‘Labor’ pains at Carroll Gardens job site

A controversial Carroll Gardens development continues to be a flashpoint for protests, with union officials this week blasting a contractor on the site for exploiting his non-union workers.

On Tuesday morning, about 40 members of the carpenter’s union picketed the project, located at Second Place and Smith Street, where a 48-unit, seven-story residential building has topped out above the Carroll Street station.

“This contractor is undercutting the area standard wages and benefits,” said Andres Puerta, a representative for the District Council of Carpenters union, which claims that R&B Drywall, a subcontractor on the project, pays workers $10-$18 an hour, without benefits.

The union rate for the same work is $42 an hour, plus benefits, Puerta said.

R&B Drywall owner Howard Schneidler said he had no intention on changing the practices of his 25-year-old business — which pays $20-$25 per hour, he said.

“We’re a non-union shop, and they think that because everyone doesn’t pay union wages, everyone is underpaid,” he said. “The owner can’t pay the union’s exorbitant prices.”

Moreover, Schneidler said, he’s under no legal obligation to pay union scale.

Puerta said more protests are planned, but it is unclear what impact, if any, they will have on hiring practices. He insisted the issue is not about union versus non-union labor.

“The goal here is to demonstrate what we feel are exploitative working conditions — whether the owners or contractors change their mind, that’s up to them,” he said.

The building at the corner of Smith Street and Second Place has been controversial from the get-go.

In 2007, residents protested the proposed building’s size, claiming it overwhelms the low-rise neighborhood. In the wake of those protests, Carroll Gardens was rezoned in 2008, but a city panel determined that enough of the 70-foot building’s foundation had been poured to allow work to continue — even though the zoning change now caps buildings at 55 feet.

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