New York, NY – Hundreds of union and non-union construction workers and their supporters gathered on Tuesday, November 19, outside the 7th Avenue headquarters of New Line Structures — one of the largest construction management companies in New York City, to protest $70,000 in unpaid wages to more than 20 workers.
New Line Structures is accused of hiring subcontractors who never paid workers the wages they are owed for the work they performed.
With the backdrop of the giant inflatable rats, chants of “Take It Back, Take It Back For Safe Middle Class Jobs!” rose from the crowd of angry demonstrators. The lack of site safety and the high rate of construction worker deaths was called “murder.”
Jerry Matthews, a District Council of Carpenters representative, led other cries of “Union Busting, That’s Disgusting!” and held up a giant mock-up of the $70,000 invoice owed to workers.
Council Member Francisco Moya addressed the crowd, saying, “Sixty-three days ago, we stood right here in front of New Line Structures’ headquarters to demand they stop using contractors guilty of wage theft and safety violations. I guess they didn’t hear us.” Moya continued, “This is about human dignity!” He also cited statistics, saying “Seventy construction workers died in two years and no one has done a goddamn thing about it!”
The council member added, “Someone has to stand up to it. This city was built on the blood and sweat of workers…we will hand them this invoice…they can easily pay that bill. Pay that invoice or we’re coming after you!”
Council Member Ben Kallos also made an appearance, saying, “It’s time to stop exploiting immigrants. We’re here to stand with the twenty brothers and sisters who worked six days a week for over forty hours a week with no overtime [with no pay].”
The crowd met Kallos’ words, raising their voices to demand, “Pay Them Back Now!” Kallos held up a letter addressed to New Line Structures that demanded the unpaid wages, that he said would be delivered to the company.
Council Member Carlos Menchaca said, “When unions and workers unite, we win. New Line is a company that shows its ugly face when it doesn’t pay its workers.”
The Brooklyn council member also told demonstrators about the special hazards that face immigrant workers.
“More immigrant [workers] die on construction sites,” he said. “We have to stay strong. When one worker’s salary is stolen we all feel it.”
After the crowd broke into cries of “Whose City, Our City!” Crystal Hudson, first deputy public advocate of Community Engagement said, “Wage theft is an imminent threat throughout the city. New Line Structures is a bad actor…today we are here to address eroded construction safety in our city.”
Louise Torres of NICE [New Immigrant Community Empowerment] said, “[We are here to] fight for the rights of immigrant workers. Without our salaries we can’t provide food for our families, take transportation and pay rent. It also causes psychological damage. This holiday season, when the bosses are celebrating with their families, the workers will not be able to have the same joy. Companies like New Line Structures wash their hands of their responsibilities. They always exploit immigrant workers.”
“New York City’s A Union Town. If We Don’t Get It Shut It Down!” demonstrators shouted.
Juan Carlos, a previously non-union worker now in LiUNA Local 1010, spoke in Spanish and used a translator to communicate his dire experience on his non-union job where he was forced to work in contaminated soil. “After speaking to a union representative, I was fired!” he said.