Representatives from three western Queens unions protested a lead paint removal project being conducted on the Whitestone Bridge last week, accusing the company of using non−union workers for the job and not taking proper safety precautions to protect neighborhoods near the bridge.
Members of Long Island City’s Local 806 steel painters union and Astoria Locals 40 and 361 ironworkers unions held up signs in front of a giant inflatable rat, a union protest mascot used to criticize the use of non−union workers.
Jimmy Yanolagos, a spokesman for Manhattan’s District Council 9, said the group of nearly 25 men began standing in the cold around 6:30 a.m. last Thursday after they had heard that Brooklyn’s Anjac Enterprises Inc. had been using workers not represented by unions for a project to remove lead paint from a portion of the Whitestone Bridge’s underside. Members of the district council also accused the company of not paying fair wages to its workers.
“It’s about getting paid proper wages and benefits, whether we do the work or someone else does it,” said Peter Bottigliero, of DC 9.
Yanolagos said workers at the site also appeared to not be following safety precautions for themselves or for neighborhoods situated close to the bridge.
He said a tarp had not been placed around the workspace to prevent toxic lead fumes from drifting into nearby residential areas.
“It’s against the law,” he said. “It could hurt kids. They should be containing the area.”
And some workers at the site had not been using proper safety equipment when being lifted up to the bridge’s underside, he said.
Anjac would not confirm whether they were working on the bridge and declined comment. The MTA’s Bridge and Tunnel department could not be reached for comment.
The district council represents painters, decorators, drywall finishers, sign painters, metal polishers, lead abatement workers, paint makers and bridge and structural steel painters.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at nduke@time
©2009 Community News Group
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