Barclays workers fail to break from union
On Wednesday evening, a vote by 131 Barclays Center workers represented by 32BJ SEIU did not reach the threshold to "deauthorize" the union, meaning that those workers will continue to have to pay union dues, according to the National Labor Relations Board. It represents a win for the building workers' union, at least in the short term, and perhaps a loss for the New York City District Council of Carpenters, which was eyeing adding the workers to its own membership. Wednesday's vote was seen as perhaps an initial test of whether the 32BJ workers would eventually vote to leave the union altogether. Under federal labor law, however, the workers now cannot seek to deauthorize for another year, according to a 32BJ spokesman. The 32BJ workers in question are "conversion crew" members who convert the basketball arena into a concert hall and back. The workers who did show up to vote Wednesday overwhelmingly cast ballots to strip 32BJ of the power to have workers fired for not paying dues to the union; the margin was 49 to 6. But to deauthorize they needed 66 votes—a majority of the 131 total workers. "I think that people voted with their feet by not showing up, and showed the merits of their contract by staying at home," said a 32BJ spokeswoman. But the carpenters' political director, Steve McInnis, said that the anti-32BJ workers were filing a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that there are actually far fewer than 131 conversion crew employees at Barclays. A lower number would make it easier for the workers opposing 32BJ to score a majority vote to deauthorize. Mr. McInnis also insisted that his union was not fomenting the unrest among the 32BJ workers. "The conversion crew workers came to us on this," added Mr. McInnis. "We're not funding the attempts over there. They came to us." The regional director of the National Labor Relations Board said he had not yet received the complaint. A Daily News article published Monday evening framed the 32BJ workers as "furious" that they were not getting paid as well as their counterparts at Madison Square Garden, where full-time staffers get $46 an hour and are represented by the carpenters union. Part-time Barclays workers make a beginning salary of $14 an hour. However, the 32BJ spokeswoman said that Madison Square Garden has fewer than 20 full-time conversion crew employees, and that its 80 part-timers start at $11 an hour and top out at $18. Part-time workers cannot earn full-time status unless a full-time worker dies or retires, she said. At Barclays, 32BJ is pursuing a different model: all the workers start out as part-time and at $14 an hour, but can work their way up to $20 an hour and have a way to obtain benefits and a path to full-time work. Still, Michael Odom, a member of the conversion crew who is helping lead the charge to leave 32BJ, said the contract the union negotiated Barclays doesn't allow him to make a living. "I feel like they failed us. I can't live on $14 an hour, and I only get work one or two days a month, but can't collect unemployment," he said. Barclays Center management was notably cool to the carpenters' desire to instead create new, higher-paying full-time positions for the workers at the arena.
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