Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Scene from 'Hoffa' ? Nah, It's
Lunchtime at Northside Piers

video

Anyone craving a little testosterone-fueled labor movement action should head over to Kent Avenue between North 3rd and North 5th weekdays at noon: for the past month or two, the boys from Laborers Local 79 and their brothers from Carpenters Local 926?? have set up shop daily across from Northside Piers and a block south at the Austin Nichols site, complete with now-familiar (nonunion) inflatable rats, and (as anyone attempting to work from home will attest) a bunch of very loud whistles.

Actually, the unions have a small group of picketers at both sites throughout the workday, but when the air horn squawks the lunch signal, things really heat up. Dozens of laborers congregate around a small "roach coach" serving lunch on the Kent Avenue curb, but many of the workers immediately join the dedicated picketers - chanting, singing, and encouraging passing drivers to honk their horns (on this stretch of Kent Avenue, most drivers have their horn-honking hand on a hair-trigger anyway, so most are happy to comply).

And then there's the whistling. A non-stop, 110 decibel din that lasts 30 to 40 minutes. Mixed with the frequent air horn blasts from passing trucks, it's vaguely reminiscent of the ">exploding head sequences from 'Scanners' (minus the exploding heads of course).

As someone who regularly hires union labor, we're on the side of the Locals on this one. Still, we don't envy the 'scabs': with the building lots backed up to the East River, there's nowhere to go at lunchtime without passing through this gauntlet; and we suspect that's exactly what the Brotherhood is aiming for. We're guessing the nonunion guys are mostly brown-bagging it.

So far - to our knowledge - this hasn't boiled over...although moments before we began shooting this morning, a passerby pointed out where someone had just "accidentally dropped" something out of an upper-story window of the Austin Nichols building, smashing the rear window of a car parked below.

Labor Brawl Scene from 'Hoffa' (1992) [YouTube]

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