New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

LaborPress Union & Nonunion Workers United Against ‘Open Shop’ Abuses by Naeisha Rose

Union & Nonunion Workers United Against ‘Open Shop’ Abuses

New York, NY – A diverse group of union and non-union workers protesting more than $70,000 in alleged wage theft rallied outside the New York Construction Alliance’s [NYCA] HQ in Manhattan on Wednesday, in an ongoing protest against New Line Structures’ business practices, as well as the recent deaths of two subcontractors on Long Island.

Joe Scopo, the head organizer of District Council 16 of the Cement and Concrete Workers union, led the approximately 400 protestors on Lexington Avenue as they held up pictures of the subcontractors as workers chanted “Stand Up, Fight Back!” 

NYCA is a so-called “open shop” construction organization that includes New Lines Structures. On its website, NYCA boasts of “workplace diversity” and strict safety standards.  

“Construction workers are human beings whether they are non-union or not,” said Scopo. “Nearly 90-percent of construction deaths are in the open shop sector – that should tell you that the open shop model does not work.”

Scopo later held a moment of silence for two Long Island subcontractors who died in a trench collapse last week. 

After the silent reflection, he and the crowd chanted “How Many More Must Die!” 

“The movements in New York City are what keeps the fight going,” Scopo said. “Your future is at stake. We are in a good place right now, but don’t let anybody tell you that the unions aren’t in a good place. We are, we just want to secure a good future, so what they are doing in the non-union sector doesn’t come to us. We can’t allow them to hurt workers.”

Councilman Ben Kallos spent his 39th birthday Feb. 5th rallying with construction workers. 

“All we ask New Line, one of the five or six members of this association, is to pay back the wages,” said Kallos. 

NYCA consists of eight members, according to the group’s website. They include New Line Structures, Leeding Builders Group, L&M Builders Group, Lettire Construction Corp., Ryder Construction, Triton Construction Company, Noble Construction Group and Hudson Meridian Construction. 

“We called their number, and they asked if they were expecting us,” said Kallos. “Hell yeah they are expecting us!”

According to Kallos, he attempted to contact NYCA, but apparently reached “a front” instead.

“Some company called The Berman group in Suite 1920 said we don’t know what NYCA is; we don’t know why they have us in their address or why our number is there; but no, we won’t take the letter from one of your workers who experienced wage theft,” Kallos explained before adding, “I will be here day in and day out until we get everybody paid back!”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams expressed shock over Kallos’ experience and chided NYCA’s anti-worker safety record.

“It’s hard enough to find some damn work in this city,” said Williams. “If you work a full day, you should get paid for it. Nothing in this city goes up, nothing in the city moves, nothing in this city happens without workers. I’m not surprised that the New York Construction Alliance would have a company like New Line on their board because they opposed [Intro] 1447, which was about construction site safety. They opposed safety for workers and now they oppose paying workers.”

Intro. 1447 was the bill sponsored by then City Council Member Williams in 2017, that required enhanced training and qualifications for workers to engage in construction and building demolitions. 

Since 2010, New Line Structures has had 359 violations issued against them by the Department of Buildings, the Department of Transportation, the NYPD Transportation Intelligence Division, the Bureau of Environmental Compliance and Parks-Capital. 

“What I want to see happen is that they get kicked off these boards, they get no more work from the city and the state and that somebody goes to jail for some time,” Williams said.

One of the construction workers seeking unpaid wages included a woman named Silvia, who joined Kallos in a failed attempt to enter the NYCA’s Lexington Avenue offices. 

“I’m a victim of wage theft,” she said through a translator. “I can’t cover my expenses, pay for rent, for food, for transportation or take care of my children.”

Silvia, who declined to give her last name, said that she simply wants justice and a day’s pay for a day’s work. 

New Line Structures has not responded to requests for comment.

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