Rat-Finks! Carpenters Jeer Pace Sub-Contractors
October 1, 2012
By Joe Maniscalco
The New York City District Council of Carpenters took Pace University to task this week for hiring practices the union says not only erodes area standard wages for workers, but ultimately encourages crime and other social ills.
“Contractors who refuse to provide a job with good wages and benefits undermine legitimate contractors who would have provided good wages with paid healthcare and retirement savings to its carpenters,” New York City District Council Director of Communications Kwame Abasi Patterson told LaborPress. “We made a solid commitment to protect and preserve area standard wages, including providing or making payments for family health care and a dignified retirement for all area carpentry craft workers.”
Pace University is presently renovating its dormitory located at 140 William Street in Manhattan. And if the venerable institution wondered how organized labor felt about its use of suspect sub-contractors, the giant inflatable rat looming large over the project, and stern-faced picketers handing out leaflets on the street, should have been enough to dispel any confusion.
“The New York City District Council of Carpenters is focused on Pace because its contractor JRM Contruction Management LLC continues to hire subcontractors who do not meet area labor standards at Pace job sites,” Patterson said. “Contractors like JRM, however, continue to drive down the market and force hardworking New Yorkers to go without affordable healthcare and/or to depend on tax payer dollars to take care of themselves and their families.”
Pace University officials chose not to contest the New York City District Council of Carpenters’ depiction of JRM Construction Management LLC – or its sub-contractors, Complete Contracting Inc. – and instead pointed to a depressed economy and a need to provide jobs.
“Pace University has retained the services of JRM Construction Management, LLC for the work being done at 140 William Street,” Pace University Executive Director of Media Relations Michael A. Oricchio confirmed. “Pace respects the right of American workers to find fulfilling employment, as well as the right of those workers to choose whether or not to join a union. That being said, union labor is being employed at other university construction projects in downtown New York City. Pace believes that in this challenging economy, no one should be excluded from being offered gainful employment.”
The New York City District Council of Carpenters – comprised of more than 25,000 members specializing in a wide variety of disciplines – argues that Pace University should not be allowed to insulate themselves behind so-called “independent” contractors, and has an obligation to the community to ensure that area labor standards are met for construction performed on all current and future projects.
The grotesque inflatable rat – symbolizing contractors who refuse to pay their employees area standard wages, or make sure that payments to family health care and pension benefits are made – has become a potent tool in the union’s arsenal.
“Owners and contractors rarely want to see the “rat” or dozens of people protesting in front of their facilities,” Patterson said. “And on some cases we warn them we’re coming and encourage then to resolve any labor disputes before it comes to these actions. We do not aim to disrupt business, but we have to fight for area labor standards for all or else everybody loses.”
In all, the union on average holds about 25 to 30 similar rallies/pickets in and around the city each month.
Headquartered in New York City, JRM Construction Management LLC touts itself as delivering “the highest quality products and services to a clientele base that includes Fortune 500 corporations, major law firms, leading luxury retailers and financial services firms.” Requests for comment went unanswered.