February 27, 2017
By Silver Krieger
New York, NY – Members of Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Ironworkers Local 46 and supporters rallied on Thursday, February 23rd, outside the entrance to the Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, to protest the RXR BOMA Pinnacle Awards, and to announce the launching of a website, RXOurFuture.
RXR Realty, which describes itself as “New York’s leading real estate company,” and which has control of over $15 billion worth of real estate at some 90 properties in and around New York City, has recently begun work on a new plan to construct giant residential buildings and remake entire neighborhoods in New York City’s outer boroughs and suburbs.
According to Melissa Shetler, Director of Organizing at Local 46, the company’s subcontractors have a history of worker exploitation, wage theft, and exposing workers to serious, and even deadly, safety hazards. Their projects also threaten to displace working families. It is these issues that prompted the protest and launch of the website. “We reached out to RXR to talk about their upcoming projects, but to date, have received no response,” she said.
Although in the past, the company has done more ownership and rental than construction and development projects, they are now breaking into the latter fields, and have major projects in New Rochelle, Yonkers, Hempstead, L.I., and Brooklyn, with these same subcontractors. “As of right now, they’ve said they will use [sub-contractors] Hudson Meridian, and Broadway Construction Group,” said Shetler. Both have a troubling record. Last October, a 43-year-old worker was killed at a Brooklyn hotel project being built by Broadway, and the incident is currently under investigation by OSHA. Hudson Meridian has been cited for over 200 building and zoning code violations. “We’d like to know why RXR would continue to use subcontractors like these,” she added.
Members of Local 46 and supporters stood outside the entrance to the Piers and raised signs at passing drivers on their way to park in the building. The protestors were not allowed to stand where those exiting their cars, and on their way to the dinner, would disembark. Chants of “non-union kills,” echoed, and some drivers accepted handouts announcing “Weakening our Communities Award Proudly Presented to RXR.”
Julio Bale, a Local 46 Rodman 2nd Year Apprentice, said, “I’m here to support my union, and my family. I have a lot of family members in this union. 46 has done so much for me.”
Brent Ransom, a Local 44 member out of Utica, New York, said, “I am a Mohawk from the reserve Akewesasne. My people have been coming down here to build for 100 years. Every single male on both sides of my family has been an ironworker.”
Said Shetler, “We see the practices of RXR as an industry approach that will hurt all of our workers, not just in our union. Local 46 is particularly impacted by this company because we have members in their building areas, including Westchester, NYC, and Long Island. But we’ve been talking to electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and others.”
Michael Jackson, a Local 46 2nd Year Apprentice, said, “To the Mayor, on behalf of my fellow union members, I want to say – you gotta walk what you talk. Non-union companies are getting more of a hold. Unions make the middle class. We are young. We are trying to do something positive. Politicians should have our backs. To Chuck Schumer – help us!”