Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Militant union carpenter: unions shouldn't compromise with contractors or support Atlantic Yards

Gregory A. Butler, a union carpenter and writer whom an admirer describes as "an outspoken black communist," has regularly challenged union leaders and contractors in GANGBOX: CONSTRUCTION WORKERS NEWS SERVICE, "a news analysis website for construction workers, both union and non union, who wish to build militant unions."

Yesterday, in WINTER IN AMERICA…how construction workers should respond to the meltdown, Butler warned union leaders against accepting compromises on wages, benefits, and work rules requested by contractors.

His solution: preserving the 7-hour day and installing a 6-hour day to get more people working, to ensure that carpenters are "genuine Local Men – not Company Men that are requested off the list by the contractor," and a supplemental fund to provide for unemployed members. Partly-constructed buildings, he said, should be taken by eminent domain and turned into low-income housing.

And what about AY?

Also, pointing out that half the work in New York City is done by non-union workers, he called for area-wide strikes. Indeed, one of the argument union organizers have made for Atlantic Yards is that it would represent union construction in a sea of non-union work.

Butler doesn't buy it. He wrote:
One thing we should absolutely NOT do anymore is to totally subordinate ourselves and our unions to the contractors, the developers and their trade associations.

Louis Colletti is not our friend – neither is Donald Trump – or Larry Silverstein – or Steve Ross – or Bruce Ratner – or any of the other developers… they are our class enemies, the people we have to struggle against to get what we need, both narrowly as construction workers and more broadly as part of the working class.

We and our unions need to stop being shills for their narrow commercial interests and their taxpayer subsidized megadevelopments!

Remember, the only difference between them and the Shaya Boymelgreens, John Lams and Donald Cappoccias of the world is that, for the moment, they find it useful to deal with the unions – I would hope we all understand that they would cut our throats in a minute if it was to their commercial advantage!

The politicians aren’t our friends either – no, not even the Democrats!

Yes, they speak at our rallies, and say all the right things, but at the end of the day, they represent the same financial interests the Republicans do!


On AY rallies

Butler wrote critically in September 2008 about a lack of union militancy:
Although New York developers, building owners, not for profit community groups and governmental entities continued to increase their use of non union contractors over the next decade - and as wages and working conditions sharply deteriorated for those non union tradespeople, the unions made very sparing use of their members power on the jobsites.

There were a few mass rallies - but, unlike June 30, 1998, great care was taken by the building trades unions to make damned sure the workers were kept under tight control (with union officials - in particular, the staff of LEROF, the Laborers Eastern Regional Organizing Fund - often used as enforcers to help the cops keep the construction workers in line).

And some of the rallies the building trades called wern’t even organizing rallies, but were instead promotional events for taxpayer subsidized megadevelopments that were often deeply unpopular with the New York City working class as a whole.

And those rallies were mainly concentrated in the part of New York where most work is still done union - Manhattan below 110th St.

For instance, only 2 union rallies were held in all of Brooklyn (New York City’s most populous borough) during this decaded - and one of them - the larger of the two events - was to support developer Bruce Ratner’s deeply unpopular Atlantic Yards luxury housing/office building/New York Nets basketball arena project in Prospect Heights.


Later, he added:
The general response of the Building Trades has been to tag along behind the bosses - symbolized in New York by all the rallies that have been held to promote unpopular megadevelopment plans - like the Johnson family’s Hudson Yards Stadium for the Jets on the West Side of Manhattan or the Atlantic Yards stadium/office building/luxury hirise development that billionare developer Bruce Ratner and centimillionare music producer Jay-Z want to build in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

3 comments:

  1. Hot Air Gibberish.

    Butler can go on at length about what is wrong but cannot provide any specific plan to correct the problem.

    Anyone can complain. What we need is workable solutions.

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  2. I think this blog is usually pretty informative, but if you have to invert the laws of supply and demand to conclude that AY shouldn't be built, that hurts your credibility more than a bit.

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  3. Brother Oder,

    Thanks for quoting me at length!

    Incidentally, I think the economy may finally do in Ratnerville - Ratner's trying to fire his high priced architect Gehry, and he's already stopped site work on the first phase of the project.

    Hopefully, the site will be reclaimed to build affordable public housing for Brooklyn's working class (they need that way more than stadiums!)

    FRATERNALLY,
    GREGORY A. BUTLER, LOCAL 608 CARPENTER
    FOR GANGBOX: CONSTRUCTION WORKERS NEWS SERVICE
    http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/gangboxnews/
    http://groups.google.com/group/gangbox/
    http://gangbox.wordpress.com
    http://clnews.org
    "UNION NOW, UNION FOREVER!"

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