New York, NY – Construction workers fighting the assault on good middle-class jobs at Hudson Yards and across the city, returned to the offices of Related Companies at Columbus Circle on Tuesday to donate more food for the homeless and to challenge corporate media portrayals of trade unionists as “thugs” and “criminals.”
“Every time you look on TV — what are they doing? They’re making fun of union members,” Sheet Metal worker Marvin Tavarez told a group of about 250-300 trade unionists assembled outside 10 Columbus Circle. “They’re saying that we’re a bunch of thugs. They’re saying we’re robbing money on the job sites. They’re saying that we’re not producers. But when you look around — all of theses buildings were built by union labor.”
For the second time in as many weeks, trade unionists from around the city and beyond, collected grocery money and canned food for the homeless and brought it all to Related’s doorstep.
“We help the homeless — not the billionaires,” #CountMeIn organizer Bernard Callegari said. “[Related head Stephen Ross] has more money than he can count and he wants to you make less. He doesn’t want you to own a home or mortgage or pay your rent. Or maybe send your kids to a school where they can get a quality education. He wants you to think about how to make ends meet on $15-an-hour.”
Begun last fall after Ross’ development team announced that they intended to enter Phase II of the massive Hudson Yards construction project using non-union labor, the #CountMeIn campaign has continued to hold regular rallies on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 Columbus Circle and at 34th Street and 10th Avenue on the West Side.
This week’s rally saw a number of passersby stop and voice support for union workers. The boisterous demonstration — emphasizing the importance of union solidarity — also attracted a contingent of Local 100 apprentices from Washington, D.C.
Guatemalan emigre and DC 9 painter Josue Gabriel even brought his 11-month-old son Aaron to the demonstration.
“I came out here today with my family because the union changed my life when I came to this country,” Gabriel told LaborPress. “This is the next generation for the union.”
I came out here today with my family because the union changed my life when I came to this country…this is the next generation for the union. — DC 9 Painter Josue Gabriel
Contrary to the corporate media narrative, trade unionists maintain that the fight over the Hudson Yards development epitomizes the billionaire class’ relentless drive to gut middle class families, while further enriching themselves.
“You’re going to be working as a slave the rest of your life working non-union,” Tavares continued. “I was a slave working for $15-an-hour with no medical benefits. I was working for $15-an-hour with eviction notices on my front door.”
The journey man Sheet Metal worker and local executive board member, also highlighted the overwhelming majority of construction fatalities occurring on non-union job sites around the city.
“The only thing secure being non-union is death,” Tavarez said. “But everybody over here [at Related] is turning a blind eye. Why? Because we make too much money? No — that’s not the answer. The answer is they’re too greedy and they want to keep everybody down.”
Just last week, construction workers memorialized 28-year-old Angel Espinoza, a non-union construction worker who was killed on July 12, after being struck in the head by a falling beam on Riverside Drive.
In urging further solidarity, Callegari invoked the price trade unionists throughout American history have paid to win the fundamental rights that so many workers now take for granted.
“There’s a lot on the line,” Callegari said. “So, every time you get tired, like me…I think about my brothers and sisters that are going to come next that could really use the wages and benefits that we have today. Someone died for what we have. You do not have the right to give up what you have — because you didn’t fight for it. Somebody else did. It’s our obligation to fight for it, so that someone else can have it.”