TRINITY Church: Please Press FQM/Alliance to Do The Right Thing

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[Letter From The Publisher]

To: Jason Pizer, President
Trinity Real Estate

Dear Mr. Pizer,

This is my fourth "Letter from The Publisher" regarding the plight of unionized employees who work for Trinity owned properties managed by FQM/Alliance.

After my third letter to you, on October 3, Michael Rodriguez, president of Alliance Building (FQM) and Robert Abreu, Executive Vice President met with two of the employees, Melvin Munoz and Antonio Lanzarotta.

In the meeting with Lanzarotta, among other things, Rodriguez discussed with the employee, the e-mail messages that Lanzarotta said he had previously sent outlining problems at the workplace, including retaliation against employees who complained about favoritism, and discrimination; Rodriguez said he had never received these e-mail messages, which Lanzarotta informed him had never bounced back.

Nevertheless, Rodriguez assured Lanzarotta --in fact he gave him his word-- that he would never ever face retaliation. This of course was not honored by FQM/Alliance managers as I outlined in my last letter; Lanzarotta was wrongfully and unlawfully barred from speaking directly with Trinity executives, which is a violation of a National Labor Review Board (NLRB) ruling of March 8th, 20ll. That agreement was signed by Abreu on behalf of FQM/Alliance on February 25, 2011. I am sending a copy to you via snail mail. Lanzarotta also was ordered to vacate his long-time parking spot after his recent meeting with Rodriguez and Abreu.

The parking had been removed back in April with the “excuse” that there was construction in the building and part of this construction was happening in the loading dock. After the meeting, the building foreman Mark Kelly, who had never parked in the loading dock and has been working in the building not even a year was allowed to park his car where Lanzarotta used to park. He even suggested that both he and Kelly could park their cars in that same bay, with one car in front and one in the back and there would even be room to spare. However, he was informed by Christian Gonzalez, the building manager, and by Mark Torello Director of engineering FQM/Trinity, that Gonzalez had an agreement with Kelly permitting him to park on that space.

Lanzarotta finds these developments very hurtful because in their meeting, Rodriguez told Lanzarotta that he too once was a janitor and was "treated like crap" by managers, and that was the reason why he decided to become a manager, in order to protect the little guy. Lanzarotta and Rodriguez also discussed racism at the Trinity-owned building. A former chief engineer, Gary Stankiewicz, who worked for FQM/Building Alliance for over 10 years and had a very close relationship with Vinny Petta (a manager), had created a hostile and oppressive environment, by ordering other employees, including Lanzarotta and a co-worker Melvin Munoz, not to speak or associate with Black employees, including Prince Valcarcel, an immigrant from West Africa.

Munoz believes that this is part of the reason why he was retaliated upon because he rejected this directive. Many Black employees in fact had complained about this immoral and racist directive for years. Stankiewicz even told Munoz that Valcarcel was ordered by Vinny to go and work at another Trinity building, at 100 Avenue of Americas in 2008 as a way to humiliate him. At the Ave of the Americas building, the mechanic/building super Kenneth Goedtel was White; Valcarcel who already had an engineer's license, had to train him on basic repairs. At the same time, Valcarcel whose previous post was at 75 Varick Street, was instructed only to deal with the building's mechanical equipment while Kenny was the only one supposed to speak with and associate with the building manager and tenants.

What's more, Stankiewicz told Munoz's co-worker, Lanzarotta, that Valcarcel would never run a building and that he "looked like a monkey" and that “his face is too black.” During their recent meeting, when Lanzarotta told Rodriguez about Stankiewicz, he said had he ever been informed, he would have fired Stankiewicz immediately. Yet, this chief engineer worked there for 10 years until 2008. Employees believe it was no surprise that Valcarcel was discriminated against by his immediate supervisor, Vinny Petta, because of the intolerance promoted by Stankiewicz. (Petta told Lanzarotta that he was very upset with Valcarcel because, in a meeting with John Coleman, then manager on the FQM/Trinity account, Valcarcel had allegedly called Petta a racist).

So, it came as no surprise that on June 22, 2009, after Valcarcel reported his allegations of racism, and illegal betting on the Trinity properties, that Petta showed up with two security guards and ordered Valcarcel to leave. Petta unilaterally and unlawfully dismissed Valcarcel, even though FQM/Alliance later claimed that Trinity had, coincidentally, issued a letter asking for a one-man reduction in force.

Two months after the alleged one-man reduction, an engineer, Bob Lorenc was legally fired. Yet Valcarcel was not recalled to take his place and a new mechanic was hired to fill this position even though a collective bargaining agreement was in place. As soon as Valcarcel's six months recall rights expired another engineer was appointed at the same building where he'd worked, 100 Avenue of the Americas. Additionally, even though it was alleged that Trinity had requested a one-man reduction because the company could not afford Valcarcel's salary, four new employees were hired by the FQM portfolio and four new janitorial positions created.

Valcarcel was never given a copy of the alleged reduction in force letter from Trinity, which was unusual to say the least. He was not given any written reason for his removal by Petta; he also was not given the required one week's notice, and also received no communication from his union 32BJ. Up today, Valcarcel does not have any written explanation as to why he is not being allowed to return to his work place or why he stopped receiving a pay check more than two years ago.

Some employees believe that the culture of racism that he had encouraged and promoted by Stankiewicz has never been addressed directly by management and eradicated. They also brought up the issue of diversity in management and encourage you to look into that with their assistance and documentation. Perhaps this would be an appropriate time for Rodriguez to send a companywide e-mail message to managers and employees, reinforcing management's stated position against retaliation and against racism and any other form of discrimination.

At the meeting with Rodriguez, Lanzarotta outlined the circumstances under which he believed Valcarcel was wrongfully dismissed. Rodriguez expressed surprise that Valcarcel never received any written explanation; never received a week's notice; and never received one months notice from his union. Valcarcel, who has a family to feed, still remains locked out of his workplace, without the benefits or income he should have enjoyed since 2009.

In a separate meeting, Rodriguez discussed with Munoz his repeated requests that FQM/Alliance honor the signed agreement for his back pay. Munoz had been underpaid for two years even though he had an engineer's license. He estimates that he is owed $100,000 since he was underpaid at a lower wage rate for years. Rodriguez had promised that he would look into the matter. The agreement for Munoz's back pay was signed by signed on behalf of FQM/Alliance by Abreu. There was a follow up meeting between Munoz and Abreu and Mark Torello.

Abreu informed Munoz that the agreement was for Munoz to get paid at the engineer's rate starting on January 1, 2009. First; this is an acknowledgment that Munoz had indeed previously been underpaid. More important, however, the agreement clearly states that he would be paid the monies owed to him as you will see by the copy I am forwarding to you Mr. Pizer.

The Black Star News's motto is "speaking truth to empower." This newspaper is dedicated to defending the rights and interests of working people who help keep the wheels of the economy turning.

My office is always open and willing to help in any way as Trinity works to resolve the issues that have been brought to your attention by these dedicated employees who say their sole interest is to create a just work environment for all.


Milton Allimadi
Publisher/Editor in chief
The Black Star News
(212) 481-7745
Michael Rodriguez
Robert Abreu

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