August 8, 2011
By Marc Bussanich
“What Do We Want?” “Union!!” and “Up With The Union, “Down With The Scabs” were just some of the catcalls loudly roared at today’s rally in support of the locked out DC 9 Painters in front of the Stuyvesant Leasing Office at 252 First Avenue. At first union officials had to persuade members with a bull horn to come forward to show support with their other brothers and sisters standing just opposite the entrance to the leasing office guarded by three security guards. Some of the union officials’ casual business attire stood in stark contrast to the members wearing paint-stained pants, steel-tip shoes and white tank tops revealing thickly-adorned tattooed shoulders.
But some of the workers gradually began to come forward and some even took the bull horn and tried to rally the troops by proclaiming, “We Need to Eat!” “Rose Blows” [Rose Associates responsible for locking out the DC 9 Painters] and “We Don’t Like Scabs, We Can’t Even Stand Scabs!”
The heat was unrelenting, but the members were inspired when two residents spoke in support of the workers. “I’ve been living in these apartments for 20 years and my neighbors and I support your efforts to get a new contract.” The members cheered and clapped enthusiastically. Then another resident, a union member himself with the United Federation of Teachers, said, “We need solidarity among us to stop the economic attacks.” Again, the members loudly applauded.
Emmanuel, a DC 9 Painter for the past 13 years, said he was at today’s rally to support the workers at Stuyvesant Town. He hasn’t worked in the buildings, but said the non-union workers are making $19 per hour (in contrast to a $35 per hour union rate) with no health insurance. “Some aspects of the job are dangerous, like working on ladders, scaffolding and scissor lifts. Our union makes sure we get the proper OSHA training to prevent injuries, but without the training, the non-union guys run the risk of getting hurt without being covered for any injuries.”
Another DC 9 painter, Mitchell, a member since 2008, was working in the Stuyvesant buildings until negotiations broke down and he echoed Emmanuel’s concerns about safety. “The guys [non-union] working in the building now don’t have OSHA training and no background checks, which the union demands to ensure that people are capable of working safely.” Mitchell noted he’s currently looking for other work where DC 9 has building contracts.
Around noon time, members of Teamster Local 808 came out to join DC 9 members on the picket line. Sal, a shop steward for Local 808 at Stuyvesant Town, surprisingly said his members could only join DC 9 members during lunch because Local 808 signed a contract, up for renewal next year, with a no-strike clause with Rose Associates. When asked that Rose Associates may demand concessions from the Teamsters as it is now demanding from DC 9, he said, “It’s possible.”
Just when there seemed to be in a lull in the shoPuting and raucous, an unidentified man walked out of the leasing office and silently spoke his displeasure with the rally by grabbing his crotch, whereby the catcalls reached their highest peak.