Members of the Board of Legislators and union representatives were met with hostility on Tuesday as they lobbied for seven workers who were fired from Caspi Development Company in White Plains to get their jobs back.
The longtime custodial workers lost their jobs last month when the building’s management hired a new cleaning contract, Integrated Building Management. Neither the workers nor their union, SEIU Local 32BJ, were contacted about the contract expiration, and the workers were denied the right to continue working under the new contractor.
Chairman Ben Boykin (D-White Plains), Majority Leader Catherine Parker (D-Rye) and Majority Whip MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson) joined members of 32BJ and other local labor leaders outside 234-235 Main Street to protest the firing.
“I have three kids and my family that I need to support and now because I lost my job my family is suffering the consequences,” said Amando Martinez, one of the seven workers who was fired on Apr. 2. “I just want to tell the employer to put their hand on their heart and think about the working people. We just want to work like everybody else.”
Legislators and the seven workers attempted to deliver a letter signed by over a dozen elected officials and a workers’ petition to Caspi representatives but were denied entry to the property by White Plains police.
At least five police officers arrived mid way through the 15-minute demonstration.
Police told the group they were allowed to protest on the public sidewalk but were not allowed on the property, per Caspi’s request. Police then agreed to escort Parker and 32BJ field manager Tim McGrath to the building but Caspi employees refused to accept their letters.
“To refuse a letter that politely points out a Westchester law may have been broken and that the developer can be a hero by communicating to the maintenance company that the seven employees should be rehired, shows a blatant disregard for common decency,” Parker said. “It seems like a pretty bad sign that the building owner is not willing to accept our request to do the right thing.”
Shimsky added that the companies’ lack of civility and unwillingness to discuss the potential legal ramifications of their actions is stunning. She said they aren’t a true representation of most businesses within the county.
The fired workers have sued Caspi and the management company claiming they violated the county’s Displaced Service Employees Protection Law. The act protects the rights of displaced service and janitorial building workers and ensures they keep their jobs for 60 days under new contractors.
“The county’s Displaced Service Employees Protection Law was designed to protect workers in precisely this set of circumstances,” said Boykin, adding that he attempted to contact Caspi representatives several times and received no response. “Violating this county act is totally unacceptable.”
Tom Carey, president of the Westchester Putnam Central Labor Body said he also tried, without success, to communicate with Caspi and plead the workers’ case.
“It’s ridiculous that the building owner and their contractor are treating these seven workers this way,” Carey said. “In today’s standards we don’t put up with this kind of stuff.”
The National Labor Relations Board is also investigating charges alleging that Integrated Building Management refused to rehire the workers because of their union affiliation. If true that would violate federal laws guaranteeing the rights of workers to organize, officials said.
“We’re committed to fighting for these seven cleaners in the spirit of all the workers’ who’ve had to fight for their rights,” said Anthony Castiglione, a member of 32BJ SEIU and Vice President of the Westchester-Putnam Central Labor Body. “We ask Caspi to do the right thing and ask their contractor to hire these workers, or to find a law-abiding contractor that will act responsibly.”