Fighting for our union wages

April 13, 2016

David Bliven reports on a Carpenters' picket line against a company paying non-union workers lower wages, despite being given a major tax break.

SOME 30 members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) Local 279 demonstrated outside a worksite for a new shopping mall in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

The new mall will be located along the Saw Mill River Parkway and will feature a hotel, movie theatre and shopping complex. The project will called Rivertowns Square and is being spearheaded by Saber Real Estate Advisors LLC in partnership with Dobbs Ferry Capital Partners LLC. The site is reportedly costing roughly $150 million to develop.

The union was demonstrating because a contractor of Saber Real Estate Advisors--ASF Contracting, based out of Long Island--was allegedly using non-union workers making substantially less that the prevailing rate for carpenters in the Westchester County area.

A union official on the site remarked this is all the more egregious since Saber Real Estate was given substantial tax incentives from Westchester County taxpayers. Just the hotel project will reportedly receive $1.4 million in tax exemptions.

Members of Carpenters Local 279
Members of Carpenters Local 279

Westchester's Industrial Development Agency (IDA), which is in charge of handing out those tax breaks, did not responded to requests for comment. While unclear whether Westchester County mandates use of "prevailing market rates" on major construction projects, Local Law 7175 does appear to mandate consideration of "project labor agreements" before approval of such major projects. ("Project labor agreements" mandate use of union labor.)

As the IDA did not comment for this piece, it remains a question whether such consideration was performed for approval of the Rivertowns Square project. It remains important for unions and their supporters to protest and shame companies using non-union labor.

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