New York, NY – When members of the NYC Building Trades’s #CountMeIn campaign rejoined their fight against so-called “open shop” development at the sprawling Hudson Yards project on the West Side of Manhattan this week, they did it as “defenders of the middle-class.”
“It’s a race to the bottom here and if somebody doesn’t step in the middle and keep these billionaires in check, they’ll have their way with each and every one of us — from the construction workers, to the cops, to the firemen, to the public sanitation workers, to the nurses — you name it,” #CountMeIn Campaign Director Mike Hellstrom told LaborPress outside Related’s offices at 10 Columbus Circle on Tuesday. “And we’re standing here as the defenders of the middle class.”
The #CountMeIn campaign started last fall with rallies at 10th Avenue and 34th Street after Related announced its plans to enter Phase Two of the massive Hudson Yards construction project using a mixture of both union and non-union labor.
Trade unionists maintain that the so-called “open shop” model of development proliferating — not only at Hudson Yards — but on large scale projects throughout the city, is just a cynical way for fat cat developers to sidestep proper safety training and pay area standard wages and benefits.
“I look at the attacks by Related on the working man down at the Hudson Yards as just a small sample of what’s happening throughout the country,” Metallic Lathers & Reinforcing Iron Workers Local Union 46 member Steve Perez, told LaborPress on Tuesday. “The Janus case, which just went against the working man, attacks on Labor throughout the country — where is the middle class supposed to survive? Where do you get a good paying job? It seems to me that anyone that has a good paying job with retirement benefits, is under attack. Where is this country headed?”
Perez made news last October when, in a real show of solidarity with striking IBEW Local 3 workers, he video taped himself returning his cable boxes and Internet equipment to Charter/Spectrum.
Where do you get a good paying job? It seems to me that anyone that has a good paying job with retirement benefits, is under attack. Where is this country headed? — Steve Perez, Local 46
Leaders of the #CountMeIn movement, which holds rallies outside 10 Columbus Circle on Tuesdays at 3:30 p.m. and at 10th Avenue and 34th Street on Thursdays at 6 a.m., see solidarity as the key ingredient to ultimately overcoming the race to the bottom afflicting working men and women across all sectors of the city and beyond.
“We built this city; we’re not going to let the barons of this city continue to profit from our hard work without making sure there’s at least something on the table for us in the long run,” Hellstrom added.
After enduring a steady barrage of jeers, a man presumedly video taping the noisy, but peaceful demonstration in service of the developer, decided to beat a hasty retreat back inside 10 Columbus Circle.
“This is my line in the sand, along with my other workers, my brothers,” Perez said. “We’re all standing together. Enough is enough; we work hard. We don’t want anything given to us that we don’t deserve. We put in a hard day’s work — we deserve a fair day’s pay. At the end of the day, that’s all we’re asking for — the ability to feed our families, to give our children a good education, to put roofs over our heads. And health care…health care should be a given — it shouldn’t be something we have to beg for.”