Jeff Crosby

Signs of the times in May Day march

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Marchers move down Andrew Street.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — In what was described as the city’s biggest May Day rally in years, more than 200 protesters lined City Hall Square on Monday to support immigrant and workers rights.

As Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” blared over speakers, activists held signs that read: “Everybody is an Immigrant,” “Nobody is Illegal,” “Housing is a Human Right,” and “No to Gentrification.”

“We have an administration in Washington who does not treat us with respect,” said Maria Carrasco, a Lynn School Committeewoman. “Silence is not an option. We must demand respect with dignity. We are human beings who are here and we are staying here.”

The annual May Day celebration had its roots in Chicago in the late 19th century, as unions lobbied for fair working conditions, better wages, and the eight-hour work day with strikes and demonstrations nationwide. People from all backgrounds celebrated Lynn’s history as a home for immigrants and as a leader in the fight for dignity, respect and a living wage for workers.

Carrasco said without immigrants, many service industry jobs would go unfilled.

“Nobody will do the jobs that we do,” she said. “Nobody will clean hotels or work in restaurants if we don’t do it. At the same time, we must demand that employers respect us with good pay.”

Jeff Crosby, president of the North Shore Labor Council, told the crowd that today’s worker challenges are about fair wages and embracing immigrants.

“In Chicago in 1886 workers dreamed of justice and eight-hour day so they could have time for their families and church,” he said. “Today, workers dream of a $15 minimum wage and a city without hatred where everyone is welcome regardless of where they’re from. We dream of fair pay for our teachers who educate our kids. They should not have to compete with police and firefighters for crumbs.”

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Among the marchers were dozens of Lynn teachers who protested the lack of a contract.

The three-year deal, which expired last summer, called for a two percent raise annually for the last three school years.

“We are celebrating our students and protesting the lack of progress in the negotiations,” said Brant Duncan, president of the Lynn Teachers Union.

He acknowledged that these are tough times for the city as Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has asked department heads to trim their budgets.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing different organizations in the city being pitted against each other,” Duncan said. “The city is obligated under law to meet the minimum spending requirements and we are very mindful that the city has reached agreement with other unions this year with raises of between 2 and 2½ percent.”

In February, the firefighters reached a $2.5 million deal that provides a retroactive 2 percent raise for each of fiscal years 2015 and 2016, a 2.5 percent hike for 2017, another 2 percent for 2018 and on June 30, 2018 they will collect another 1 percent.

Last year, the $2.2 million four-year police contract called for an 8 percent retroactive pay, a 1 percent boost for 2014, a 2 percent increase for 2015, 2016 and 2017 and a 1 percent raise for 2018.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

North Shore Labor Council rolling out the welcome mat

The North Shore Labor Council will have an April 25 event to talk about creating a more welcoming community for immigrant families on the North Shore.

During the Annual Legislative Breakfast last month, 11 North Shore state legislators met representatives from 18 local unions to discuss priority legislation and issues facing Massachusetts workers and their families. Each union made a presentation and talked about improving accountability of elected state house officials, and ways unions can support the work of elected officials who champion labor issues.

“When you add up all these issues, you get labor’s exciting vision for a healthy, progressive Massachusetts,” said Jeff Crosby, president of the council.

Among topics discussed, State Sen. Tom McGee talked about the importance of uniting in the fight against privatization at the T, which affects transit workers and mechanics who work at the Lynn Garage on Western Avenue.

“We look forward to constructing a relationship with our elected representatives in which both legislators and unions carry out our responsibilities to build a better Massachusetts,” said Janine LaFond, an executive board member of the labor council.

Beacon developer pressured from two sides

An artist rendering of the waterfront residential development to be built at the former Beacon Chevrolet site on the Lynnway by Mimco Development. Image courtesy of Arrowstreet

By Thomas Grillo

A group of union and community organizers is calling on developers of a waterfront apartment project to use union labor and add affordable units to the $80 million project.

In a letter to Louis Minicucci Jr. and Arthur Pappathanasi, owners of the 14-acre former Beacon Chevrolet site on the Lynnway, the New Lynn Coalition requested a meeting to discuss union jobs and adding apartments Lynn residents can afford.

“It’s exciting that this project is happening in Lynn and we want to start a conversation about using union labor, adding affordable units and other community benefits,” said Jeff Crosby, president of the North Shore Labor Council, 50 local unions representing more than 18,000 members and executive director of the New Lynn Coalition.

He argues that while union labor is more expensive, the work is high quality and guaranteed. Unions understand they are competing with companies who will work for less and are willing to negotiate on price, he said.

“The building trades are willing to discount the rate,” he said.

And while Crosby acknowledged that the city has thousands of affordable units, he said Lynn residents are being squeezed and leaving the city for places like Haverhill where rents are lower.

“We’re talking about displacement, people are being driven out of Lynn by rising housing costs,” he said. “As much as 40 percent of Lynn residents are already housing poor, spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent or mortgage payments.”

