Union Busting Continues at Hudson River Park
By Neal Tepel
August 23, 2010
While taxpayer funded Hudson River Park claimed it cannot afford one dollar an hour for its employees’ health or retirement plans it continued to engage a $300 plus per hour “union avoidance” law firm even after the New York State Public Employee Relations Board Director dismissed its challenge to the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 30. More than six months after the 16 maintenance employees first met the criteria to legally establish Local 30 as their collective bargaining representative, the Park still refuses to negotiate a first contract. Hudson River Park Trust President Connie Fishman’s anti-union crusade has all the makings of a vintage union-busting classic.
Hudson River Park did not operate in good faith throughout the Local 30 organizing drive sabotaging the process and threatening those that wanted to unionize. When the Park maintenance workers petitioned for card check union recognition pursuant to the New York State Fair Employment Relations Act under the Taylor Law, Hudson River and its high-priced labor relations law firm moved to eliminate certain employees from the bargaining unit. In a last minute ploy to undermine the union majority, the Trust attempted to add 6 new job titles to the petition. In spite of the despicable tactics of Hudson River, Local 30 agreed to an election for the unit.
On April 19, 2010, the workers again said “UNION YES” when the representation election reaffirmed Local 30’s status as its Collective Bargaining Representative. In a May 14th e-mail message, Park President Connie Fishman had assured the Friends of Hudson River Park Advisory Board that she “never had any intention of engaging in a protracted, expensive legal fight over the outcome of the vote.” However, those words were meaningless as the Trust had already filed election objections with PERB.
On July 1, PERB Public Employment Practices and Representation Director Monte Klein threw out the Park’s objections, stating “the tally of the ballots issued at the conclusion of the count is now final.”
After PERB’s decision, Local 30 requested dates from the Trust for negotiation. The Park never responded to Local 30’s request, but instead filed an appeal to the PERB Director’s decision which could delay negotiations for several more months.
In the United States, union busting has grown to a multi-billion dollar industry but cases of publicly funded anti-union activities have been relatively rare. Private companies often delay negotiations following the organizing of a unit. However, it’s unusual for government funded non-profits or trusts to engage in a protracted anti-union campaign.
The fact that Hudson River Park Trust continues to use public money for union busting activities must be addressed.