February 18, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – The community and labor coalition fighting on behalf of unprotected construction workers throughout New York City is hoping that a powerful new vide documentary depicting the daily struggles of one group of minority laborers will help change the way Mayor Bill de Blasio builds so-called affordable housing in this town.
The somber four-minute piece – urging elected officials to “Root out the bad apples in the Big Apple!” – features the workers in their own voices, and takes solid aim at the Auringer group of companies, one of the largest and most notorious non-union contractors in the city.
“We felt that a video would be the best way to get their stories to elected officials,” Eddie Jorge, organizer, New York State Iron Workers District Council, told LaborPress. “I can't imagine anyone who advocates for a better city not being moved by their stories. We are hopeful this video will bring to light the abuses being committed by companies like US Crane and Rigging while receiving tax payer monies.”
Members of the City Council’s Black, Latino & Asian Caucus received the video documentary last weekend.
Black, Latino & Asian Caucus Co-Chair Andy King [D-12th District] applauded the video for helping to shed light on pervasive labor violations.
“I’m appalled by contractors who ignore workers’ safety, pay less than the stated wages and maintain a hostile work environment,” Councilman King told LaborPress. “This workplace mentality is a total violation of the employer/employee contract, and if they can't get it right, shut them down.”
LaborPress has been following the plight of Carol Turner, Ithier Lopez and their fellow iron workers since last spring when the frustrated men depicted in the new video documentary first walked off a job site in the Bronx, citing Auringer with a depressing litany of terrible worker abuses.
Time of Day Films, the company responsible for creating the anti-Auringer video, previously produced documentaries that arguably had a significant impact on both the fast food worker campaign to raise the minimum wage, as well as the effort to save the jobs of 250 UPS drivers fired in Queens last year.
Angad Bhalla, one of the video company’s founders, told LaborPress that working men and women are increasingly communicating online, and that documentaries have the unique ability to inject their voices into important political debates.
“Video is a very powerful tool in terms of conveying people’s stories in an emotional way,” Bhalla said. “It moves people in a different way when they have to imagine what it’s like to work without protections or a living wage.”
Bhalla’s three-year-old company produces between 50 and 70 progressive documentaries each year. They’ve done work with the Teamsters, Communication Workers of America and AFL-CIO, among others.
With all the challenges presently facing organized labor, Bhalla believes that many more unions are now willing to be more creative and to try new strategies that ultimately advance the cause of working men and women everywhere.
“I think more and more labor unions are understanding that,” Bhalla said. “But as with any big institution, it takes time to change.”