NEW YORK, N.Y.—Telling the pre-shift protesters “we will never back down,” city Comptroller Scott Stringer spoke at the weekly CountMeIn rally July 19 against the use of nonunion labor at Hudson Yards.
“We’re here to support the labor movement in this country,” Stringer said afterwards. “After Janus, it’s more important than ever for the working people of this country to stand united.”
The comptroller was the latest city elected official to address the building-trades union rallies, held Tuesday afternoons and Thursday mornings across 34th Street from the second phase of the Hudson Yards development is being constructed. The protests began last fall, after The Related Companies, the project’s developer, began using nonunion labor on its second phase.
“People are starting to see that this is growing, and that they’re either with us or against us,” said Laborers Local 79 member Christine Culpepper.
Other elected officials to speak at the CountMeIn rallies have included Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Councilmembers Francisco Moya (D-Queens) and Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), and, at a Union Square demonstration in May, Governor Andrew Cuomo. One who has not is Mayor Bill de Blasio.
After Janus, it’s more important than ever for the working people of this country to stand united. — NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer
Mike Hellstrom, organizing director of the Mason Tenders District Council, told LaborPress that as far as he knew, the unions have not asked de Blasio to appear. But with the largest private-sector development in the city trying to bust unions, he added, “the mayor should be smart enough to pick up the phone and reach out to someone on our side.”
The mayor’s press office did not respond to requests for comment from LaborPress.
De Blasio has spoken at several other large union rallies in the past year, including the January Foley Square protest against the Supreme Court’s plans to end the union shop for public-sector workers, a April rally by 32BJ SEIU members demanding a better contract, and a march last September supporting International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 members on strike against the Spectrum cable-TV company—a strike that has now lasted 16 months.
CountMeIn protesters were enraged when a Spectrum News crew tried to interview a union official. They blasted air horns and shouted “Spectrum sucks!” A woman striker who’d come to support CountMeIn barged in front of the camera to interrupt the interview.
“They’re trying to break our union,” she said.
The building-trades unions will protest outside Hudson Yards “for the entire duration of the second phase,” Hellstrom said. “The will of the rank and file is undeterred, and will not be broken until we have victory.”
After the rally, a handful of picketers from Ironworkers Local 46 remained on the southwest corner of 34th Street and Tenth Avenue, carrying “not providing area wages, conditions, and standards—no dispute with any other employer” signs.
“It’s terrible,” said Abraham Hernandez, 66, a 39-year member of Local 46. “You know how many people you have working over here? Carpenters, ironworkers, laborers, concrete. And they’re paid lower money.”
“We built this place, and they want us to work for less,” added another picketer, a bearded man named Thomas. “That’s not the union way. The union way is fair wages to take care of our families.”