New York, NY – Hundreds of workers, including Ironworkers, Insulators, Laborers, and others from the NYC Building Trades, as well as members of community coalitions and alliances gathered outside of the Yale Club in Manhattan on Thursday, November 3rd, to protest the New York State Association for Affordable Housing (NYSAFAH) annual awards gala.
The informational rally was organized by the NYC Community Alliance for Worker Justice to draw attention to the NYSAFAH developer’s use of the Auringer companies, Joy Construction, and other similar companies that dominate the affordable housing industry. The NYC Community Alliance for Worker Justice is a group of construction workers, community members and Ironworkers who have united against worker exploitation and public safety threats.
At the gala, a Project of the Year award was being given to Webster Commons, a five-building project supplying 470 units. According to the Alliance, workers on the project endure abuse, are short-changed, and risk their lives “working on dangerous jobsites with inadequate training and safety equipment.” Six Auringer-affiliated companies worked on Webster Commons. Three companies were cited by the Department of Buildings for operation of a crane without the proper inspection and/or license while working on Webster Commons. Joy Construction, the General Contractor behind Webster Commons, has a pending class action wage theft lawsuit alleging an entire decade of wage theft, beginning in 2004. A settlement was submitted for court approval in last month representing 10 workers. The proposed settlement amount is $950,000.
Carroll Turner, an Ironworker, worked at various Auringer-owned companies for thirteen years. He went on strike against Auringer while working on the Webster Commons project. “I endured wage theft, verbal abuse on the job site, racial abuse, and worked under terrible conditions,” he said. “The bottom line for them is money. If a worker speaks up for his rights, he gets taken off work for a week or two. NYSAFAH uses them for affordable housing. How can you have a subcontractor like this, one that treats its workers like this? We want somebody to really look into this. I’ve been to City Hall to speak to Councilmembers, met with developers, I even went to Washington, Chicago and New Orleans to meet with trustees and investors [about what’s going on], and nothing gets done, no results.”
Edgar Melendez, on strike from his Ironworkers job as a welder, was dressed in a turkey suit, to play his part in the “awarding” of The “Worst Actor In Affordable Housing Award” to Joy Construction, and The “Best Supporting Actor in a City Subsidized Project” to the Auringer Companies, outside the Club. “I worked for three years on sites run by Auringer,” he said. “There were unsafe conditions, and I got stiffed in wages – I am still unpaid for one hundred hours. I was working with people that didn’t know anything about safety. All they care about is getting the job done to get the dollars. If you get hurt they just take you out and bring the next guy in.”
An organizer told the crowd, “We’re here defending what our fathers and grandfathers and those before them fought for and died for. This is all our futures. Our futures are on the line here. That’s why we’re here.”