32BJ SEIU union rallies at Shipyard complex in Hoboken

The union says that the complex’s contractors have mistreated their workers

32BJ SEIU gathered in northeast Hoboken on Tuesday afternoon. Photo by Mark Koosau.

Members of local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union rallied at the Shipyard complex in northeast Hoboken on Tuesday afternoon to demand better wages and benefits from local developer’s service contractors, and to accuse them of mistreatment of workers.

With the Shipyard complex in front and the backdrop of Manhattan behind them, speakers from the union said that Ironstate Development and their two contractors, Planned Companies, which handles concierge duties, and BABCO, which handles cleaning, have cut worker’s hours without explanation and have also not provided health care.

“We hope that BABCO, Planned and Ironstate management understand that these workers are not going away,” said Kevin Brown, the Executive Vice President of 32BJ and the New Jersey State Director in an interview.

“That their fight is just and they need a living wage with quality, affordable health benefits, and to be able to have a union on the job,” he continued. “Until that happens, they’re gonna keep fighting.”

As Mayor Ravi Bhalla looks on, Erika Orellana, a porter at the Shipyard, said that her hours were cut and called it “unfair.” Photo by Mark Koosau.

The Shipyard was developed by Ironstate, a developer that 32BJ has fought with before. Back in February, the union accused the developer for violating Jersey City’s standard wage ordinance at their high-rises at 70 and 90 Columbus Drive.

Ironstate later reached an agreement with the city to pay $420,000 to remedy underpayments for wages and benefits.

Brown had also appeared virtually before the Jersey City Planning Board last week to criticize Ironstate during a hearing on the approved Urby towers, and had a back-and-forth between the board attorney before being cut off.

The union has also criticized Planned Companies, who said their workers have been without a contract for two-and-a-half years. They rallied for Planned’s workers at the Xchange complex in Secaucus earlier this year.

Erika Orellana, a porter at the Shipyard for about two-and-a-half years, said that her hours were cut from 40 to 20 hours a week, but her workload has remained the same.

“They want me to do the same amount of work, and that is totally unfair,” she said via an interpreter. “We’re calling on Ironstate to replace BABCO with a responsible contractor that will respect the workers’ right.”

Also in attendance at the rally was Mayor Ravi Bhalla, who was endorsed by the union during his unopposed reelection campaign last year.

Mayor Ravi Bhalla attended the rally in support of 32BJ, telling the union to “keep on fighting the good fight.” Photo by Mark Koosau.

“Everyone has the right to a living/minimum wage, to health care, to feed their family, and get to a comfortable life for themselves and their families,” he said. “That’s all you ask. That’s not too much to ask. That is what America is about. So keep on fighting the good fight.”

Brown also praised Bhalla during the rally, saying that the mayor has helped the union by passing laws such as one that require standard wages and benefits for workers in developments that receive subsidies.

“I ask you: if every politician in New Jersey would put their actions where their head is and where their mouth is like Mayor Bhalla, wouldn’t this be a great state?” he exclaimed.

Ironstate, Planned Companies and BABCO did not respond for comment on the union’s rally.

For updates on this and other stories, check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.