New York, NY – Members of the NYC Building Trades #CountMeIn campaign returned to the offices of Related Companies at 10 Columbus Circle this week with a peculiar person to thank for their steadfast determination to beat back so-called “open shop development” across the city — billionaire Hudson Yards developer and Related Companies founder Stephen Ross.
“What this company is doing for the New York City Building Trades is uniting the base and the membership in a way that has not happened in the past,” Local 79 organizer Ana Taveras told LaborPress on Tuesday.
Launched in response to the developer’s decision last fall to enter Phase II of construction at Hudson Yards without benefit of Project Labor Agreement, undaunted members of the #CountMeIn campaign, this week, assembled in front of the entranceway to the Time-Warner Building despite being pelted by a severe afternoon thunderstorm.
“A day like today, we have a good showing,” the Local 79 organizer continued. “It’s showing solidarity within the membership. And it’s showing the membership that when we come together we have power; when we come together we can accomplish anything. And I think so far, that’s one of the most important things the [#CountMeIn] campaign has built.”
Construction on the massive Hudson Yards development rising on the West Side of Manhattan — the largest private development project in U.S. history —requires the work of some 4,000 construction workers daily, and is expected to continue through 2025.
But as much as the work means to the individuals toiling on the herculean building project day in and day out — the outcome of what ultimately happens at Hudson Yards has ramifications that far exceed the boundaries of New York City alone.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, union construction workers earn nearly 15-percent more than their counterparts working in other blue collar trades, while non-non union construction workers earn less than 5-percent more than their non-union counterparts.
As the last several years in New York City have also shown, non-union construction workers also constitute the vast majority of fatalities occurring on the job site.
“We have a billionaire here who feels that we, the working people, shouldn’t be making a decent living,” Taveras said. “I don’t know where he lives — but paying rent in New York City, paying for the basics so you can have a decent life, is expensive. And yet, this developers feels that we should be getting paid $10- $15-an-hour for the work that we do.”
We have a billionaire here who feels that we, the working people, shouldn’t be making a decent living. I don’t know where he lives — but paying rent in New York City, paying for the basics so you can have a decent life, is expensive. — #CountMeIn organizer Ana Taveras.
At one recent #CountMeIn rally outside Related’s offices — just a stone’s throw away from Trump International Hotel And Tower — a passerby challenged Taveras about the middle-class wages and benefits that union construction workers earn because it’s “just physical labor.”
“The thought of people that a building just gets built by people swinging a shovel left and right…it doesn’t work like that,” Taveras said. “People have to be trained; people have to know what they’re doing. Our members go through apprenticeship training. They go to school. And obviously, it’s a very dangerous job to do. Our members in the different unions deserve what they make because it’s specialized work.”
For much of this year, the #CountMeIn campaign has held regular weekly demonstrations outside 10 Columbus Circle on Tuesday afternoons at 3:30 p.m., as well as Thursday mornings at 6 a.m. along 34th Street and 10th Avenue. They’ve also held much larger rallies along 7th Avenue and at Union Square.
Organizers, including Taveras, say the idea is to slowly build momentum and steadily grow participation.
“But we have to be patient and try to inform our members about what the consequences of us not being involved in the rallies,” Taveras said. “I think it will take time for some people. But some people get it quick. “And, at the the end of the day, we will win. Slowly, people we start to come in. And we’re seeing new faces coming in — especially when we had the march. The pride is showing on their faces.”