Pickets say builder has passed over N.J. labor
By SAMANTHA HENRY, HERALD NEWS, Tuesday, April 12, 2005
CLIFTON - Members of local unions picketed the construction site of a planned extended-stay hotel on Passaic Avenue on Monday, accusing the builder of shutting certain trade unions out of the bidding process.
The site on which the Togar Corporate Suites company of Pennsylvania is building its hotel has been picketed several times in the past few months by local union members for its hiring of non-union contractors from out of state.
Beginning Thursday, members of Local 102 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers set up an inflatable rat and turned out to picket. They returned at 6 a.m. Monday and picketed until noon.
Mark Roche, the business representative for Local 102, said the rat represents the presence of non-union workers making substandard wages at a site.
"I can guarantee that as soon as they get done with the first piece they're doing now, the rest of that job will be going non-union, all of it," Roche said.
He said members of his union had bid on the electrical contract, and were passed over in favor of an out-of-state, non-union shop. He said the general contractor on the job, Houston-based Global Construction Co., which was hired by Togar to build the units, is using such tactics in an attempt to drive a wedge between different trade unions.
"To make matters worse, the union contractors who are on the job now are being threatened that if they don't cross our picket line and go back to work within 24 hours, they're going to be removed from the job and their contract is going to be terminated," Roche said.
A representative for Global Construction refused to comment, and referred all inquiries to Togar. A representative for Togar did not return two calls for comment.
Don Capasso, the president of the union of Passaic County Building Trades, said such situations with out-of-state contractors are becoming more common.
"What happens is, they come into this area and they can't really use a non-union concrete contractor," Capasso said. "Then, when they give out the second portion of the job, they bring in non-union. So, what you have here is a situation where they try to undermine the solidarity of the unions."
Capasso said that union workers who are refusing to cross the picket lines are facing retribution from the company, and that a similar situation had occurred a few months earlier, on the same construction site, when the company passed over local unionized plumbers for non-union workers from Alabama.
"We just want the opportunity to work on this job," Capasso said. "It's not fair that a company from Texas comes up here and does a job and hires people from out of state, while Passaic County people are on the unemployment line."
Ed Farmer, chief of staff for Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, said the congressman had spoken personally to all sides involved in the dispute, and was trying to help broker a compromise.
"Every possible consideration should be made for keeping the jobs in New Jersey," Farmer said. "That's what he [Pascrell] conveyed to the general contractor. Hopefully, we can work this situation out in the end, but if not, we'll continue to fight."
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