Feds Go to Court to End Unlawful Lockout By Flatbush Gardens Management

Jan 26, 2012, 14:39 ET from SEIU Local 32BJ


– 70-Plus Workers to be Reinstated at Prior Wages and Benefits –

NEW YORK, Jan. 26, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Labor Relations Board filed an injunction petition late Wednesday against the owners of Flatbush Gardens, Renaissance Equity Holdings, to end an illegal lockout and reinstate the more than 70 building workers who were forced off of their jobs at the Brooklyn apartment complex in November 2010.

"By taking this step, the NLRB is affirming our long-held view that the Flatbush Gardens lockout of workers is unlawful," said Mike Fishman, President of 32BJ SEIU. "We hope it will lead the employer into finally complying with the law and do what's right. Their illegal lockout has wreaked havoc on these workers' lives - they and their families have suffered through financial and emotional strain, some of them have lost their homes and all of them will lose their healthcare on February first."

The labor board's filing, which now goes before a federal judge, would reinstate the workers at their prior wages and benefits during ongoing court proceedings. Workers could begin returning to their jobs as porters and handymen within a very short time.

"I feel good about this because I am facing eviction and losing my family healthcare," said Shawn Williams, a handyman who works and lives at Flatbush Gardens. "This has caused so much stress on my family. I'm anxious to get back to work."

Flatbush Gardens' workers were illegally locked-out by Renaissance Equity Holdings on November 29, 2010 after refusing to accept a demand for a more than 30 percent cut in wages and benefits. In 2011, 32BJ filed unfair labor practice charges against Renaissance with the NLRB alleging that the lockout was unlawful and that Renaissance engaged in bad faith bargaining.

During the trial both the NLRB and 32BJ subpoenaed financial documents from Renaissance, which is controlled by the embattled real estate mogul David Bistricer. The documents, showed among other things, Bistricer and the other shareholders in Flatbush Gardens paid themselves more than $37 million between 2007 and 2009 - payments which they had concealed from the union at bargaining. These documents also showed that the shareholders' family members were being paid fees and other things of value from the property's operations, including lease payments on a Lexus driven by Bistricer's son.

Because the evidence at trial was so strong, and the harms caused by the lockout were so egregious and irreparable, the national labor board authorized its New York City office to file for the injunction under Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act to end the lockout and reinstate the workers.

"Flatbush Gardens' workers should be commended for standing up against a gross injustice and winning," said Kyle Bragg, 32BJ Vice President. "This NLRB action is an important precedent for workers who are illegally locked out by their employers. You can't just bully working people into accepting unrealistic, harmful cuts to their livelihoods."

With more than 120,000 members, including 70,000 in New York, 32BJ is the largest private-sector union in the state.