Housing Works employees say they were fired over unionization involvement

Housing Works employees walking out, calling for unionization in October 2019 in Brooklyn.
Housing Works employees walking out, calling for unionization in October 2019 in Brooklyn.
Kay Dervishi
Housing Works staff walked out, calling for the organization to support its unionization efforts, in October 2019.

Housing Works employees say they were fired over unionization involvement

Staff at the HIV/AIDS nonprofit started their unionization effort last fall, criticizing low pay and poor benefits for workers.
September 15, 2020

Former employees of Housing Works have accused the HIV/AIDS nonprofit of firing them in retaliation for their involvement in unionizing staff, AM New York reports. 

The Housing Works organizing group, which is affiliated with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, had planned to file complaints with the federal National Labor Relations Board on Friday over the terminations. 

A former case manager active in the unionization effort with the organization said she was told she was fired from her position because it no longer existed, though she said she saw a posting for a new case manager role within days of her being laid off. Another former employee said he wasn’t offered an alternate position despite CEO Charles King’s assertion in an interview with Gay City News that all laid-off employees were offered different roles. 

The nonprofit said that none of its 196 furloughs or layoffs were related to the unionization effort, noting that other staff involved in union activity are still employed.

Housing Works employees started their push to unionize last fall, amid complaints that the nonprofit offered poor benefits, placed burdensome caseloads on staff and saw high turnover for its practices. Workers were set to vote on union certification on March 20 but the National Labor Relations Board had to push it back in light of the pandemic. Mail-in ballots were rescheduled to be sent by the end of July, but the nonprofit has appealed to freeze the proceedings. Housing Works is arguing that its business model has shifted significantly during the pandemic because it now operates shelters for COVID-19 isolation in hotels. 

Workers have continued organizing, and protested this weekend outside of one of the nonprofit’s thrift stores in Brooklyn and calling for shoppers to boycott it. 

NYN Media reporter Kay Dervesh
Kay Dervishi
is a staff reporter at NYN Media.
20200923