WPCNR MAIN STREET BEAT. From the Service Employees International Union 32BJ. May 11, 2021: At noon on Tuesday, May 11, six members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators joined displaced cleaners at the City Center Mall to protest the mall’s flagrant violation of the Westchester’s displaced worker law, as well as Gladiator’s violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
In January, City Center Mall owner and manager Kite Realty Group and KRG Management replaced its unionized mall cleaning company with a non-union contractor, Gladiator Building Services. Although property owners are free to switch cleaning contractors, the Westchester County Legislature in 2019 sought to prevent unnecessary harm to workers by strengthening the county’s Displaced Service Employees Protection Law. The law now provides an orderly 90-day transition period, during which the new contractor and site owner must provide written communications, respect seniority, and allow workers to apply for the their former jobs.
At the law’s signing, Westchester County Legislator Catherine Borgia said, “We needed to prevent employers from making an end run around the spirit of the law…by not being sufficiently transparent in their communications with workers.”
Now, Borgia and other legislators will join with workers and their union, 32BJ SEIU, to protest Kite and Gladiator’s refusal to respect seniority rights and failure to provide written notification of various changes.
Last month, after negotiations between Gladiator and 32BJ broke off, five of the displaced cleaners filed suit in the State Supreme Court against Gladiator and Kite for violation of the county’s displaced worker law. The union also filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board for Gladiator’s failure to bargain with the union, for coercively interrogating workers about their union support, and for making unilateral changes to employment, including lowering wages and eliminating benefits.
“This longstanding group of cleaners lost their jobs in the midst of the worst health and economic crisis of our lifetimes,” said 32BJ SEIU Vice President Shirley Aldebol, the head of the union in the Hudson Valley. “These workers are tired of having their rights ignored by an owner and contractor who have lowered wages, eliminated benefits, and disempowered employees. Enough is enough. Kite Realty needs to do the right thing and bargain in good faith with the union and restore these workers to their previous terms and conditions of employment.”