westchester County Chair of the Board of Legislators, Benjamin Boykin and the County’s 17 other legislators sent a letter to Kite Realty which is changing to a non union cleaning service, supporting the Service Employees International 32BJ workers who currently lean the City Center in White Plains, facing loss of their jobs. They called on Kite Realty to retain the current contract. Here is the text of that letter:

“We, the undersigned members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, hereby ask Kite Realty to insure that the cleaning staff at City Center be treated fairly, in accordance with the Westchester County Displaced Workers Law,” stated the letter. ” We further ask that the union contract, which provides that City Center staff earn as much as other shopping malls in downtown White Plains, be duly renewed.”

Carrying signs that said, “Kite Realty: Stop Scrooging Mall Cleaners,” the workers informed shoppers at the busy shopping center of their situation, as they try to retain their jobs in the middle as the holidays approach and as the uncertainty and risk of the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“I’m so worried about being able to support my daughter, my mother and my sister who has lost her job,” said Maria Baron, a native of Colombia who has worked as a cleaner at the mall for two years. “All my co-workers are in similar situations, and this is not fair to do in such a difficult year.”

Kite Realty Group, which owns the mall, told workers last week that a new, non-union contractor would be starting on January 1, 2021, and gave them no information as to whether they would be keeping their jobs.

Under the Westchester County Displaced Service Employees Protection Act, contractors coming in to a union account are required to offer continued employment to existing service workers.

Earlier this week, the cleaners delivered a petition to the mall owners asking to keep their jobs with the good wages and benefits they have had as members of SEIU 32BJ.

“These essential workers have been keeping the mall clean and safe throughout the pandemic, and been able to support their families during this difficult period,” said Lenore Friedlaender, Assistant to the President of 32BJ and head of the union in the Hudson Valley. “Many of them are supporting multiple family members who have been in distress, and They deserve better than to be booted at the worst of times.”

Kite Realty Group, a real estate investment trust based in Indiana, operates 89 malls and other properties, primarily in the south and Midwest. City Center is its only mall property in New York.

Gladiator, the incoming contractor, has not provided a written job offer to the current cleaners as required by the law, nor has the cleaning company announced whether they will retain all of the workers, or what the employees’ pay and benefits will be. 

In an initial conversation with 32BJ SEIU, a Gladiator representative said the new contractor was planning to reduce the staffing from the current 14 cleaners to six cleaners. The Gladiator representative would not state whether his company would honor the terms of the current union contract in effect at the mall. 

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