Union workers protest new construction in Hicksville
A cacophony of car horns rang out Friday morning, Feb. 1, as commuting passersby honked in support of union workers standing sentinel with an inflatable rat in front of the construction site of Sanders Equities’ latest project on West John Street in Hicksville. The laborers withstood near single-digit temperatures as they peacefully protested with signs stating, “To the public, Queens County Concrete does not employ members of or have a contract with the general building laborers Local Union #66 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.”
“We all live in this area, we want to work here,” said Tom Zoeller, a line captain protesting with three fellow union workers. “We put the rat up, [the construction company] gets sick of the rat and then they hire us.”
Zoeller previously protested with a rat outside of a site in Valley Stream for two weeks before the company turned it over to the union workers.
“We have OSHA certifications, we go to safety classes, we’re all trained to do this work,” explained Zoeller, who cited that non-union workers are typically those heard about in the news for getting hurt on the job. “We’re qualified, [non-union workers are] not. We have rails, safety barriers, you couldn’t get hurt.”
Despite the frigid temperatures, the union men continued to stand in solidarity with each other in front of the construction site frozen in place after those hired to perform the work put building on pause.
Sanders Equities, the Jericho-based real estate investment and management firm that will develop the 400 W. John St. location, could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
The proposed construction will bring a 43,000-square-foot industrial-use building to the land that had previously been vacant, save for dirt, grass and trees, for more than a decade between the entrance to Cantiague Park and Dunkin’ Donuts.
The site will feature eight covered loading docks, four drive-in doors, 20-percent office space and entry and exit points on West John Street and along Kuhl Avenue.
“We’ll be out here for a couple of weeks and they’ll probably put us on,” Zoeller said. “We’ll stay here until they do. It’ll get turned over, they always do.”