Construction union members tell NFL to take Related chair off social justice committee

Stephon Johnson | 9/6/2018, 6:15 p.m.
Unionized construction workers want the National Football League to know that one of its owners is bad news.

Unionized construction workers want the National Football League to know that one of its owners is bad news.

Last Wednesday, members of the Mason Tenders District Council rallied in front of the NFL offices at 345 Park Ave. to call for the removal of Miami Dolphins owner and The Related Companies chairman and co-founder Stephen Ross from the league’s Social & Racial Justice Committee. The protesters cited accusations of racism, sexism and attempts at union-busting at several Related construction projects, including its $20 billion Hudson Yards project.

Ross sued the union this year, accusing them of bilking Related out of almost $100 million during the first phase of Hudson Yards’ construction. In the suit, related subsidiary Hudson Yards Construction claimed, “In the month of February 2015 alone, for the privilege of selling coffee and snacks at the project, Coffee Boy #1 was compensated for 155 hours’ work, of which 45 hours were classified as overtime payable at time and a half, or $69.87 per hour including benefits.”

Now, the real estate giant wants to construct the second half of the development open-shop. That would allow Ross and Related to hire nonunion labor at certain positions.

The NFL put the committee together earlier this year to address player concerns about social justice issues, but critics saw it as an attempt to placate the NFL Players Association and reduce the number of players who knelt during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality.

According to a release from the NFL on the formation of the committee, “The group will focus on supporting programs and initiatives that reduce barriers to opportunity, with a priority on supporting improvements in education and economic development, community and police relations and the criminal justice system. It will work directly with league staff to help identify future initiatives that have both broad support and a potential for high impact, and make financial recommendations accordingly.”

Anti-union sentiment took aim at Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York President Gary LaBarbera, via a website titled “Ask Gary Why.” The website, founded by the Center for Union Facts (a nonprofit run by Washington, D.C. lobbyist Richard Berman), accuses LaBarbera of having exclusively white male leadership in the union and paying minority workers less than white union members.