June 16, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Tune into Sunday night’s episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” airing on AM970 at 9 p.m. because we’re taking an insider’s look at the largest food hub in the United States of America, as well as the landmark Harco Construction court case and the likelihood it could finally help put bad NYC contractors in check. We’re also tracking the important labor dispute that recently challenged Macy’s all-American image.
The Midwest may be known as “America’s Breadbasket,” but the largest food distribution center in the world is actually right here in New York City. And on this week’s episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz,” Co-hosts Neal Tepel and Bill Hohlfeld are talking to IBT Local 202 President Dan Kane, Jr. about the future of the Hunts Point Market in the Bronx.
At more than 144 acres, the Hunts Point Market supports about 15,000 jobs and generates roughly $2.5 billion in sales annually. But it's actually located in one of the most economically disadvantaged communities in New York City. The average yearly salary for folks living around the busting marketplace is about $25,000. Contrast that to the $45,000 to $60,000 salaries – and more that union members actually working at the market make – and the Trade Union Movement’s importance couldn’t be any clearer.
Local 202 has been fighting for the rights of workers in this town for 100 years now. But, outside of a special celebration held this past weekend marking the event, Kane and the rest of the membership hasn’t been spending too much time longing back. Hunts Point is in need of a major makeover and the union has been pushing hard to make sure that government properly invests in its future.
Carlos Moncayo, 22, was looking forward to a brighter future in the United States, too, when he was instead tragically killed working on a Manhattan job site last year. But the Ecuadorian emigre’s tragic death will not be forgotten now that a judge has found Harco Construction — the entity in charge of the job site where Moncayo was killed — guilty of manslaughter and other chargers.
This week, LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz welcomes Santos Rodriguez, director of Community Affairs & Strategic Initiatives, Building and Construction Trades Council; Nadia Marin-Molina, associate director, NYCOSH; and Ligia Guallpa, executive director, Worker’s Justice Project. Together, the special panel discusses July 13’s sentencing date, and what it could — and should mean for worker safety in this town.
“Contractors have actually put a price on the heads of immigrant workers,” Guallpa says. “But this [verdict] sends a huge message.”
More than 20 construction workers have died on the job over the last year-and-a-half — and most of those deaths have occurred on non-union job sites. According to NYCOSH, 79 percent of all construction industry deaths can be traced back to non-union projects.
Is anyone at City Hall paying attention?
Working conditions are a lot less dangerous at Macy’s department stores. But until this week's new labor agreement with management, Macy's workers had been fighting a hard-pressed battle for the kind of basic worker protections and benefits that used to be considered normal.
“We’re asking the company to respect their workforce, to treat them as an asset to be invested in, and not a cost to be cut,” RWDSU NYC Director David Mertz says. “And that comes down to providing affordable healthcare, which has been a major issue. But it’s also about workers’ ability to make a decent living.”
LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” airs every Sunday night on AM970 The Answer from 9 to 10 p.m. This week’s episode, as well as every other episode of LaborPress’ “Blue Collar Buzz” is also available on demand at www.am970theanswer.com.