Labor dispute takes center stage at Town Hall

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Anyone who has spent time in Manhattan has likely, at some time or another, come across a giant inflatable rat stationed outside of a building. Union rats, commonly used by protesting or striking trade unions, are commonplace throughout New York City, but rarely seen in our area.

Until today.

Early Friday morning, the rat was stationed outside of North Salem Town Hall. District Council No. 9 Painters and Allied trades were lined up on either side of the rat, protesting Worldwide Industries Corp., a company the town had hired to paint water tanks in the Sunset Ridge Water District.

Union members in attendance at the protest were passing out fliers that read:

“Worldwide Industries Corp. has been hired to perform work for the Sunset Ridge Water District at the Park Lane Water Tanks in the town of North Salem NY. This contractor has a history of not providing their workers the area standard wages and benefits that have been established in this area by District Council NO 9 Painters and Allied Trades. As a result, Worldwide Industries Corp. destroys the workers ability to properly care for themselves as well as their families, thereby destroying the Local economy.”

Protestors were not permitted to speak to the press and referred all questions to a union representative. The District 9 representative had not made himself available to comment as of late Friday night.

Ray Koren, president of Worldwide Industries Corp., said in response to the flier, “if what they say in the flier is true, we would have been banned in New York State. It’s not a question of work integrity. It’s really a question of union grandstanding.”

Under New York State law, contractors must pay the “prevailing rate of wage and supplements” to all workers on a contract for public works, such as the Sunset Ridge Water District project. In a Facebook post Friday morning, North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas explained that the town had paid union-equivalent wages and benefits for the project, “as per State law.”

“Union-equivalent wages” appears to lie at the heart of the dispute. Koren said that Worldwide Industries is an “open shop,” which means they’ll take on non-union members. A decision to hire non-union workers would exclude District Council No. 9 members.

“District 9 Council want the painters on the job to be union painters,” said Lucas in his post. “I can empathize.”

Both Koren and Lucas stressed that the bid process is open to all, including unions.

“Union contractors had an option to bid on the project, and either they did not bid on it or did not bid competitively,” said Koren.

Koren added that Worldwide Industries turns in certified payrolls on jobs such as the one done in North Salem, and that those payrolls are in compliance with local, state and federal laws.

“There’s all kinds of funding agencies involved in these things, and they’re all watching,” said Koren. “If our paperwork’s not straight, the funding doesn’t come through.”

In his Facebook post, Lucas wrote, “Worldwide is paying union wages and union benefits as required by NYS law and we will get copies of the certified payroll that the District 9 union will also review just to make sure.”

Lucas provided to The North Salem Post a copy of the recommendation letter from the town consulting engineer, which detailed the bid analysis for the project. The analysis showed that Worldwide Industries was the lowest bidder for the project. Public works projects require municipalities to select the lowest, best-qualified, responsive bidder. The letter also said, “a reference check was conducted for the low bidder and every reference was highly complementary of the bidder.”

"This is typical of what we see throughout the state of New York with union organizations,” said Koren. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there. For someone to say we have a history of this…well, show me the history.”

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