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Blue Collar Buzz: Strikes, Closures, Low-Wages and Andy Puzder

January 18, 2017
By Joe Maniscalco 

BCB Co-hosts Bill Hohlfeld and Neal Tepel.

New York, NY - This week’s episode of LaborPress’ Blue Collar Buzz airing Sunday night at 9 p.m. on AM970 is tackling the nomination of fast food kingpin Andy Puzder as U.S. Labor Secretary; the Momentive chemical plant strike in Waterford, NY; ROC-United’s onggoing One Fair Wage campaign; and the very suspect closure of the famed Carnegie Deli on 7th Avenue and W. 55th St. 

Donald J. Trump is slated to be sworn in as President of the United States later this week, but nothing about his ascendancy in American politics or what he has already done in advance of taking office has been normal. 

And on this week’s episode of LaborPress’ Blue Collar Buzz, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, 32BJ President Hector Figueroa, City Council Members Julissa Ferreras-Copeland and Corey Johnson, make it clear that they, and many others in NYC, think Andy Puzder, Trump’s pick for U.S. Labor Secretary, is a “joke.”

“We cannot afford to have Puzder as labor secretary,” 32BJ President Hector Figueroa says. “We must stand firmly against this nomination and we ask the president-elect to go back to the drawing table and look for candidates that actually believe in the labor laws of this country.”

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito argues that Puzder is notorious for his anti-worker rhetoric and will set the entire Labor Movement on its heels. 

“This is why we cannot stand this — it’s not normal,” the City Council Speaker says. “None of these nominees and what they propose, this president [is normal]. We’re not going to normalize the behavior, we’re not going to normalize the policies that they set forth. He is a liar, and he is very much against all that we stand for.”

Marching around burn barrels in arctic conditions since last fall certainly isn’t normal, but that’s what anti-worker policies at the Momentive chemical plant in Saratoga County have forced on striking CWA-IUE 81359 workers. The billionaire owners of the plant are trying their hardest to gut worker healthcare coverage and retirement benefits. 

“It’s basically sinful what they want to do,” Dominick Patrignani, president, Local CWA-IUE 81359 tells LaborPress’ Blue Collar Buzz. 

Beyond plant workers, Patrignani says that the greater community is also being put at risk due to the presence of unskilled replacement workers brought in to keep the plant running during the strike. 

“There’s a huge hazard to the community right now,” the CWA-IUE president warns. 

Already in crisis long before Trump secured the GOP nomination, ROC-United President Saru Jayaraman, tells LaboPress’ Blue Collar Buzz that the challenges facing low-wage restaurant workers — predominantly women of color — is now even greater than before. 

“In the [tipped] industry you have to tolerate whatever a customer might do to you,” the ROC president warns. ”Wages haven’t gone up in 25 years. We’re not seeing any progress for these women.”

Unitl last November, the famed Carnegie Deli had stood on 7th Avenue for 80 years. Now, however, it’s shuttered and locked up tight. But longtime workers there and the union representing them maintain that the shocking closure is really an effort to bust up organized labor, and that the popular eatery will once again open its doors.

“The Carnegie Deli is one of the busiest restaurants in the world, says one longtime worker known as Salim. “We need to go back to work, but there there is something going on.”

LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” airs every Sunday night on AM970 The Answer from 9 to 10 p.m. This week’s episode, as well as every other episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” is also available on demand at www.am970theanswer.com.

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