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Caribbean Life, Feb. 28-Mar. 5, 2020 23
Will Finally be Heard
By Stuart Appelbaum, President
Retail, Wholesale and Department
Store Union, RWDSU, UFCW
Housing Works employees have spent over a
year trying to get their boss to accept that
they want to join the RWDSU. Workers at
the otherwise progressive Housing Works – founded
in 1990 by several members of ACT UP in order to provide housing,
healthcare, job training, legal assistance, and other supportive services for
people living with HIV/AIDS – assumed that their employer would respect
their rights and their wishes to join a union. But they were wrong.
After failing to secure a neutrality agreement that would promise zero
interference from management during an organizing drive, Housing
Works employees demanded recognition from their employer. Housing
Works refused to recognize the union, despite a majority of the workers
choosing to support the unionization efforts. Now, fed up with the delays
and obfuscation, Housing Works employees have filed for an NLRB
election so their wishes to join a union can finally be realized. After
numerous meetings with Housing Works and delays by management,
they had no other choice.
It didn’t have to be this difficult. By insisting on an NLRB election,
Housing Works has ensured the process will take more time and resources
and delay better treatment for its workers and better care for its clients.
The 650 Housing Works employees at housing units, thrift stores,
healthcare, and other locations throughout New York City have been clear
from the outset that they need union representation to address a number
of important issues and to provide their clients with the best possible
care. Workers at Housing Works have raised serious concerns to
management, describing unmanageable caseloads, lack of training,
discrimination and harassment and health and safety issues. Workers
have raised concerns about pay and benefits, including that their health
insurance doesn’t provide adequate coverage, such as for workers
These workplace concerns are central not just to employee welfare,
but to client care as well, with these issues leading to high turnover rates
Workers believe that union representation is the best way for them to
address their concerns. Housing Works’ refusal to recognize the union –
or at least to sign a neutrality agreement – has hindered that process.
And now, Housing Works is escalating their campaign to deny their
workers’ rights by attempting to turn workers against the union with a classic
misinformation campaign, even after claiming countless times that they
would respect their workers’ wishes and remain “neutral.” Housing Works
leadership does not know what remaining neutral truly means. By continuing
their misguided fight to deny workers their rights, Housing Works continues
to operate in a manner contrary to their progressive values.
Housing Works employees strive every day to improve the lives of
people living with HIV/AIDS, and their work makes a real
difference. It’s not too much for them to expect that
their employer lives up to the same progressive
principles toward their own workers. It’s past time
that Housing Works ends its union-busting fight
against its own workers, and allows the process
to continue unimpeded.
Persons depicted are models being used for illustration purposes only
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