September 23, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
Bronx, NY -The number of non-union ironworkers striking against the Auringer family of construction companies grew significantly this week as a group of about 10 workers walked off their jobsites on Tuesday morning and joined organized labor, elected officials and community groups in a march along East 161st Street in the Bronx to protest what many see as the ongoing exploitation of unrepresented workers throughout the industry.
“I’ve been seeing stuff for a long time now that I’m not okay with, but today I just said enough,” 27-year-old U.S. Crane & Rigging employee Christian Megia told LaborPress.
After three years on the job, Megia still only makes $22 an hour performing some of the most dangerous tasks on the worksite for which he received no formal training.
“There’s none of that," Megia added. “They basically throw you out there blindfolded and you have to figure it out on your own.”
Although the number of non-union construction workers is on the rise throughout the city, critics charge that the savings big time developers are seeing is coming at the cost of workers’ rights and safety, as well as overall inferior products.
Seven construction workers have been killed on non-union construction sites around the city this year.
“We’ve seen the tragic consequences when we have developers cutting corners,” Assembly Member Victor Pichardo [D-86th District] said. “It costs lives. It creates a shoddy product.”
New York City’s Building Trades consider the Auringer companies among the most problematic builders in town. However, despite being notorious for subjecting workers to substandard pay, wage theft and other examples of on-the-job exploitation, including sexual abuse and racial discrimination, Auringer companies continue to do lucrative business with the City of New York.
Tuesday morning’s march included a stop at the affordable housing project under construction at East 162nd Street between Morris and Teller avenues.
“The exploitation that goes on with U.S. Crane & Rigging with this owner Tommy Aurginger puts workers in dangerous conditions every day,” New York Building & Construction Trades Council leader Gary LaBarbera said. “That’s unacceptable. It is now 2015 in New York City, and there is no reason why workers should be subjected to those conditions.”
Striking Auringer ironworker Lafondra Brown was one of three construction workers who walked off their Bronx worksites last year to protest on-the-job exploitation.
“I went on strike last year because of unsafe working conditions with this company…and sexual assaults by company management,” Brown said in front of another Auringer site at East 161 Street and Park Avenue. “And when I complained they did nothing about it. We need justice and workers’ rights.”
Protesters urged those continuing to work at the Park Avenue jobsite to walk off the job in solidarity — but were acrimoniously rebuffed.
“We’re here today because of a dirty rotten, low-down contractor who uses workers, steals their wages and has them working in unsafe conditions,” Local 580 Business Manager Jimmy Mahoney cried. “We’re not going to be done until these companies and all those workers are union.”