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Members of a massive citywide union that covers carpenters and industrial workers protested along the curb at Bayside Mercedes-Benz dealership Helms Bros. Inc., alleging that a construction project at the site was not paying standard wages to workers.
A small group of the New York City District Council of Carpenters and Joiners of America held up a large banner which read “Shame on Helms Bros. Mercedes Benz” in front of the auto dealership at 20-24 Northern Blvd. in Bayside.
Olaf Olsen, a representative from the district council, said the members were protesting at the site because the union had been notified that a subcontractor working on a project at the dealership was not paying “area standards.”
“We want to raise the conscious of the community,” Olsen said. “This is a matter of fair and good-paying jobs, especially when you are talking about a dealership that sells cars for $150,000 or $200,000. They are not being a very good neighbor. It’s unfortunate that they are taking a position where they are hiring contractors who do not pay area standards. It’s outrageous.”
Suzanne Cochrane, general manager of Helms Bros., said the dealership is undergoing a renovation, but the accusations leveled at the company were a “misstatement.”
“The construction company I’ve hired is not using all union labor,” she said. “They consider anything non-union unacceptable. But I don’t think anybody here is being paid under minimum wage.”
The union is comprised of 11 individual local chapters and covers 25,000 union members in the five boroughs and Long Island. Workers in the union include carpenters, millwrights, dock builders, timber men, cabinetmakers, floor coverers and industrial workers.
The union’s complaint is with Manhattan’s JRM Construction Management and Montec Interiors, a subcontractor, on the interior carpentry project. JRM could not be reached for comment.
Olsen said “area standards” are set by the union and act as prevailing wages for New York City and Long Island.
Wages for a journeyman carpenter are $44.62 per hour and for a first-year apprentice are $17.85 per hour, he said.
He could not specify how much workers on the Helms Bros. project were being paid, but said their pay was “substantially lower” than standard wages.
“The carpenters union has been engaging in an aggressive campaign by focusing on companies that are not paying area standards,” Olsen said.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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