Tuesday, December 4, 2007

No Rats For Birthday Girl Randi

By Elizabeth Benjamin

The Carpenters union called off their planned demonstration outside UFT President Randi Weingarten’s birthday celebration tonight (featuring a scheduled “roast” by Mayor Bloomberg), saying they’re satisfied with the teachers’ pledge to pay for union construction workers on a Bronx project to build housing for educators.

Carpenters union sources said they began receiving “frantic” calls from UFT surrogates over the weekend when word of a possible demonstration started leaking out and are now feeling rather triumphant, albeit a wee bit remorseful at having turned on a fellow member of the labor movement to protect their own interests.

"We hate to do this on somebody's 50th birthday, but — what better time, you know?" an organizer for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Thomas Costello, said.

“It’s unfortunate we have to twist arms like this, especially with another labor organization,” said Stephen McInnis of the carpenters union. “But we’re happy they came around. When you’re 100 percent right, sometimes you have to make a decision.”

Last night, Weingarten issued a statement announcing the UFT had withdrawn its support for the project, for which the Teachers Retirement System had agreed to purchase $28.2 million worth of bonds, and intended to picket the construction site this morning because the developer had not guaranteed to pay the prevailing wage.

“…we stand today with our brother and sister unions and ask TRS to sell the bonds and, in essence, walk away from this deal,” Weingarten said. “Affordable workforce housing for teachers – and indeed, for all workers in New York City – is vitally important, but we cannot support an initiative that does not respect or support union workers.”

McInnis said UFT and Comptroller Bill Thompson’s office have agreed to sit down with the developer and figure out how to make up the difference to have union labor on the project. It’s unclear exactly how that will be worked out - if the bonds will be resold to someone else, for example - or what the final cost will be.

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