Members of 32BJ SEIU held rallies across the city last Thursday, including outside L Haus in Long Island City, arguing developers weren't paying service employees prevailing wages, a stipulation for qualifying for the 421-a property tax exemption.
According to the union, L Haus and 25 other luxury buildings, including the Arias apartments in Park Slope where a similar protest was held, that employ roughly 600 workers are paying close to the minimum wage with no benefits.
“L Haus is one of a number of buildings all across the city that is not living up to its responsibilities, “ said David Unger of 32BJ. “The workers inside have been fighting for almost a year to have the standards guaranteed them under the law.”
Hector Santana has worked as a concierge at L Haus for a little over a year, and said his co-workers told him when he started that they were promised the benefits would come once the building was 50 percent occupied.
“Then 50 percent capacity came, 60 percent and nothing was going on,” said Santana. “The building right now is at 100 percent capacity and no mention of benefits.”
Santana said that in response to protests last September, the workers were offered a type of healthcare he called “below standard.”
Santana suffered a heart attack in 2009 and said that he is buying medication out of his own pocket.
“Maybe if we got the prevailing wages I would be able to afford the medication a little better,” he said.
The union made it clear that last week's protests weren't directed at the tenants.
“They don’t want to see me keel over at the desk,” Santana joked. “We just want to get what everyone else is getting. A prevailing wage and some health benefits.”
Representatives from L Haus did not respond to a request for comment.