By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Members of the New York City Building Trades rallied outside the properties of family-owned Reider Holdings and Sam Zell’s Equity Residential on the West Side to protest the developers’ refusal to hire union ironworkers, plumbers and sheet metal workers. (Watch Video)
Kevin Kelly of the Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Ironworkers Local 46 said that an increasing number of developers building projects throughout the city are paying lower wages to non-union workers.
“Developers like Sam Zell who come to New York are paying their workers far less than what they need to live in New York. The workers I’ve talked to at these sites have said they’re making $15 or $20 an hour but aren’t receiving health care benefits or pension contributions,” said Kelly.
Deanna Gonzalez served in the U.S. Marines overseas in Japan before working as a plumber with United Association Plumbers Local 1 for the past five years. She entered the plumbers’ apprenticeship through the Helmets to Hardhats program, a nonprofit program that connects members of the U.S. Military with training and opportunities in the construction industry. She said she’s grateful for the opportunity to work in the field, but she’s been laid off for the past two weeks.
“I feel proud when I walk down the street and look at the buildings I’ve helped to build, but it’s hard for me to accept that I’m being overlooked because a developer doesn’t want to pay living wages,” said Gonzalez.
Danny Fox, business agent for Sheet Metal Workers Local 28, said sheet metal workers joined the protest because developers are taking advantage of a real estate recovery.
“We’ve been under attack for the past couple of years. With residential and commercial real estate poised for a comeback, developers are pushing into this market and selling units at prices as the union-made product. It’s a very difficult situation and we’re going to have to continue to rally,” said Fox.
Kelly noted that building trades members from a variety of different union locals would continue to protest at other sites being developed by Reider Holdings and Equity Residential.