Building Trades, Features, Health and Safety, Law and Politics, Municipal Government, New York

Battle Over Hudson Yards Rages with Good Middle Class Jobs at Stake

March 7, 2018

By Joe Maniscalco

New York, NY – “An attempt to suppress the free speech of hardworking New Yorkers.” 

The battle over Hudson Yards continues this week.

That’s what The Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, is calling a new lawsuit aimed at undermining union workers at the $25 billion Hudson Yards development on the West Side of Manhattan.

On Monday, Hudson Yards Construction, LLC — an arm of billionaire Miami Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross’ Related real estate empire — filed suit in New York State Court alleging some union members with getting paid handsomely for doing lots of sketchy work during phase one of the sprawling 28-acre construction project, and costing developers more than $100 million in the process.

The same outfit is also complaining that union members are badmouthing developers during #CountMeIn rallies protesting so-called “open shop” development at the site.

But the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York sees Monday’s lawsuit as nothing more than retaliation for the growing success of the #CountMeIn movement.

“This lawsuit is clearly retaliation for a movement that has built-up in this city called #CountMeIn, where rank and file members oppose open-shop and non-union construction because it undermines their wages and benefits, which Hudson Yards LLC and Related have acknowledged is their business model for their upcoming projects,” a spokesperson for the Trades said in a statement. “We are confident that any Court looking at this matter will see it for what it is – an effort to suppress this movement and an attempt to suppress the free speech of hardworking New Yorkers.”

On a recent episode of LaborPress’ Blue Collar Buzz, Sheet Metal Workers Local 28 Business Rep. Robert Rotolo said organized labor is under attack, and it’s time for workers to “wake up.”

“Open shop is broken shop,” Rotolo said. We can’t allow it; you can’t allow the wages that we fought so hard to get all these years, to be broken down because a company wants to make double their profit margins.”

New York City is in the midst of a 5-year construction boom. According to the New York Building Congress, spending, this year, will top out at $52.5 billion. In 2017, the organization reported that New York City is in the midst of its “second and most robust building boom of the 21st century – with no end currently in sight.”

On the same Blue Collar Buzz episode, labor activist and Corporate Campaign, Inc. founder Ray Rogers lambasted the audacity of both Ross, and his cronies on the Real Estate Board of New York [REBNY].

“One of the very top leaders and policy makers of REBNY is the head of Related — Stephen Ross,” Rogers said. “And the spokesperson for REBNY and Mr. Ross is John Banks; John Banks says that the unions have really priced themselves out of the market —they’re not competitive. Well, Steven Ross doesn’t do too bad because his net worth is $7.6 billion.”

Not only that, but when completed, the tallest tower in the Hudson Yards development will soar nearly 1,300 feet in the air, and boast the highest observation deck in New York City.

Blue Collar Buzz Co-Host Bill Hohlfeld said that he’s tired of hearing deep-pocketed developers like Ross complain that union workers earn too much money.

“These are the guys that made you your billions of dollars,” the Iron Worker-turned columnist and podcaster said. “People making that money are paying the taxes to keep the schools going, the buses rolling and the roads paved.”

Rotolo, who spent 40 years in the Trades, said that the pendulum between the wealthy and working class has shifted too far in favor of the likes of Ross, and REBNY.

“Life is a pendulum and it’s gone left and right, [but] it’s gone too far on the side where wealthy people are making it off  of working people’s backs — and they want to do that with open shop.”

Last summer, a U.S. Tax Judge found Ross had overestimated the value of a piece of real estate he donated to his alma mater the University of Michigan to the tune of almost $30 million and hit the real estate mogul with the maximum civil penalties.

Rogers told Blue Collar Buzz that Ross ought to be in prison.

“He got a big fine — the biggest fine that anybody could get for not a criminal offense, but a civil offense,” Rogers said. “He is a tax cheat. He steals money from the public. Now, he’s trying to steal money and the jobs of union workers at Hudson Yards.”

Rotolo took further issue with the idea that union workers are too costly for Hudson Yards developers to employ.

“The fact of the matter is, the people that build the buildings can’t even live in the buildings,” Rotolo said. “They don’t make enough money to live in the buildings. How can you say they’re priced out of the market? You have attorneys making $350-$600 an hour; and you’re talking about a guy that just wants to have a retirement, have a pension, a welfare plan, be able to feed his family and make it back and forth to work? It’s reasonable.”

March 7, 2018

8 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Battle Over Hudson Yards Rages with Good Middle Class Jobs at Stake”

  1. Raphael says:

    I am a union worker and i worked many years in the non union sector,in a few states.I never made a deciet wage that could support me and my family.Im talking about the early 80’s when the minimum wage was 3.00 hr. I was making 5. Dollars hr. I didnt have any benefits ,and they treated you like you was just another number.once it got slow you was un employed.collecing unemployment. And this cycle was every 6 months for seven yrs.Today i am a proud member of a union local 28 .The union has given me an opportunity to excel beyond my expectation.I learned many skills and have an overall knowledge of my trade both shop and field work.The benfits are an asset to my family with 2 pension when i retire an annuity,and counseling in how to manage and grow my finance so i could retire with dignity.I love my work and it has afforded me to buy a home,Take care of my family ,save to put my daughter thru college,get mutiple certification, and have a good health care plan.In non union you are not going to get these benefits.So what are the sacrife that we do on a daily basis.We work safe but xondition are hard on our bodies and health.We sacrifice much time away from our families to meet deadlines on jobs to be complete. Our work is tuff,but we manage with safety and skilled labor.I wouldn’t be where i am today if it weren’t for my success in my union.We must preserve what was fought for ,for so many yrs!!! Keep up the fight.count.me in!!! Respectfully Raphael v. Member of local 28!!!

  2. Stephen Balakitsis says:

    Countmein , we need to fight for what we worked so hard for over the years, this battle will set a precedent for future battles. I don’t believe we are asking for anything more than equality, and dignity!! So Countmein , thank you Steve Perez for all you do, and all the members of all the organizations that continue to protect the future of the trades unions nation wide. Respectfully Stephen Balakitsis local 46

  3. Local 46 Beamin says:

    Spot on! #CountMeIn ✊🏻

  4. Gerard Hayes says:

    All Union members, protect your Union job & get you ass down to Hudson yards on Thursday morning at 6am or you will NOT have the great pay, great benifits that you now enjoy, there is more to this than just work, take PRIDE & get there, SAVE OUR UNION JOBS!!!!!!!

  5. christine says:

    Almost all the Women in the Trades belong to Unions. When you say no to unions you say no to women… most of whom are head of household and primary caregivers of their children.

  6. This is a very educational article of unions fighting on behalf of their hardworking men & women members with the billionaires of America.
    How much profit is enough with these “pigs”. From the East Coast to the West, the challenge is and has been constant. Congrats. to the
    leadership of the New York City Building & Construction Trades Council in their efforts against this billionaire, Stephen Ross. In the end, the
    ‘trades’ will win the battle. And, congrats. to the union workers standing in solidarity.

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