SUIT: Forest City Broke Union Promises
Jotham Sederstrom Nov. 16, 2011, 11:45 a.m.
A group of Brooklyn residents who took part in a job training program tied to Forest City Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development project claims they were given false promises of union membership at the end of the program, according to a Federal lawsuit filed yesterday.
The seven plaintiffs named in the suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, allege that instructors from BUILD, or “Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development,” had promised to give participants in its “Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program” the chance to get membership into construction unions.
“Their understanding was that upon being admitted (into the unions), which (BUILD instructors) guaranteed they would be when they completed the program, that they would be given a job on the Atlantic Yards construction site,” Matt Brinckerhoff, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, told The Commercial Observer.
Mr. Brinckerhoff added that the training itself was “muddled and haphazard” and taught the participants “various platitudes.”
“Getting into a union is not a simple matter, but the belief was, and certainly the promise was, that because Ratner is a huge developer and uses a lot – if not exclusively – union labor on these projects… that when he and his representatives promised union membership, it was meaningful,” said Mr. Brinckerhoff.
BUILD President James Caldwell did not reply for a request for comment in time for publication.
Joe DePlasco, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner, flatly denied the group’s cliams that they were promised prompt union membership.
“FCRC did not promise union cards, nor was it in a position to promise union cards,” wrote Mr. DePlasco in an email.
BUILD was part of a Community Benefits Agreement set up by Forest City Ratner to help local residents find work on the Atlantic Yard development and other related projects.
The BUILD program was not a union program, but, instead, provided participants the skills necessary to get into union programs, said Mr. DePlasco.
Forest City Ratner is currently using 799 construction workers on the Atlantic Projects construction site, said Mr. DePlasco, and 410 of them are New York City residents (174 of them are from Brooklyn).
So far, 36 people have participated in the Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program, saidMr. DePlasco. Of those, 19 are working in property management, retail, or construction positions, he added. Two of them finished the program and were accepted into a roofers union.
Atlantic Yards is mixed-use commercial and residential project that will open up 16 high-rise buildings and unveil the Barclays Center, the future home of the New Jersey Nets.
Daniel Edward Rosen, Staff Writer, is reachable at Drosen@Observer.com