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Union carpenters protest at site

Carpenters protesting in Melville

Carpenters protesting in Melville Photo Credit: Ellen Yan

About 30 union carpenters paraded this morning in front of the new Rubie Corporate Plaza in Melville to protest the hiring of non-union counterparts to build the interior.

“What do we want?” a union leader shouted.  “Area standards,” answered members of the Empire State Regional Council of Carpenters.

Their signs targeted the Huntington commercial carpentry firm doing the work, Hi-Lume Corp., saying it “does not pass area standard wages and benefits.”

Anthony Macagnone, the union council’s representative, said Hi-Lume’s wages ranged from just under the local average of $37 per hour to half that.

But president Jim Sutherland of the family-owned Hi-Lume saw the allegation as just the union’s “take” in the longtime pushback between unions and non-union businesses. He said there’s no one set wage for carpenters and that he was hired by one of the incoming tenants, GM Advisory Group, a financial services firm based in Port Washington.

“All the men that work for me are legal,” he said. “Many of them are homeowners in Nassau and Suffolk counties and they pay taxes.”

The Queens-based Rubie’s Costume Company owns the building. It started work on its “world-class office environment” around the time the subprime mortgage market collapsed in fall 2007.

The green glass building had been set to open in spring 2009, but the recession contributed to the delay. Rubie's now has some leases signed for its 110,000-square-foot space.

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