Building Trades union men set up shop on Columbus Avenue during Christmas Week, bringing a message of good cheer to kids and talking to their parents
about how unionized workplaces bring fairness and economic opportunity to their communities. John Wund played Santa in full regalia, while Santos Rodriguez and Sal Savarese functioned as his eleves, snapping free polaroids for kids and families to take home. Bob James stuffed kids’ pockets with candy canes and chocolate coins, as he handed pro-union literature to parents. Ray Kitson gave children IBEW coloring books, promoting “the right choice” —
Project Labor Agreements and Community Benefits Agreements insure quality work and safety standards at construction sites, and can also create a steady and uninterrupted workflow. Stories about non-union, “fly by night” companies that pay workers poverty-level wages and fold their tents abruptly in the middle of jobs are common in New York. Such companies are notorious for bringing in workers from outside communities where they build, and exploiting them. By contrast, a community benefits agreement entered into between a developer, community representatives, and a contractor which is a signatory to a union agreement, finds jobs for people who actually live within the community to be served by the project.
Bringing a union wage to workers who would otherwise be exploited is indeed a Christmas gift that lasts throughout the year. By helping these men and women learn a trade and earn living wages, unions contribute to the social fabric of life in New York City. By providing this information to community members, unions hope to get them to ask non-union companies two questions: Will you sign a community benefits agreement including union protections and wages for your workers? And if not, why not?