Local sign makers swapped their tools of the trade for protest posters.
Unionized workers at the North Shore Neon Sign Company’s Maspeth branch rallied in front of the business on July 26. They called for their boss to sign a contract that would increase their pensions.
“It’s a shame, because we risk our lives every day,” said George Senior Jr., who has worked for the company for nearly a decade. “We’re just trying to get a fair deal.”
The workers have been on strike since July 16.
North Shore Neon has installed signs around New York for nearly half a century, including a number of placards in Times Square. It is one of 13 companies around the city and on Long Island that Local 137 of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association is fighting against.
The union wants a four-percent raise for its workers, with seven percent of the salary increase going towards pensions.
However, the bosses do not want to allocate more money to pensions, union representatives said. Union workers can retire as early as age 55 and draw their pension until they die.
“They should be entitled,” said Paul Collins, president of Local 137. “They are working with heavy steel. It takes a lot of hard work to do that. Some of them get hurt and they could never come back. The idea is that our members will have enough money so when they retire, they can live a decent life.”
Collins said he realized the companies could replace the striking workers, but said that would be difficult because of the various licenses and experience needed to work the metal with heavy machinery.
North Shore Neon’s president Tom Brown made an appearance at the rally and voiced his disagreement with the strike.
“A strike? I don’t know what the hell is going on here,” Brown said. “Yes, of course, they get a pension. I don’t know what they are talking about.”
Multiple attempts including calls to cell phones and office numbers were made to reach a deal negotiator, but a response was not received as of press time.
Collins said the groups are going to meet again soon, but a date has not been set.