Union Protests YU’s Decision to Hire Asbestos Removal Contractor
About five demonstrators affiliated with the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) organized protests at Wilf Campus on Jan. 11 and 12, condemning YU’s decision to hire Green Island Group Corp. to perform asbestos removal in Belfer Hall over winter break.
The protesters, who set up two giant inflatable rats outside Belfer and Rubin Halls early both mornings before leaving during the afternoon, distributed fliers accusing YU of acting inconsistently with its “core Torah values” by doing business with Green Island Group Corp., which it accused of performing “deadly asbestos work” and refusing to “pay their workers proper area standard wages,” encouraging students to contact Yeshiva University President Ari Berman and the main office to complain.
“The contractor named by the protester has been utilizing union labor on this project,” Chief Facilities and Administrative Officer Randy Apfelbaum told The Commentator. “The union apparently had a dispute with the contractor related to other projects that were performed in the past — not related to the work at YU. As such, we were able to persuade the union protesters to leave.”
Neither LiUNA nor Green Island Group got back to The Commentator’s requests for comment.
Many students expressed their surprise at waking up to the spectacle.
“The sight of a giant rat first thing in the morning was utterly shocking,” remarked Rami Levin (SSSB ‘24). “It was absolutely jarring. I wasn’t entirely sure I was awake. I felt nervous and overall out of it.”
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that became a popular building material in the 19th and 20th centuries due to its fire resistance and effectiveness as an electric insulator. However, inhaling it can have a damaging impact on health, and the material is considered carcinogenic. Construction companies began phasing out the use of asbestos in the 1970s as its dangerous effects became more widely known.
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Photo Caption: Protestors Set Up Giant Inflatable Rats on Wilf
Photo Credit: Elishama Marmon