2006-06-30 / Community

Strike At Surfside Houses Ends With New Contract

Old Crew Back To Work, Health Benefits Restored
By Howard Schwach


State Senator Malcolm Smith speaks with residents and strikers in front of 106-20 Shore Front Parkway.
State Senator Malcolm Smith speaks with residents and strikers in front of 106-20 Shore Front Parkway. An acrimonious six-week strike that brought picketers from all over the city to Rockaway for a series of union rallies ended with a whimper last week when the workers went back to their jobs with a signed contract in their pockets.

The strike, which began with a mass of workers from all over the peninsula swarming the three building housing complex, comprised of 1 Beach 105 Street and 106-20 and 107-10 Shore Front Parkway in Rockaway Park, on May 8, ended on Friday, June 23 with all of the workers reportedly going back to their former positions.

"Everybody is back to work," said Danny Massey, a spokesperson for Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ. "The owners of the property signed a general agreement that is the same as every other building complex in the city and everybody went back."

"The new contract is a testament to the workers and volunteers that picketed both the housing complex and [the owner's] home for the last five weeks," he added. "The contract sends a strong message that you can't break the union in Rockaway."

Service workers from all over the peninsula came to Surfside for a rally early in the strike.
Service workers from all over the peninsula came to Surfside for a rally early in the strike. The new contract provides for a $10 a week raise for all workers this October, a restoration of full health care with no employee contributions and an increased retirement plan.

Steve Valiotis, the owner and manager of the property reportedly froze all raises three years ago and stopped paying for health insurance before the strike. The union demonstrations included many residents of the complex, who came out to support the workers, many of whom had worked in the buildings for years.

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, State Senator Malcolm Smith and Democratic District Leader Lew Simon reportedly met with Valiotis to urge him to make a settlement with workers and end the strike.

"We told him that he was getting a reputation as a union buster in our community, a reputation that he should not want to have," said Pheffer. "We told him it was not good for him to be a negative force in the community."

Pheffer said that she was impressed with the support the workers got from the residents and that she was gratified that the strike was over and that everybody can now move on.

Porters and others with the exception of building superintendents earn approximately $750 a week. Superintendents earn more. One source said that they earn approximately $100 to $150 a week over the porters salary.

Neither Valiotis nor any of his employees at Alma Realty Company were available for comment.

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