On our last broadcast we had the distinct pleasure of welcoming Mike Hellstrom to the LaborPress family. Mike has spent over three decades of his life as a New York City Building Tradesman and now serves as the point man in the NYC Building and Construction Trades Council’s fight to save Hudson Yards from the “open shop.” Mike is obviously the right guy for the job. Here’s why:

He’s passionate. We need that in our city and in our movement. He’s got a “take no prisoners”approach that I find refreshing. There’s no mamby-pamby, half -hearted attempt to be politically correct. He’s clear about what we want and what we deserve here in New York. We want a union town where people who get up every morning, go to work and create the wealth of this city get a fair share of that wealth so that they feed, house, clothe, and educate their families. That’s the way it was for decades, and that’s the only acceptable way for it to be today.

He’s articulate. When Mike sat across from Joe and me, the words flowed, not from a script, but from his brain, and more importantly, from his heart. He spoke of the current actions of Related at the Hudson Yards as nothing more than “greed on steroids.” That’s a phrase that sticks, not only in my mind, but in my craw. When he spoke to us of the courage mustered up on the part of the workers who were ordered to remove their “count me in” stickers from their hard hats and refused, in spite of the attempted heavy- handed reprisals, he cleared up any doubt as to what was going on here. The company’s management, taking a page straight out of the books of coal mine operators of a century ago, were using intimidation tactics to “violate first amendment rights.” 

The company’s management, taking a page straight out of the books of coal mine operators of a century ago, were using intimidation tactics to “violate first amendment rights.”

He’s positive. When Mike tells you “we’re going to win this thing,” you believe him. He delivers that statement as just that , a statement. It’s not a hope, a wish or a dream, it’s a fact. It’s not an “if” it’s a “when.” When we discussed the new wave of solidarity abroad, there was nothing but optimism in his tone. We need that note of optimism. If I had a nickel for every union worker I’ve heard say “It’s over,” in the last five years, I’d be a wealthy man. I’d be a liar if I said there weren’t some days I’ve felt that way myself. But the truth we hear from Mike is that it’s far from over. In fact, this may just be the beginning of a whole new wave of union solidarity having been forged in reaction to the relentless assault on workers’ wages, benefits and rights that has been increasing in intensity for the last decade. And finally,

He’s right. Holding the high moral ground is always a plus in any situation, and that’s what we have here. When we look at the #CountMeIn movement, we’re looking at a movement that wants justice; never a hand-out, but always fair treatment. When we look at the unionized workforce, in general, we are looking at  a system that insists that wages and benefits are equal regardless of a worker’s race, religion or gender. We can have an economy that includes everyone. We can have a city where the millionaires continue to make a hefty profit without destroying the working class that help them make it.  We can have a New York that works together and serves as a model to the country. We can, and should, have all of that. So yes, Mike, by all means, COUNT ME IN.


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