Workers demand back slashed wages and benefits
HACKENSACK, N.J. — Office cleaners who work at 3 University Plaza were joined by dozens of union members who work in the area and their allies to rally outside the Hackensack high-rise on Tuesday night to protest an unfair drop in wages and benefits for the seven cleaners at the building.
The cleaners at 3 University Plaza saw their wages shrink last fall by almost $4.00— $15.35 to $11.50— when the building was sold to Mountain Developers. The owners brought in the cleaning contractor Planned Building Services (PBS), which cut the workers’ wages and eliminated many of their benefits they had through their union SEIU 32BJ, including employer-paid comprehensive health care, paid time off, pension and legal training benefits.
Joined by fellow union members and allies, the office cleaners demanded that the notoriously lawbreaking employer restore the wages and benefits they need to sustain their families.
“I was shocked to see my salary drop so much overnight. We can’t get by on $11.50 per hour,” said Maria Gauman, who has worked at the building for 12 years. “Nobody can here in New Jersey— it’s impossible, and insulting to decrease our salaries like this.”
“Workers are tired of making substandard wages and benefits,” said Kevin Brown 32BJ SEIU Vice President and New Jersey District Director. “Just down the road, office cleaners at Fairleigh Dickinson take home over $15 an hour, as well as getting quality, affordable health benefits and the opportunity to retire in dignity. These workers get next to nothing. PBS’s long history of lawbreaking will end at the bargaining table. Workers mean business.”
The union filed unfair labor practice charges against PBS in January for harassing Jersey City employees. PBS committed wage theft against hundreds of employees, and in 2020, a Brooklyn rental building owner agreed to pay $450,000 in back wages with interest to underpaid Planned employees. The building service contractor has paid over $1,000,000 after illegally firing employees in the past, and the federal government is currently investigating Planned for multiple charges of worker harassment.
“We do not welcome irresponsible actors like PBS in our neighborhood,” said Bergen County Freeholder Mary Amoroso. “PBS needs to do right by its employees—that means paying competitive wages and cooperating during bargaining. Workers—local residents—are struggling to get by on PBS’s poverty wages and lack of benefits.”
Bergen County Freeholder Thomas Amoroso also supported the workers at the rally.
“We cannot let contractors and building owners think they can just set whatever conditions for the job they want. Workers have fought hard to get just wages and benefits for their labor, and we are here to remind them that they must respect those agreements,” said Nedia Morsy of Make the Road New Jersey.
Hundreds of PBS employees have voted to join 32BJ SEIU, a building service workers union, to fight for decent wages, benefits and respect on the job.
With 175,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 13,000 in New Jersey, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.