Union Members Rally on 36th Street

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The sound of angry chanting reached a crescendo on 36th Street last week, September 28, where a group of men gathered at a construction site and raised their fists at several workers on the job.  The men were union members protesting the hiring of nine “misclassified” non-union construction workers.  The protestors claimed that these non-union workers usurped jobs from union members by foregoing benefits and settling for sub-minimum wages. The union members heard about the rally through word-of-mouth and met in front of a construction site, where the non-union workers were building a hotel.  The hotel is one of three hotels on 36th Street that served as work projects for non-union employees.

“These men work for five dollars an hour,” Jim Brendel, a union member, said.  “The only way that happens is if they are in the U.S. illegally—‘misclassified employees.’”

The workers’ employers allegedly do not provide health care insurance or pensions for their employees and therefore do not pay the accompanying taxes.  Aside from being illegal, these practices also have potentially harmful consequences.

“The misclassified employees do inferior work," Brendel said. "They cut corners with safety."

The NYPD eventually dispersed the rally in order to clear the street and prevent the situation from getting out of control.  The police arrested a union member who grabbed onto a fence surrounding the construction site and shook it while yelling at the workers.  The man is employed by the Cava Construction Corporation.

“These rallies happen every two weeks throughout the city,” Joseph DiCarlo, a union supporter, said.

While certain companies engaged in the harmful and illegal hiring of non-union workers, questions still exist concerning the benefits of unions themselves.  Bystanders generally agreed with the rally’s complaints, but some believed there to be more than one way to approach the situation.

“I think what the employers did was wrong, but I do not support unions,” said Marcy, a bystander.  “I consider unions to be unstable.”

 

CityCelina Durgin