By Bendix Anderson
December 22, 2010
Union members from Metallic Lathers Union, Local 46, protested outside a speech given by billionaire businessman Sam Zell at the Harmonie Club in Midtown Manhattan on the icy morning of December 14.
“Sam Zell Go Home!” shouted two dozen men on the sidewalk. There was a shrill chorus of traffic whistles and a chant started up. “What do we want? Union! When do we want it? Now!”
Local 46 members protested Zell’s refusal to use union workers to build his new apartment tower in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood on 23rd Street and 10th Avenue. The planned 111 high-rise apartments are the latest New York City project by Chicago-based Equity Residential, a real estate investment trust founded by Zell.
Negotiations broke down earlier this year. Local 46 offered Equity a project labor agreement including a 20 percent reduction in compensation across the board, including wages, benefits, and other work rules.
“We gave considerable concessions and he turned us down,” said Terry Moore, business agency for Local 46. Even though Zell has built using union workers in the past, the new apartment tower next to the Chelsea’s High Line Park is now being built by non-union contractors.
“Who’s jobs? Our jobs!” called union members to the well-dressed businessmen and women who filed into the Harmonie Club for the breakfast event. Members also handed out leaflets describing Zell’s “shocking record of irresponsible practices,” including: “Hazardous Buildings and Tenant Abuse at Equity Residential.”
“As wealthy as they are and as powerful as they are, they hate this,” said Bill Hohlfeld, labor-management coordinator for Local 46.