Blue Collar Buzz, Building Trades, New York

Abused Workers Fight Back on This Week’s ‘Blue Collar Buzz’

August 4, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco

Bill Hohlfeld with Sokunbi Olufemi.

Bill Hohlfeld with Sokunbi Olufemi.

New York, NY – On this week’s episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” one of the union leaders representing New York City’s Traffic and Sanitation Enforcement Agents has a very special message to incoming Police Commissioner James O’Neill. We also look at the dark side of one of Gotham’s ritziest addresses, as well as the City Point development in Downtown, Brooklyn where workers are fighting hard against poverty wages. Finally, we talk with the senior vice-president of General Vision Services to find out how his company is helping unions all over the metropolitan area deliver superior benefits to members. 

No one likes getting a ticket — but like it or not, New York City’s Traffic Enforcement Agents help keep things moving. They also respond to emergencies, prevent traffic jams and a lot more. The men and women that CWA Local 1182 represents proudly wear the NYPD patch. And yet, they are classified as clerks instead of uniformed officers. 

“Nobody has yet woken up [to the fact] that we are not clerks,” CWA Local 1182 Executive Vice-President Sokunbi Olufemi tells LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz.” “How can you put on the uniform and call us civilians?”

The union, which enjoyed tremendous support from outgoing Police Commissioner William Bratton, is currently looking to Albany for help in shaking off members’ “clerk” classification. CWA Local 1182 is also counting on incoming Police Commissioner James O’Neill for his support in that endeavor. 

“We need the help of our legislators in Albany,” Olufemi says. “We [also] hope we get another police commissioner that takes care of Traffic.”

So far, the developers of the more than 1,400-foot luxury tower being erected at 111 West 57th Street haven’t been taking care of its employees. Instead, workers on the project have walked off the job citing wage theft and other abuses. This week, a supervisor on the project was reportedly arrested for attacking a non-union worker named Juan Paulino in July after inquiring about missing paychecks. Paulino, 30, says he was tackled to the floor, suffering a badly broken right leg, which now requires surgery. 

According to union organizers who have come to Paulino’s aide and ultimately helped him recover his most of his missing wages, the developers of the tony landmark project at 111 West 57th Street are more interested in protecting their glitzy image than they are protecting the people working for them. 

“I never treated my tools the way they treated workers there,” says Joshua Melendez, another worker on the West 57th Street project that walked off the job in June.

Workers at another high-profile development — this one in Brooklyn — are also fighting hard this week for basic dignity and the right to a living wage. 

GVS' Tony Rosario joins Bill Hohlfeld at the mic.

GVS’ Tony Rosario joins Bill Hohlfeld at the mic.

Property service workers at Acadia Realty’s City Point development located at Albee Square Mall do the same kinds of jobs other workers do just next door — the only difference is they are being paid poverty wages. 

This week, “Blue Collar Buzz” hears directly from one of those City Point workers, as well as 32BJ — the union determined to make sure the very un-American inequity does not stand. 

Finally, we check in with General Vision Services Senior Vice-President Tony Rosario who talks about both the vision and hearing benefits his union-centric company is extending to workers throughout the city. 

LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” airs every Sunday night on AM970 The Answer from 9 to 10 p.m. This week’s episode, as well as every other episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” is also available on demand at

August 3, 2016

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