Jersey City has pulled back on a threatened cancellation of a tax abatement for three of the six buildings within The Beacon Community, at 20 Beacon Way. The city and developer have settled a dispute over the Beacon’s treatment of workers in the buildings.
Last December, the city announced it would terminate the 15-year tax abatements as the developer, Baldwin Asset Associates Urban Renewal Company, allegedly defaulted on its 2005 financial agreement with the city.
According to a Sept. 30 default notice sent from the city to an attorney representing the developer, the developer allegedly violated municipal code when it failed to submit certified and original payroll records for all properties for each building’s workers from August 2014 to May 2020, among other payroll records.
Developments that receive tax abatements must provide standard hourly pay and benefits as well as paid leave for full-time and part-time clerical workers, food service workers, janitorial workers, and unarmed security guards.
According to a press release, under Jersey City’s 2012 building service standard wage ordinance, as a condition of receiving such abatements, cleaning vendors working at large projects are required to pay building cleaners at least $13.97 an hour in wages and benefits.
One such vendor hired by the developer, Planned Companies, allegedly underpaid 13 cleaners who lost their jobs on June 1 when a new cleaning contractor was hired to replace Planned Companies.
Back wages paid
Now, according to 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, the developer has agreed to pay back wages to the cleaners who were left out of a job as well as hire a new vendor who would reinstate the cleaners.
The cleaners will receive a total of $102,000 in back wages.
“We are pleased with Beacon Redevelopment’s decision to make right by the workers of Planned Companies who worked at the Beacon,” said Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop. “I hope that this is another reminder that Jersey City will not tolerate noncompliance with the living wage ordinance, which exists to ensure our city supports developments that create good jobs for our communities.”
The subcontracted cleaners, making $11/hour at the time, voted to join the union SEIU Local 32BJ to demand fair wages and health benefits.
Since joining, SEUI 32BJ has organized protests and strikes across Hudson County demanding hazard pay and paid quarantine leave among other asks.
“This is another clear example of how irresponsible contractors like Planned Companies cause serious damage to not only workers, but developers as well,” said Kevin Brown, 32BJ Vice President and New Jersey State Director. “We look forward to the Beacon cleaners getting back to their jobs with the wages, benefits, and the union protections they deserve.”
“I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Juan Perez, one of the cleaners. “Last few months have been incredibly difficult. Because of Planned’s irresponsibility, my three kids, wife, and I started relying on food banks to survive, but we never stopped fighting. I cannot wait to go back to my job with my coworkers and my union.”
The Jersey City Council officially withdrew the ordinance terminating the developer’s abatements, unanimously voting to defeat the ordinance at the April 28 council meeting.