LIU shamed with 10-ft-tall inflatable union rats (Karen Juanita Carrillo photo)

Long Island University (LIU)’s Downtown Brooklyn campus has been the site of a labor union protest for the past four weeks.

The university, which has been actively enhancing and expanding its 11-acre campus, is now being plagued by 10-foot-tall inflatable union rats. Members of LIUNA Local 78 have set up an informational table in front of the entrance to the school at University Plaza on the Flatbush Ave. Extension. 

Union members told the AmNews they believe the school is not following proper asbestos removal and disposal procedures. “Asbestos is a regulated material—it’s supposed to be disposed of in a very specific way, by rules and regulations,” one LIUNA member explained while standing at the leafletting table.

In the past, asbestos was widely used to strengthen cement and plastics. Building contractors used it for insulation and fireproofing. But as research showed that asbestos fibers can be breathed in and cause various forms of cancer, its use became limited. 

Removal of asbestos on construction projects is supposed to be regulated. “New York City building owners are responsible for having an asbestos survey performed by a DEP-certified asbestos investigator to determine if asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) may be disturbed during the course of work on their building,” according to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection website. “The size and scope of the abatement activity, with particular reference to the total amount of ACM that will be disturbed, determines the reporting or filing requirements.”

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LIUNA union members claim they have seen pieces of construction material disposed of in waste containers. Their flyer has a photograph of one such item dumped in a nearby garbage bin by what the union claims are non-unionized workers. Having them handle this material endangers their lives, and the lives of students and others in LIU. 

“Two days after we saw this, they switched containers,” the LIUNA member said. “If you try to do any kind of work inside the building, you should have a survey first. Somebody is just being very reckless here. This is a random approach to business.”

AmNews has asked to speak with LIU Brooklyn about the construction project, but those requests remained unanswered as of press time.

“Local 78 is taking action against Long Island University for hiring JLS Group, a company that has raised concerns about wage standards, working conditions, and safety for students and workers,” LIUNA wrote on its Facebook page. 

“We demand LIU reevaluates their decision and hires a company that provides fair wages and benefits, [and] safe conditions, and follows labor laws. This highlights the ongoing struggle for worker rights and the importance of holding companies accountable for labor law violations. Join us in advocating for fair wages and safe working conditions for all workers!”

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