Construction is expected to start next summer on one of the waterfront’s major developments. Plans for the 14-acre site include 348 apartments in two buildings with rents expected to be in the $2,000 range.

The project promises to transform the parcel across the street from the North Shore Community College site that has been vacant for more than three decades. When completed, it is expected to turn an eyesore into a world-class neighborhood complete with apartments offering sweeping ocean views and a nearby commuter rail station. The development team also plans to connect the walkway from the Lynn Heritage State Park to the Clocktower Business Center on the Lynnway.

Eric Loth, managing director of Minco Development, the North Andover developer of the project, said they recently received the letter and intend to meet with the group soon.

“We are sympathetic to their concerns,” he said. “But the city has been fairly adamant that they don’t want more affordable housing. It’s my understanding that 30 percent of the city’s housing stock is affordable and they have the feeling they’ve done their job. We agree that if we bring more housing opportunities into the city and people who spend money in the downtown, it’s a win for everyone.’

On union labor, he said his company has used some union labor at previous jobs.

“It’s an as-you-go issue,” Loth said. “Sometimes the union carpenters have a residential rate and they can be competitive. The bottom line is the market in Lynn is unproven and we have to be careful to control our costs.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said when it comes to private development, the government should be hands-off.

“We have zoning rules that are necessary, but other than that I don’t like the government imposing restrictions on a private investor using his land for a private development,” she said.

The mayor noted that the 71-unit Gateway Residences on Washington project expected to break ground this summer  at the intersection of Washington and Sagamore streets will be union built and feature nearly all affordable dwellings.

“But it was the developer’s choice and I’m perfectly fine with that,” Kennedy said of the partnership between the development arm of the Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development and Boston developer Hub Holdings.

City Council President Daniel Cahill said he is willing to talk to the New Lynn Coalition about how to control the cost of housing in the region, but the Beacon Chevrolet project is a private development.

“From what I understand there are no city funds in the project and any discussion would have take place between the landowner and this group,” he said.

City Councilor Brian LaPierre, who also serves as a local organizer for the American Federation of Teachers, said he hopes to convince Minco to follow the lead of the Gateway Residences on Washington development team by using union labor.

“I hope this would be the practice going forward that we have project labor agreements in the city,” he said. “I am for community benefit agreements that would be helpful to communities like Lynn.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Workers have their May Day

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Protesters begin to congregate at the Corner of Greene Street and Union Street in Lynn for the International Workers May Day March.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — More than 100 protesters took to the streets of Lynn on Sunday to support worldwide International Workers May Day.

The peaceful group marched a mile from the intersection of Union and Green streets to Lynn Commons, ending with a short rally.

Jack Damas, 14, of Lynn, said while his family is from Haiti, he was born in the U.S. May Day is his first protest and he came with friends.

“I want everyone to be equal and for everyone to have fair rights,” he said.

David Gass, director of the Highlands Coalition, a group that endorsed the event, said the marchers included immigrants and-low income workers. He said the goal of the march is make people aware of the inequality and discrimination immigrants face.

Gass, 71, of Lynn, said many people in the city spend about half of their income on rent. One of the purposes of the rally was to lobby for a $15 an hour minimum wage, which, he said, would help people keep pace with the cost of living.

Angela Arce, vice-president of the Essex County Community Organization (ECCO), said through an interpreter that she immigrated from Paraguay 17 years ago. The 42-year-old Salem resident said she came in search of opportunities and has two children, both U.S. citizens.

“I started a company,” she said through an interpreter. “We employ people. We’re fighting so immigrants can live and work in better conditions for just wages and so that undocumented immigrants can get drivers licenses so that everybody can drive in safety.”

Alexandra Pineros-Shields, ECCO’s executive director, said she’s from Spain, but has been in the U.S. for 47 years. The 52-year-old Salem resident said she came over when she was 4, after her parents decided to move.

Shields said ECCO, a network of congregations on the North Shore, is concerned about the rights of workers, particularly immigrants.

“All of the fights we fought for over the last century are slowly slipping away,” she said. “Our faith traditions tell us that everyone has dignity.”

Mother and daughter Mary Rosales, 50, and Tatiana Iraheta, 13, of Lynn, are facing foreclosure. Rosales is from El Salvador and came to the U.S. to escape the hardships faced during the country’s civil war. She said one of her brothers was killed. The two are working with Lynn United for Change to keep their home.

“It’s a human right to have a roof over your head,” Rosales said.

Jeff Crosby, president of the North Shore Labor Council and executive director of New Lynn Coalition, said support for workers is needed.

“This is a time when they’re trying to tear down the last few good jobs in America,” Crosby said. “That’s why we stopped at the Verizon offices to support their strike. We need union rights for immigrant workers.”

The local march, an annual event for about a decade, was organized by the ECCO, Lynn United for Change, Neighbor to Neighbor, New Lynn Coalition and Worker’s Center of Lynn.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley