March 7, 2013
Joe Maniscalco

The New York City District Council of Carpenters is keeping its vow to pressure developers of a notorious construction site "sweatshop" in Long Island City, Queens to clean up its act. (Read More)

While representatives from the union described a recent meeting with lawyers for the developers as "cordial, but unproductive," the fight to get TIAA-CREF, O'Connor Capital Partners and McGowan Builders to meet area standards, wages and benefits at their controversial 5-11 47th Avenue development site continues to gain support.

In a letter dated February 25, 2013, NYSUT Executive Vice-President Andy Pallotta called on the head of the New York State Teachers Retirement System [NYSTRS] to rethink its investments with O'Connor Capital Partners. 

The NYSTRS has almost $60 million invested in three O’Connor Capital Partners subsidiaries, according to the NYSTRS 2012 Annual report.

“In an effort to assist our carpenter brothers and sisters, I ask that NYSTRS consider O’Connor’s history of anti-labor actions when considering current investments and making future investment decisions,” Pallotta wrote.

That plea follows a similar one that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten made to TIAA-CREF CEO Roger Ferguson, calling on the Obama administration insider to help make sure that area wages, standards and benefits are honored at all developments that TIAA-CREF is involved. 

TIAA-CREF is the largest retirement fund in the nation, and as such, oversees the lifesavings of scores of union members. And yet, the 5-11 47th Avenue development is progressing apiece without the benefit of union protections. 

New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has called the situation “unacceptable,” and last month asked O’Connor Capital Partners chief Bill O’Connor for a meeting to discuss the problematic project. 

LaborPress has since learned that O’Connor Capital Partners has responded to Councilman Van Bramer’s request, and that a meeting is, in fact, now being scheduled. 

Working conditions at the Long Island City site continue to raise concerns, however. Anchorage Construction, a new sub-contractor brought in to install windows on the 12-story, 181-unit condo development, is currently banned from participating in any public works projects in neighboring New Jersey until 2016. New Jersey placed the ban on Anchorage Construction for violating the Prevailing Wage Act. 

The Long Island City site is by no means the only development where organized labor has decided to draw a line in the sand. Increasingly, organized labor across New York City has begun to coalesce around new development sites that have been deemed unfriendly to workers. 

In the last couple of months, for instance, a coalition of grassroots organizations and unions called Build Up NYC has been identifying bad actors on the development scene, and holding rallies against them that number in the thousands. 




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