February 10, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Sony, the multi-billion-dollar entertainment giant with holdings around the globe, is being accused this week of viciously undercutting local movers, and making it increasingly difficult for workers to provide for their families.
Members of Teamsters Local 814 rallied on East 25th Street and Park Avenue on Tuesday morning, to protest Sony's decision to hire a "fly-by-night" outfit to execute its move to 11 Madison Avenue.
"Our local has always had one core conviction," Local 814 President Jason Ide told LaborPress. "It's that men and women in the moving business deserve a decent wage, medical for their families and retirement. And that doesn't sound controversial. But there are a lot of employers and employer associations out there that feel that movers should make minimum wage, or just a few dollars more than that with just a few benefits."
Sony has a choice of 22 moving companies that pay workers area wages, standards and benefits. But has, instead, chosen to go with a company that Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda says is actively "eroding the base" that Local 814 has fought hard to help establish.
"[Sony] gets big tax breaks here in the City of New York," Miranda told LaborPress. "They should hire people that can earn a living wage, and not beat down those wages by hiring fly-by-night companies."
The last round of handsome Sony tax breaks reportedly came just this past December.
"It's a hard job," Ide continued. "Workers' backs go out, their knees go out, their shoulders go out. It's all okay at the end of the day — if workers are taken care of. But a lot of these contractors that are floating around the city don't do that. They actually advocate lowering the standards for men and women in the moving business, which is disgusting."
Legislators from both the city and state are now calling on Sony to "rethink" its moving contract.
"Every company should respect workers enough to give them fair wages and benefits, particularly if that company is getting state tax breaks,” State Senator Liz Krueger [D-28th District] said in a statement. “Sony simply should not be hiring movers that pay substandard wages."
Local 814 shop steward Wayne McFarland has been in the union for seven years. If he wasn't, the Clancy-Cullen Moving & Storage employee said he would not be able to properly support his family.
"Health care is real high today — we all know that," he said. "If I wasn't in the union, I'd be real messed up."
Ide told LaborPress that a successful economic model is already in place which guarantees movers family-sustaining wages and benefits, while also offering customers great value.
"The problem comes when contractors start trying to undercut workers and using that as a way to shave a few dollars off the price," he said. "Which is not fair."
Unrepresented movers are reportedly being paid as low as $8 an hour. Tuesday's Sony protest drew support from Local 814's sister unions, as well as the Fight for $15 Movement.
McDonald's worker Jarrell Ware urged protesting movers to keep the pressure on Sony.
"We've got all these companies — McDonald's, Sony, Walmart — stepping all over us," he said. "But if we stand up and fight for what we believe in, we can win."
Sony has not responded to requests for comment.