New York, NY – The heads of New York City’s Building Trades, along with Governor Andrew Cuomo, rapped real estate giant Related and its principal Stephen Ross straight across the chops on Tuesday, filling Union Square with thousands of #CountMeIn trade unionists determined to stop the spread of nonunion development at the West Side’s Hudson Yards project and across the city.
“The reason we’re here is because Related is trying to undercut what we do,” Sheet Metal Workers Local 28 President/Business Manager Kevin Connors told rally-goers. “We built Phase One — we’re going to build Phase Two. Open shop has gotta shop — open shop is gonna stop.”
After initially signing onto a Project Labor Agreement [PLA] with the Building Trades to get the 28-acre Hudson Yards project rolling six years ago, Related and its affiliate Hudson Yards Construction, LLC, have since decided to pursue a so-called “open-shop” model of development, which critics maintain opens the door to poorly paid junk jobs and creates an economic race to the bottom that benefits no one but fat cats like Ross and his ilk.
Related, has taken specific aim at Building Trades president Gary LaBarbera, filing lawsuits singling out the union leader in a bid to further proliferate the city with with what trade unionist dismiss as “broken shop” development.
But despite the multi-million-dollar lawsuits, LaBarbera, on Tuesday, refused to back down and jeered Ross for giving lip service in support of union labor, while at the same time heralding the rise of more nonunion development.
“You can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth,” LaBarbera said. “You can sue me, you can take me to court — but I will not stand down.”
International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 1 President/Business Manager Lenny Leggote urged trade unionists to stay strong and use every tool at their disposal to oppose further nonunion building.
“The billionaires that think they can push us around are in the fight for their lives now,” Leggote said. “We’re 100,000 strong, and when we stick together nobody can beat us. Mike Tyson once said, ‘Everyone has a plan, until you get punched in the face.’ Well, guess what? We just punched Related in the face today.”
Mike Tyson once said, ‘Everyone has a plan, until you get punched in the face.’ Well, guess what? We just punched Related in the face today.
The last #CountMeIn rally on the scale of this week’s Union Square demonstration occurred just four weeks ago on 7th Avenue between 40th and 41st streets. Cops had to allow the surging assembly of union workers to break out of their pens during that rally, and Building Trades leaders say tens of thousands of members could eventually fill the streets of New York.
“You are fighting for fairness and and for dignity and for justice and respect for the hard working men and women who built this city and built this state, and made New York, New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “You count me in.”
IBEW Local 3 Business Manager Chris Erikson called Related one of the biggest corporate bullies around.
“It’s just amazing; they don’t appreciate the hard work of the working men and women of the Building Trades,” Erikson said. “For them to want to knock us down to our knees and cut our pay, and cut our benefits, and break our union…just look around, look at this site today — it’s not going to happen.”
LiUNA Mason Tenders District Council leader Robert Bonanza blasted so-called “open shop” development as nothing more than simple union busting.
“Don’t be fooled for one minute abut this [anti] union busting — that’s what it’s all about,” Bonanza said. “[So] don’t let no lawsuit scare you. [And] don’t let nobody tell you take your [#CountMeIn] sticker off your helmet.”
Connors urged rally-goers working on Related projects to send a clear message to the developer.
“I want you to go back and tell Related to sign the Project Labor Agreement for fair wages, honest benefits and safety training,” he said. “Tell Related to sign the PLA and stop this ‘open shop’ nonsense.'”