Downtown office workers did a double take when they saw a coffin propped up on the sidewalk outside National Grid’s building on Jay Street.
“Asbestos kills,” read a sign on the coffin, which contained a body (albeit fake) of a dead construction worker — killed, his “co-workers” said because National Grid uses non-union workers to remove the deadly fiber from its building.
“We’re trying to convince people to do the right thing,” said Jose Medina, a representative for Local 78, which includes asbestos removers.
Medina said that some companies don’t provide non-union employees with adequate asbestos-removal gear, which means that some fibers can get into the air, and that anyone coming in contact with such a worker is at risk of breathing in the cancer-causing material.
But National Grid spokeswoman Karen Young said Medina’s concerns were misguided.
“National Grid is committed to safeguarding our employees and the general public,” she wrote in an e-mail. “We work with qualified contractors that are licensed by New York State — and we use union workers.”
It’s not the first time that Downtown has been the site of union tension. Union workers’ inflatable rat makes frequent appearances in the neighborhood whenever developers hire non-unionized workers.
But the coffin definitely stopped traffic.
“At first, I thought it was a real body in there, so it definitely made me think about the issue,” said one worker who declined to give his name.