Hundreds of fuming union leaders came out swinging on Feb. 17 outside Chelsea Terminal Warehouse, protesting the alleged exploitation of immigrant workers.
The unions, led by Laborers’ Local 79, descended on the construction site at 261 11th Ave. and through raised fists and voices vehemently criticized demolition company Alba, who Local 79 and their partners demonized as anti-union and exploitative.
Many of the Laborers are immigrant demolition workers, also called los demolicionsitas, and construction workers who say that they have been deprived of healthcare throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to face intimidation and threats for trying to unionize Terminal Warehouse.
Protesters named several culprits — three being New Line Structures, ECD NY and Alba Services — which, they alleged, have a history of wage theft and permitting hazardous working conditions. There were also allegations of gender discrimination.
The companies affiliated suffered one worker fatality previously. In September 2016, Bruno Travalja, the owner of Crowne Architectural Systems, was working on the New Line project at 129 West 52 St. when he fell to his death. While he was wearing a safety harness, it was not fastened to a lifeline, as required by code.
Additionally, the Department of Buildings issued several citations to New Line for failing to install guardrails and meet OSHA protection standards. Advocates also cited the firing of a worker for merely speaking with a union. All of this comes on the heels of Alba allegedly putting up bounty fliers offering $5,000 to any current worker who can provide information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of a previous employee who for filed for workers’ compensation.
“This can’t stand, we can’t sleep at night with a sound mind knowing that human rights are being violated by that building and using our retirements to fund it all,” Joe S said.
The union workers, joined by New York City District Council of Carpenters and Joiners of America; New York Concrete Workers’ District Council; and Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1 flooded into the roadway and inflated gigantic rats outside the building site.
“We stand with the demolicionistas in their fight for respect, dignity, and justice at Terminal Warehouse, where they are performing difficult, dangerous jobs every day. It’s wrong for PIMCO to sit back and allow these employees of Alba to be exploited and harmed. PIMCO can and should take action to ensure the demolicionistas and other nonunion workers at Terminal Warehouse are protected and treated fairly,” said Chaz Rynkiewicz, Assistant Business Manager at Laborers’ Local 79, and a trustee of the union’s pension and annuity funds invested with PIMCO.
“When PIMCO bought Columbia Property Trust, they bought all of the workplace problems at the Terminal Warehouse,” Rynkiewicz added. “The risks posed by the hiring of irresponsible contractors like Alba and an uninsured workforce during a pandemic are serious. When we raised these issues with PIMCO, we were told that there was nothing that they could do. We find that answer dangerous and unacceptable.”
Hundreds marched around the site, hammering their fists on construction barricades as they demanded accountability and worker protection. Passing motorists even stopped in the street and honked their horns, much to the chagrin of NYPD officers who were attempting to control the crowd.
amNewYork Metro reached out to Terminal Warehouse, New Line Structures, and Alba Demolition for comment and is awaiting a response.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.