WTC owner: Memorial construction unhurt by walkout

The News Leader

August 2, 2011 10:44:13 AM PDT
About 200 laborers stood down from their jobs for a second day Tuesday at the World Trade Center site, although the owner said the work stoppage had a minimal impact on the site's transit hub and signature skyscraper, and no impact on the memorial.

The Concrete Workers District Council, whose members have been without a contract since July 1, declined to comment. But some of the workers who stood or sat in a large group around a plaza agreed to discuss their concerns.

"We were willing to take a freeze but we are not going to take a 20 percent pay cut," said concrete worker Lorenzo Mineo. He said he realized people around the country have a connection to the building formerly known as the Freedom Tower and they may want the work to go on. But, he said, "we're here in the elements risking our lives and building this building and they don't want to pay their workers."

Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman said work remained on track for the memorial to open on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey owns the site.

Concrete work has stopped at the skyscraper, and Mineo and his colleagues estimated that by the end of the week the strike could force steelwork at the building to grind to a halt as well.

Thousands of workers around the city are members of the striking union, but the impact of the stoppage will be tempered by the fact that many individual projects have no-strike clauses, said Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers' Association, which is bargaining with the strikers. Among those buildings where work continues is another one of the office towers rising at the World Trade Center site.

Both parties were meeting Tuesday, said Coletti, who argued his group's stance was made necessary by the city's shifting economic landscape, in which developers are undertaking fewer and fewer large scale projects.

"The concrete workers need to go back to the work while we're trying to resolve this," he said. "Especially down at the World Trade Center. It's offensive."

Richard T. Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress, estimated that a concrete workers' strike could ultimately impact 10,000 workers in various construction jobs - one out of 10 of the city's construction workers.

Mineo and his colleagues said they are the lowest paid of the trades, making $37.80 an hour, and while a job at the trade center involves some overtime, many don't.

"Gas prices haven't come down, travel expenses haven't come down. I'm in 10 years and they want to pay us what I was making 10 years ago," Mineo said. "I can barely live on what we're making now."

Fellow concrete laborer Michael Pappalardi said theirs was "more like a silent protest; our work is not going to get done."

He said he expected the work stoppage to continue through the week, though he hoped it didn't.

"The mood is pretty dreary," he said. "If you don't work, you don't get paid."

He said the idea was to "eventually grind these jobs to a halt without the yelling and protesting and picketing."