New York, NY – What a difference a day makes. On Wednesday, April 13, workers at U.S. Crane and Rigging & affiliated companies, voted to be represented by Ironworkers Local 197, despite a history of threats and intimidation by the company. The company, based in the New York Metro Area, Upstate New York, and Florida, and owned by Thomas Auringer, has a long, ugly history of lies, exploitation and accidents, according to the local. Union status will now give the members some status to begin to make changes in their working conditions, and by extension, their home lives.
William Hayes, Business Manager and Financial Secretary-Treasurer at the union told LaborPress that the final number on the bargaining unit is around 30 people, and that as far as upcoming contract negotiations are concerned, the union has sent a letter to begin the negotiations and is awaiting a response from the employer.
Workers at the company and the union had a fight on its hands during the election process, as the first election ended in a tie, but was eventually thrown out because the union had several National Labor Relations Board charges pending against U.S. Crane and Rigging for violating the election rules. The ballot was completed as a mail-in vote, so that somewhat limited the worker intimidation to mostly on the job sites.
Local 197 is “looking to organize these workers and put them into our strong Ironworker union. We want to see these workers get the pay increase and benefits they deserve, making life better for them and their families. We want them to have the opportunity to live the American dream of owning their own home and someday being able to retire and enjoy their golden years. They should be able to raise a family in a home they paid for, retire with savings they earned, and provide the finances to educate their children.” says Hayes. “Health care, pension, & building a future” he adds.
As for how the big win was actually accomplished, Hayes says, “We spent a few months meeting with the members, talking with some of the guys in the field. A lot of them were calling here complaining about the poor work conditions and safety, they wanted to get in the union to work and improve the conditions. They all complained weren’t being treated properly. They weren’t getting paid fair wages and benefits. So we met with several of them throughout the last year. Some of them early on, actually came into the union. Some of the workers just quit the company and came to work in the union. We also had a meeting with many of the workers working for the company and explained the union function and operation to them. They then chose to sign recognition cards- that they wanted to be represented by local 197. The NLRB signed cards were then sent to the NLRB with a request for an election to be held. We won the election by a landslide”
No other union has organized U.S. Crane and Rigging & their affiliated companies as of yet.
“They’re a big non-union company. They do lots of work in the greater NYC area and New York State, we’re the first ones to have a card check election against them. I hope to see other unions follow the winning path and fully unionize this company,” says Hayes.
The union leader adds, “No worker should struggle to make ends meet in this line of work. No worker should be paid unfairly or have extreme differences in pay for doing the same type of work. These brave ironworkers were organized to raise the bar for all workers. Seeing ironworkers take this step to better their lives and secure their future is truly amazing. Everybody deserves to be represented by a union to ensure they receive a fair day’s wages and benefits for a fair day’s work. The workers fought for representation, now we will fight for them at the bargaining table. We welcome the workers of U.S. Crane and Rigging to the Ironworker Local 197 family.”