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Laborers Local 79 Confront Worker Exploitation at Beekman St. Construction Site

September 18, 2020

By Ben Kimmel

New York, NY – On Friday morning, Sept. 18, employees of SL Green Realty Corporation arrived at the corporate headquarters at 420 Lexington Avenue to find a big rat inflated outside the main entrance. This comes only a few days after their ceremonial ribbon cutting celebration for the proud opening of one of the city’s tallest commercial structures at One Vanderbilt this past Monday.

“Scabby” the rat looms outside 420 Lexington Ave.

“Scabby” the rat is a symbol of protest, which has been inflated by the members of The Laborers’ Union Local 79. Union officials explained the protest is a result of SL Green’s choice to award the project at 15 Beekman Street to an unorganized contractor citing, “Would you not agree that a less skilled construction workforce can lead to an unsafe workplace.”

Local 79 members handed out flyers in front of SL Green’s main building, stating, SL “Green is allowing Alba Services Inc. to exploit construction workers at 15 Beekman St in NYC.”.

Although the project at One Vanderbilt was built with Union Pride, SL Green chose to go in a different direction with their downtown project. The concern, however, is the effect this has on the Union workers and how big business’s main interest is in securing and building their profits.

Meanwhile, in their efforts to build a better infrastructure, the means of the worker, who built their historic site at One Vanderbilt is forgotten. One Local 79 member explained the downtown address is less publicized and comes with less political attention.

When reached for comment a Local 79 official explained, “We are deeply concerned about this project. As a strong workforce, Local 79 has vowed to practice inclusion and diversity with two-thirds of our membership being people of color and with over 70% of all members living in the five boroughs.”

Alba is no stranger to lawsuits for not paying one of their workers appropriately.  A lawsuit filed on 5/24/17 with the United States District Court, Southern District of New York against Alba charged that they did not pay the plaintiff according to the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards and charged that the defendant treated all other employees in the same manner. Yet, somehow, it was the choice of SL Green to acquire the services of Alba to demolish and rebuild and then be leased by Pace University.  

The 338-foot tall development will host a total of 213,084 square feet with a little more than 178,000 square feet of community space. The building will have classrooms, and dorm facilities, as well as a library, a learning center, and a dining facility.  

According to collegecalc.org, tuition for Pace University New York is $43,624 for the 2018/2019 academic year. This is 53% more expensive than the national average private non-profit four year college tuition of $28,471. The cost is 91% more expensive than the average New York tuition of $22,793 for 4 year colleges. With costs being this high, it would be unfortunate if any students had to pay the ultimate price as a result of unsafe building practices. Hopefully, Alba Services pays better attention to this project than they do when paying their workers.

Ben Kimmel is a proud member of the IUOE Local 94, as well as a Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Certified Recovery Coach, Certified Professional Life Coach, and Peer & Wellness Advocate.  Ben can be reached at bennyk1972@gmail.com

September 18, 2020

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