NY Non-Profit Media - Housing Works employees say they were fired over unionization involvement

Housing Works employees say they were fired over unionization involvement

By Kay Dervishi

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.