Building Trades

On The Radio: 421-a, Cumberland Firings, And The Future Of Work

January 28, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco

Howard Styles.

Howard Styles.

New York, NY – Two feet of snow couldn’t keep NYC down, and it couldn’t keep LaborPress down — on this week’s installment of the LaborPress Radio Show/Podcast on WWRL 1600 AM, we look at how Gotham’s tallest buildings are continually able to withstand any emergency thanks to union training. We’ll also examine why the loss of over 300 jobs in Brooklyn may sour you on Sweet ’N Low forever. Assembly Member Walter Mosley also checks in with LaborPress for the first time to talk about life after 421-a, while Workforce Development Institute head Ed Murphy explores the ways organized labor needs to change in the 21st century. 

Winter Storm Jonas aptly demonstrated just how important the city’s municipal workforce is to the continued health and welfare of its 8.4 million inhabitants. The snowplows were easy to spot. Less noticeable, however, were the teams of union trained building engineers who helped keep the city’s most vital structures viable throughout last week’s record snowfall. 

“We have the ability to tackle anything that comes up,” IUOE Local 94 Training Center Howard Styles says. 

The IUOE training center’s technologically advanced curriculum provides union members with the know-how to safeguard and maintain about 800 commercial buildings, schools, hotels and power plants throughout the city. On this week’s show, Styles discusses aspects of the program and why the union continues to be so dedicated to excellence. 

Workers at the Cumberland Plant in Brooklyn, some of whom have spent decades helping to produce “Sweet ’N Low” and “Sugar In The Raw” sweeteners, are also committed to excellence. But that isn’t preventing  them from being automated out of their livelihoods. 

UFCW Local 2013 Political Director Mischa Gaus tells LP that the company’s decision to eliminate hundreds of jobs in an unquenchable thirst for larger profit margins makes their claims of being "Brooklyn proud" ring hollow.

“It’s quite shameful on the part of the company,” Gaus says. 

Jobs are also at the heart of NYC’s ongoing spat over 421-a tax abatements. And although the real estate industry has thus far failed to come to an equitable agreement with the Building Trades that allows for both affordable housing and good jobs, Assembly Member Walter Mostly [D-57th] District says that “something ultimately has to be negotiated” — but not at the expense of hard-working men and women. 

“We cannot do a deal that in the long run is going to weaken the city,” the assembly member says. 

Ed Murphy.

Ed Murphy.

Change, of course, is inevitable. But Murphy tells the LaborPress Radio Show/Podcast that union leaders, along with rank and file members must prepare themselves for constant change through  a balanced mix of individualism and collectivism.

“We can’t say we’re all individuals, or wait for our bosses to do it,” Murphy says. While all of this juggling is going on, Murphy points out that government has a direct role to play in creating good jobs. One way to do this, according to the “Working Stories” editor [available here free of charge] is to load public works Request For Proposals with specific worker protections. Failure to do so, according to Murphy, is a “theft of opportunity.”

Tune into the LaborPress Radio Show/Podcast on WWRL 1600 AM this Sunday at Noon for all of this and more. Or stream it wherever you find your favorite podcasts. 

January 27, 2016

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