New York, NY – This week, thousands of trade unionists flood East 23rd Street in support of IBEW Local 3 workers and their more than 20-month strike against Cable-TV titan Charter/Spectrum — but the Building Trades’ ongoing battle against another corporate behemoth threatening good middle class jobs on the West Side of Manhattan got lots of support, too.
Building and Construction Trades Council President Gary LaBarbera called Local 3’s ongoing battle to preserve union wages and benefits the “same fight” Hudson Yards construction workers are fighting against Related Cos. developer Stephen Ross and the “despicable” push for more so-called “open shop” building using exploited non-union labor.
“It’s the same fight,” LaBarbera told fired up trade unionists gathered in front of Charter/Spectrum offices between Park Avenue South and Lexington Avenue. “They want to take away good wages. They want to drive down benefits. They want to drive down healthcare. All in the name of profit.”
For a large part of the time IBEW Local 3 has been waging its nearly two-year-long strike against Charter/Spectrum, members of the Building Trades #CountMeIn campaign and their supporters have been holding weekly rallies outside 50 Hudson Yards and Ross’ offices at 10 Columbus Circle.
“People used to understand that paying people fairly and having safety on the job was a good thing because it was good for everybody,” longtime SAG-AFTRA member Alice Connorton told LaborPress during Wednesday’s E.23rd St. rally. “People could afford to buy stuff. People didn’t have Workers’ Comp issues and hospital issues. But when you try to take all that stuff away, it’s bad for everybody.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo singled out Charter/Spectrum as one of the “worst examples” of corporate greed preying on working men and women today, but by no means, the only offender.
“What’s happening in this country is that there’s more and more corporate power — and they’re trying to abuse workers,” the governor said. “It’s happening all across the board. It’s happening all across the nation — but what we’re saying is, it’s not going to happen in the this state of New York.”
“What’s happening in this country is that there’s more and more corporate power — and they’re trying to abuse workers,” the governor said. “It’s happening all across the board. It’s happening all across the nation — but what we’re saying is, it’s not going to happen in the this state of New York.” — NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo
LaBarbera continued, calling the corporate attack on working men and women “a disgrace.”
“It is arrogance all in the name of greed,” the head of the Building Trades said. “This is not just about Charter/Spectrum. We have to stand and fight together. And that is why today, you see building trades, hotel trades, public sector, private sector unions together. This isn’t the only major labor dispute going on in New York City.”
As much as the nation’s attention has been focuses on the protracted labor fights happening in places like Michigan and Wisconsin — New York remains the bellwether for the American Labor Movement.
“What’s going on here is much bigger,” New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez said. “If certain things can happen here in New York City, it’s a problem for every working person throughout this country.”
LaBarbera concluded his appearance at this week’s rally in support of striking IBEW Local 3 workers with a special message to both Charter/Spectrum and Related Cos.
“We’re not going anywhere,” he said. “What they fail to understand is that the Labor Movement, when we stand up and fight, and we stand together, we’re in it until the end. We stand up, we fight back, and we do what we have to do to fight for our futures.”
To Charter/Spectrum, the Building Trades leader said, “If you don’t make the deal — get the hell out of New York City. And to Related, if you don’t come to the table, get ready because we’re coming for you.”