Union organizers have parked a truck outside the Related Companies’ Columbus Circle headquarters displaying a large digital billboard attacking Stephen Ross, Related’s billionaire chairman and founder.
The billboard showed smiling pictures of Ross, who is an owner of the Miami Dolphins, stamped with “sexism”, “racism” and “union busting” across his forehead and demanded that the NFL remove Ross from a social justice committee that the league put together earlier this year to deal with the issue of players protesting the national anthem before games.
The truck was seen parked in front of Trump International Hotel and Tower on Friday morning, across the street from the Time Warner Center where Related has its headquarters and Ross has an apartment. Several NYPD vehicles were parked nearby.
The imagery was similar to banners and posters carried by union workers who recently gathererd in front of the Park Ave. headquarters of the NFL for a large protest that shut down traffic on the avenue. The billboard also urged the public to visit the web address askstevewhy.com, which leads to a website called Reform Related. The site claims non-union subcontractors used by Related have a history of worker fatalities, stolen wages, fraud and sexual harrassment.
The site appears to mimic a recently-launched anti-union website targeting Gary Labarbera, president of Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. That site, called askgarywhy.com, was created by the Washington DC-based anti-union group, The Center for Union Facts, and asserts that city construction unions have a history of racial discrimination, cost far more to employ than construction workers elsewhere and have driven up the price of infrastructure work such as repairs and upgrades to the city’s cash-strapped subway system.
Union labor and Related are locked in an increasingly nasty and personal feud over who will wield the power to staff the second and final phase of Related’s Hudson Yards mega-project—the city’s largest private development, and worth potentially billions of dollars in wages. The first phase of the $20 billion development was built exclusively with union workers. But Related wants the leeway to staff the second phase of the project with both union and non-union workers, allowing it to hire union workers for skilled trades such as the operation of high rise cranes and non-union laborers for less-skilled work such as painting, cleaning up debris and operating elevator hoists.
Labarbera has resisted the move, urging the union trades to stand together and boycott the second phase of the project in order to preserve organized labor’s bargaining power over its salaries, work rules and benefits at the site. In an attempt to scuttle Labarbera’s efforts, Related launched a $100 million lawsuit earlier this year against the unions as well as Labarbera himself. Related’s decision to sue Labarbera personally in a business dispute raised the eyebrows of some construction executives and was seen as the opening jab in making the fight personal.