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Staten Island Hilton Expands Non-Union

June 25, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter
The Staten Island-based real estate development company, The Nicotra Group, used union labor to build the Hilton Garden Inn back in 2001, but has refused to hire members of the Tile, Marble & Terrazzo, Local 7 and IBEW, Local 3 to build an expansion that’ll include a public restaurant on the top floor.

Ironically, the developer is using a plumbing contractor who employs unionized members. Apparently another union local is transporting critical materials for the work to proceed.

Joe Andriano, Field Representative for Local 7, said he has seen license plates in the parking lot from Pennsylvania, Connecticut and as far away as Washington, D.C.

Andriano noted that the developer, Richard Nicotra, originally asked for local contractors who hire members of Local 7, but both sides couldn’t reach an agreement.

“Maybe because there’s no support for unions in Staten Island,” Andriano said in response to why the developer, who previously employed union labor, is suddenly going the non-union route.

According to Andriano and Dave Palone, a shop steward for Local 3, Nicotra is planning an expansion of the Hampton Inn & Suites, right down the road from the Hilton.

Palone said the contracts for the HVAC and fire alarm work for the Hilton have yet to be issued and hopes his local has the opportunity to bid for that work, but he’s not holding his breath.

Andriano said, with his members and Local 7 members standing in 95 degrees weather, “We’re trying to bring awareness that the hard-working, tax-paying people on the line today who are out of work are from Staten Island. They should be on this job.”

Andriano also noted that his members are not only losing work on Staten Island, but the other boroughs as well.

“I haven’t seen it this bad where more and more jobs are being done non-union. We’re up against a situation where small contractors get a job and then gradually get more jobs, and suddenly they’re a big contractor that wants to deny work to our members.”

Palone is frustrated not only being shut out from the Hilton expansion work, but that he and his fellow Local 3 members have held functions at the Hilton.

“I know guys who have spent their hard-earned money on their weddings here. We’ve given the owner a lot of our business, but yet we’re standing out here in the brutal heat. I won’t be coming back for any more functions, and I’ll tell my friends and family to do the same,” said Palone.

According to Palone, as a boom lift, or aerial lift, was lifting two workers to the top floor to perform work, the NYC Department of Buildings had issued a stop work order against Nicotra, which carries a $5,000 fine for a first violation and a $10,000 fine for any subsequent violations, because the appropriate permits weren’t secured for the scaffolding.

Palone mentioned that if his union got the work, a professional engineer would have been hired to design the scaffolding to professional spec. Then his members would be required to complete a four-hour class before they could step one foot onto the scaffold.

He pointed out how the boom lift, rather than standing on flat pavement, was pitched at an angle while standing on a pile of dirt.  

“If OSHA arrived, they would issue a violation for that operation,” said Palone. 

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