Think of it as a union of unions.
A number of New York City’s labor organizations are pooling their resources to campaign for “responsible development” by drawing attention to developers who employ non-union labor and — according to the workers’ representatives — drive down incomes and standards of living across the city’s workforce.
“Everybody loves talking about the shrinking middle class, and it’s about time to do something about it,” said William Hohlfeld, a labor management representative with Local 46 and member of the Build Up NYC coalition.
The premise of the coalition is that developers have an influence over the city that continues even after construction is complete.
“What our research shows — and this should come as no surprise to no one — is developers who come into New York, if they decided to develop non-union, they go on and own, operate and maintain non-union,” Hohlfeld said.
Build Up NYC is headed by Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, and it’s ranks are made up representatives of the various council member unions as well as the Service Employees International Union and the Hotel Workers’ Union.
Building Trades is made up of unions representing workers in a variety of construction trades, while SEIU represents service workers, including janitors, security guards and doormen.
“It’s a coalition of working people, and we certainly hope that it’s going to grow even larger,” Hohlfeld said.
In February the group organized a protest near 237 West 54th Street, where Starwood Capital and the Moinian Group are developing a Hilton Hotel using non-union labor. Later this month, they plan another street action tied to Starwood’s planed development in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
“There’s a lot of public money involved there,” Hohlfeld said of the project.
A video on the Build Up NYC website features union members who described their working lives before they joined their unions. They describe working off the books, being paid in cash, receiving no benefits, working multiple jobs, and being unable to buy Christmas presents for their children.
“Nobody’s saying that developers are not entitled to a profit,” Hohlfeld said. “Profit is a wonderful thing. It’s just a question of how are we going to spread this profit around.”