Union officials, workers speak for Westchester worker protection bill

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Dozens of workers and 32BJ SEIU union representatives came to the Westchester Board of Legislators Monday night to urge the passage of a bill that would give service workers job protections if their building is sold or a contract is awarded to another company.

The bill would give a 60 day transition period when workers can only be laid off because of overstaffing or for cause. After that time, the new employer would have to give workers with satisfactory evaluations job offers. The bill would apply to janitors, security guards, maintenance workers and other service workers in larger residential and commercial buildings and institutions such as concert halls and private schools and colleges. Bee-Line bus drivers would also be covered.

John Santos, the vice-president and Hudson Valley area director of 32BJ SEIU, the union representing service workers that brought the legislation to the board, said the service industry is very competitive and contracts turn over regularly. That makes it hard to find steady work, he said.

“Right now there’s a revolving door,” said Santos, whose union has 4,300 members in Westchester.

Felix Cano of Yonkers, who said he has been working for 43 years, said its the “human thing to do,” to give workers at least a 60 say transition when contracts change.

“It says to us that you guys are looking at us like human beings, not just a sack of potatoes,” he said.

Some building owner representatives questioned whether the legislation is needed and whether it is fair to building owners.

“It seems to get the county involved in tilting the playing field on the side of the union,” said Albert Annunziata, the executive director of the Building and Realty Institute of Westchester.

But one service contractor testified in favor. Jeremy Bressler, a vice-president of Guardian Service Industries, said the legislation will improve standards for workers and provide better service for clients by ensuring the continuity of services. In New York City, where the legislation has been in place for nearly 10 years, it has helped responsible contractors remain competitive, he said.

The legislation is expected to be sent back to committee for revisions.

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