Blue Collar Buzz, Building Trades

This Week’s Buzz: Exploitation, Wage Theft, Inequality and the Rise of Trump

August 18, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco

Neal Tepel with Mika Nagasaki and Irene HongPing Shen.

Neal Tepel with Mika Nagasaki and Irene HongPing Shen.

New York, NY – This week’s episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” is tackling the plight of NYC home health aides forced to do mandatory overtime; Teamsters Local 456’s battle to keep dangerous non-union concrete trucks out of Westchester County; State Senator James Sanders’ upcoming foreclosure forum; and Colby College Professor Neal Gross’ provocative op-ed, “The Decline of Unions and the Rise of Trump.”

Incredibly, there are home health aide workers right now in the City of New York who are being compelled to work 24-hour shifts and never see any overtime pay. Irene HongPing Shen and Mika Nagasaki of the Chinese Staff & Workers Association tell LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” that home health aides working for the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) are struggling just to survive.

In fact, Nagasaki says that not only is it a travesty that home health aides are being short-changed for their work — but that mandatory 24-hour shifts are “killing them and causing a lot of rifts in their families.” 

“This is a very sore point — plus the fact that they have not seen a raise in their wages in eight years,” Nagasaki says. 

Those same workers also say that their union — 1199 SEIU — is not standing up for them. Last year, three home attendants working 24-hour shifts filed a class action lawsuit against the CPC for failure to pay proper wages. The increasingly complex case has since moved to federal court where a judge referred it to an arbitrator. In May, former home attendants also filed suit against CPC in New York State Supreme Court charging wage and hour violations. 

Teamsters Local 456 is currently fighting an old school battle against a non-union contractor out of the Bronx called Titan Concrete. The public awareness campaign — which last week saw “Scabbie” the inflatable rat set sail on the Harlem River towards the Titan concrete plant — is intended to fight back against the new race to the bottom, as well as dangerous trucks, that are Titan’s stock and trade. 

Local 456 President Lou Picani checks in with LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” to give us all the latest details on those efforts — as well as why some traditional union stratagies remain more important than ever. 

State Senator James Sanders’ (D-10th District) upcoming foreclosure forum and efforts to put the teeth back in the Glass-Steagall Act can’t come soon enough for the hard-pressed Queens homeowners he represents. On this week’s episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz”, State Senator Sanders talks about the enormous challenges families are still facing in the aftermath of 2008’s economic crash, and what needs to happen to remedy the situation. 

Finally, Neil Gross, noted author and professor, discusses his latest op-ed in the New York Times which suggests that Donald Trump’s bizarre accession in American politics has everything to do with the weakened state of organized labor across the country. 

According to Gross, the overall rise in inequality and unciivl “bashing of the other side” parallels the “decline of collective bargaining.”

Conversely, however, Gross also argues that a newly invigorated Trade Union Movement can help to promote progressive American values once again. 

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

August 18, 2016

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