Today’s news:

‘Labor’ pains at Carroll Gardens job site

for The Brooklyn Paper

A controversial Carroll Gardens development continues to be a flashpoint for protests, with union officials this week blasting a contractor on the site for exploiting his non-union workers.

On Tuesday morning, about 40 members of the carpenter’s union picketed the project, located at Second Place and Smith Street, where a 48-unit, seven-story residential building has topped out above the Carroll Street station.

“This contractor is undercutting the area standard wages and benefits,” said Andres Puerta, a representative for the District Council of Carpenters union, which claims that R&B Drywall, a subcontractor on the project, pays workers $10-$18 an hour, without benefits.

The union rate for the same work is $42 an hour, plus benefits, Puerta said.

R&B Drywall owner Howard Schneidler said he had no intention on changing the practices of his 25-year-old business — which pays $20-$25 per hour, he said.

“We’re a non-union shop, and they think that because everyone doesn’t pay union wages, everyone is underpaid,” he said. “The owner can’t pay the union’s exorbitant prices.”

Moreover, Schneidler said, he’s under no legal obligation to pay union scale.

Puerta said more protests are planned, but it is unclear what impact, if any, they will have on hiring practices. He insisted the issue is not about union versus non-union labor.

“The goal here is to demonstrate what we feel are exploitative working conditions — whether the owners or contractors change their mind, that’s up to them,” he said.

The building at the corner of Smith Street and Second Place has been controversial from the get-go.

In 2007, residents protested the proposed building’s size, claiming it overwhelms the low-rise neighborhood. In the wake of those protests, Carroll Gardens was rezoned in 2008, but a city panel determined that enough of the 70-foot building’s foundation had been poured to allow work to continue — even though the zoning change now caps buildings at 55 feet.

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Mike Curatore from Carroll Gardens says:
One of the reasons union prices are so high is to make sure that there's money to pay people union members to go to demonstrations. If they aren't paid, they're just fulfilling some other time obligation for the union. That's why these guys have to get something signed to attest to the fact that they showed up.

Either way, developers are paying the unions to not work, which drives up the price of labor for everyone. It's like paying farmers not to grow things. Or tacitly supporting "no show" political appointment jobs.

No wonder our country outsources so much. Pretty soon we won't be able to afford to do anything here.
April 21, 2010, 12:06 pm
freddie from chicago says:
Are we sure that these people in the picture are actually members, or are they labor ready day help that the carpenters pay cash? Could it be a a mix of both? What if the carpenters are paying 10 or 12 dollars an hour to those guys to march, if so, would the carpenters meet AREA STANDARDS?
April 22, 2010, 3:16 pm
Donny1020 from Jackson Hieghts says:
The New York City Carpenters are a bunch of gangster lackeys. Their spokesperson says these workers are being exploited and many of the Carpenters officials are now going to jail for allowing contractors to exploit workers for a bribe.
The spokesperson sounds as if his interest is that of the working drywaller while at the same time the Carpenters Union is raiding Local 1974’s membership and and force local developers to use drywall companies with mob ties.
Enough is enough already, The Carpenters are not even a legit Union; they are not members of the AFL-CIO or the Change To Win Coalition. The Carpenters are just a franchise of the mob.
April 23, 2010, 3:27 pm

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