NEW YORK - "I love my job," Christina Hernandez says. "I love the location. I love all the residents."
Hernandez works 21 East 1st St., a new apartment building in the East Village.
While she loves her job, she says she doesn't love her pay. Hernandez says she was hired as a security guard, but has been working as a concierge -- without the corresponding bump in pay. If she had the salary of concierge, she says she'd make $10 more an hour.
"Being a single mom and making just minimum wage is very difficult," she says.
Hernandez lives with her mother in public housing in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and says she can't afford daycare or the medical bills that are piling up.
"It makes me feel, like, angry and just sad that they're not respecting us as workers," she says.
The large building services workers union, 32BJ, filed a wage theft complaint with the city comptroller, alleging the building's developer failed to pay the prevailing wage to Hernandez and seven co-workers. The comptroller sets prevailing wages for work in buildings that receive tax subsidies. The wages vary by job title and are supposed to reflect union rates.
The union says the building must pay prevailing wages because it received subsidies in return for providing affordable housing.
"They're violating the law," says 32BJ Vice President Shirley Aldebol. "They're not treating the workers fairly. They're not paying them what they should be paying them."
The developer, BFC Partners, is a huge builder of affordable housing. Its projects include Essex Crossing in lower Manhattan, City Point in Brooklyn, and Empire Outlets on Staten Island.
"Wage theft is something that we cannot accept as a city, especially when companies like BFC are actually receiving subsidies from the city," City Councilman Francisco Moya of Queens tells NY1.
After NY1 reached out to BFC Partners about the situation, the company said it fired the contractor, Elite Investigations, that was providing security at the building. BFC also said it will audit all of its properties and terminate any contracts it has with Elite. NY1 reached out by phone and email to Elite but did not get a response.
A spokesperson for BFC Partners tells us, "BFC Partners strongly believes that all workers should be paid a fair wage. We appreciate that 32BJ has brought this matter to our attention."
The developer added, "We investigated and found that Elite Investigations was violating our requirements for this property by failing to pay prevailing wage to security guards employed at the building. We have now terminated all contracts with Elite Investigations at this property, and we have hired a responsible, 32BJ-affiliated contractor to ensure that the building's security guards are paid appropriately."
In a statement, Kyle Bragg, secretary treasurer of 32BJ SEIU, said, "When developers like BFC ensure good jobs for local workers they contribute two fold to the communities they are building in. We look forward to working with BFC as the developer prepares to starts new projects in Staten Island and many more to come."
As for Hernandez and the other workers, 32BJ says because BFC has now hired a union firm to provide building services, she and the other employees will get first dibs on the jobs that will now come with union wages and benefits include benefits.