More than 200 hundred construction and building service workers gathered at the Long Island City Courthouse Plaza to celebrate gains working people can make and have made by joining together and standing up for their rights at their job sites. Thursday’s lunchtime celebration is a continuation of Labor Day and was in recognition of the work and workers who build, operate, maintain, and secure buildings in the Long Island City neighborhood.
“We don’t always get the recognition we deserve for the hard and dangerous work we do. So give yourself a round of applause,” Jodie Ann Beatty, a representative of Build Up NYC, told the workers.
Other speakers included tile setter Patrick O’Neill and Ronnie Pioquinto, a super at a Long Island City apartment building. O’Neill and Pioquinto work for responsible employers and they pledged to continue to support workers like elevator mechanic Steven Ospino and laborer Pablo Arias in their fight for fairness at their workplaces.
“We are here in solidarity and support, to say that we stand with you and we will help to make sure that the jobs that you do are safe, secure and that they are jobs that will sustain your families as they help us sustain ours.” Pioquinto said.
Because of the unbridled growth that is transforming Long Island City block by block, Build Up NYC formed an alliance with workers in the neighborhood, Build Up NYC Workers Alliance, and opened the Build Up NYC Workers Center in the neighborhood to more closely serve the community. Too many Long Island City workers are employed by low-road contractors who pay low wages and do not provide real health care benefits. And, with very little training, these jobs do not provide career paths for employees, are unsafe and have no future.
Arias told a harrowing tale of never getting the training he need for his job and not being given the proper equipment to do his job. Then, when he got injured on the job, he was abandoned by his employer who denied knowing him.
“That’s why today I am asking every construction worker to continue this fight,” Arias, speaking through an interpreter, said, “whether they are members of a union or not, documented or undocumented, asking for benefits, training and protections for all workers in the city.”
Ospino said he and his co-workers have always felt it was unfair that they got regular pay if they were scheduled to work on a holiday. One day, they all decided not to work a holiday unless they received overtime pay for that day. And it worked. The employer changed the rules and started paying them overtime when they worked on holidays.
“The moral of the story is that through unity we can achieve more,” Ospino said.
“We can win better jobs when we come together and get organized on our job sites,” Beatty said. “When workers come together in unions, they have the power to increase their wages . When workers join together and work to improve their jobs they are more likely to have employer paid and affordable health care, retirement and paid time off.
“And when working people and our allies come together we can win laws that make our jobs and our lives better like the law passed recently in New York City requiring every employer to provide paid sick days,” she continued. “We benefit from people who came before us who fought for overtime pay, for workers compensation for social security benefits and even public schools. Those things didn’t just happen, it took courageous people like each of you, who had a dream of a better life and a commitment to stand up and speak out for their rights, to join together. Those of us who have good jobs already have to fight to keep them and those of us who are stuck on low wage jobs, can change those jobs into good jobs by joining together.”
Build Up NYC is an alliance of working men and women committed to responsible development and good jobs that sustain the middle class and a level playing field for responsible employers.