Thank you for letting me speak today. My name is George Contoveros. I am a maintenance worker for the Housing Authority, assigned at Baruch Houses. I am also a Teamster Local 237 Shop Steward.
I would like to start off by saying that retaliation against NYCHA employees is overwhelming. In my situation, after reporting environmental hazards such as asbestos, that not only endangered the workers but also the residents, I was brought up on bogus charges soon afterwards.
In many of the cases, the NYCHA is fully aware of the hazards such as asbestos. They have an in-house inspection team that conducts inspections every six months, as quoted by a former
NYCHA spokesperson named Hilly Gross in a past news article.
Then why did the inspection team detect the asbestos? On the contrary, they were fully aware of it and in order to save money abating it they simply ignored it.
Many workers who report wrongdoings or speak out are often retaliated against. They are afraid and veiled threats as well as direct ones are often made to them. Corruption is plainly evident in the employee transfer system. This system is supposed to work automatically by computer. This is not the case. Routinely workers are hand-picked for assignments or certain locations, bypassing the system.
I know of Supervisors at my location that were forced to violate NYCHA regulations. One resigned, one was transferred and one still works at Baruch. They were ordered by the former Superintendent, who now works at Smith Houses, to delete work requests from tenants from the computer if the complaints were more than 10 days old. They were ordered to disposition the work as if the residents were not at home causing the work to never get done. Upon finding this information, I reported it to the NYCHA Inspector General's office.
The IG forwarded the complaint to Manhattan Management for follow-up.
The only thing followed up on was increased harassment and hostility towards me.
I've been subjected to numerous counts of retaliation. The IG's office is supposed to handle these complaints, instead they simply act as a shield for NYCHA. The Union that is there to protect the worker is caught in a Catch 22 situation due to the fact that the harasser (Supervisor) is in the same union the employee, giving Supervisors' further protection to carry on the harassment.