Wednesday, February 27, 2013

120 Barclays Center workers plan vote to stop paying dues to theirunion, SEIU 32BJ, the first step in expected move to de-certify

By Reuven Blau / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

The first sign of labor unrest is budding at the shiny new Barclays Center.

A group of 120 construction workers who convert the arena from a basketball venue to a concert hall are furious they are not being paid as well as their counterparts at Madison Square Garden.

As a result, the workers plan to vote Wednesday to stop paying dues to their union, SEIU 32BJ. That’s the first step in an expected move to de-certify.

“We feel we’ve been misrepresented by them,” said construction worker Micah Wheeler, 40.

“The Garden workers get way more than what we are getting.”

The World’s Most Famous Arena employs roughly six to 15 full-time carpenters, and 20 to 40 part-time workers, depending on arena needs. The full-time staffers are paid $46 an hour and earn roughly $70,000 to $80,000 a year, according to the New York City District Council of Carpenters.

By contrast, all of the carpenters at Barclays Center are part-time workers who earn $14 an hour without benefits. They also must work more than double the number of shows — 400 shows, which would take at least four years — before they are eligible for some health benefits.


Officials at the union say they are trying hard to improve conditions, including making sure all the part-time carpenters get the same amount of work.

“There have been natural growing pains,” 32BJ spokeswoman Elaine Kim said. “As the agreement matures and the venue continues to have events, we are confident these issues will be resolved.”

Many of the Barclays Center carpenters are itching to join another union, the New York City District Council of Carpenters.

That union represents the MSG conversion crew, and its members helped build the new Barclays Center. The union has asked for City Ratner to create several full-time positions, which would be likely represented the District Council.

“Right now, these conversion jobs are by their very nature part-time,” FCR spokesman Joe DePlasco said. “Forest City Ratner is a 100% union company and has a long history of respecting workers’ rights to organize. We do not get involved in internal union elections.”

But, according to a union source, Forest City Ratner officials have scoffed at their demands for several full-time slots in Brooklyn.

The president of the carpenters union said he can’t understand why FCR isn’t playing ball.

“We are scratching our heads,” said Stephen McInnis.“We have a long history of working with them, but they’ve been pretty much adamant on this. They came up with an offer but it was easy to refuse. When you look at a comparable facility like The Garden, they weren’t even in the ballpark.”

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