NEW YORK – October 31, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — Dozens of workers, community members and tenants in costume joined a rally and march in support of building workers at luxury buildings along the High Line in Manhattan Thursday.

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Holding vampire puppets and chanting, “You can’t scare us,” the rally was held in support of workers at 520 West 23rd St., a luxury condominium on the High Line where a one-bedroom recently sold for close to a million dollars, where workers went on strike Wednesday in response to intimidation by management after the workers began organizing a union.

Dozens of unionized, non-union workers and tenants joined the march, which also stopped at 231 10th Ave., 200 11th Avenue and 245 10th Avenue in Manhattan along the High Line, where workers want better working conditions. Some of the high-priced luxury buildings are home to celebrities such as Nicole Kidman, David Byrne, Mick Jagger, and Dolce of Dolce and Gabbana.

Tenants enjoy much sought-after views, have access to the beautiful elevated park, can snack on pricey artisanal treats, but owners have refused to improve the working conditions in the buildings. Some apartments along the High Line have sold for as much as $23 million. Workers are asking owners to stop intimidating them in response to their union activity.

“We want what most people want,” said Manny Vasquez, who has worked at 520 West 23rd Street as a concierge for over 9 years. Respect from the people we work for, job security, health care coverage that doesn’t wipe out our whole pay check, and the ability to retire when we get old. We’re not asking for a million dollar apartment like the ones in this building, we’re just saying, we work hard so give us the respect we deserve.”

The lively Thursday afternoon rally took place in front of the 231 10th Avenue condo located on the High Line. Workers held chanted, held signs, handed out leaflets and led chants.

Elected officials joined the protest.

“The lack of adequate healthcare that the workers here at The Marais have is unacceptable,” said Assemblymember Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan). “We cannot allow inequity like this to persist in a neighborhood that has seen this amount of wealth come in. I call on all residents in this area to lead by example and respect the rights of building service workers here to organize free from threats and intimidation. It may be Halloween but scaring people who stand up for their rights is not OK any day of the year.”

“I am proud to stand with the workers at 520 West 23 Street,” said Corey Johnson, Democratic candidate for City Council in the 3rd district. “No employee should be denied a living wage, health coverage or sick leave. In an area experiencing great growth spurred by public tax subsidies, I march today with the building staff, community and activists in support of working men and women who seek the protections and benefits of being members of a union.”

Union officials called on building owners 520 West 23rd Street Corp. and board president Michael Walsh to ensure that their workers are not subject to intimidation.

“We’re here today to support workers taking a brave step to fight for dignity and respect on the job,” said Kyle Bragg, Secretary-Treasurer of 32BJ SEIU. “Together we can help make Chelsea a better place for its residents and for its workers, and keep New York a place that working people can raise their families and thrive. It may be Halloween, but that’s no excuse to try and intimidate these workers. We’re here today to say, ‘You can’t scare us!’”

With 145,000 members in 11 states and the District of Columbia, including 75,000 in New York City, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property services union in the country

Meredith Kolodner

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