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The Waldorf:

Where Luxury Masks Tragedy

Beneath the veneer of opulence a tragic story of segregation and personal injury is ongoing.


The Waldorf Astoria Hotel is a beacon of luxury in New York's midtown. It is now undergoing conversion to luxury condominiums by AECOM Tishman and their contractor Trident General Contracting. Under the shimmering surface is an ugly tale. -- The Financial Times

The Waldorf Astoria: A staple of New York City opulence, the tallest hotel in the world for over 30 years, is now being converted to a luxury high rise mid-town condominium.

But underneath the glitz is a dark and unseemly story. What was once a source of pride and awe for many New Yorkers, the Waldorf is now the site of outrageous mistreatment of the non-unionized workers who are doing the condo conversion.

A recent spate of worker injuries and Department of Building fines highlight the kind of exploitation that is sadly common on sites where unrepresented workers toil at the mercy of management. AECOM Tishman is the construction company managing the project and Trident General Contracting is providing labor.

To begin with, AECOM Tishman has ordered the employees of Trident — who are almost exclusively people of color — to enter the Waldorf project at 301 Park Ave through an entrance separate from other workers. Employees have taken to calling this segregated entrance “the poor door.” NYC Construction unions held a rally to protest this practice in January.

Discrimination is not a subject that is foreign to Trident. They’ve been sued by former employees who claimed to have been “subjected to a discriminatory environment where supervisors frequently used racial and homophobic slurs and threatened to fight them.”

Then in January a non-union Trident worker fell from a ladder and suffered a gruesome compound fracture of the tibia. He was incoherent with pain as EMT workers wheeled him away to an ambulance. The DOB issued fines for faulty ladders.

Less than one month later it happened again. Another unrepresented worker fell and needed EMT attention. Like his colleague before him, he was ambulanced away. The DOB is investigating.

Segregated, injured and unpaid, the non-union workers at the Waldorf suffer at the hands of a company that has a record of discrimination and violations.

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Photo on the left shows a worker who suffered a hideous leg fracture due to faulty ladders provided by Trident General Contracting. The worker was hospitalized and Trident was cited by the Department of Building. Just weeks later another worker on the same site suffered an injury that required EMTs.

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Trident employees at 301 Park Ave, learn they are not getting paid.

Meanwhile, on Friday, February 5, according to a person present at the announcement who chooses to remain anonymous to protect his employment, employees of Trident, the same people forced to enter the site through “the poor door,” were told they were not getting paid for their work. It was an ugly bow on a shameful record of negligence.

AECOM Tishman’s promotion of a segregated workplace, Trident’s allegedly cutting corners on safety that is resulting in injured workers, and the withholding of earned pay are all examples of the abuse workers suffer when they have no representation to look after their well-being. This is why none of these abuses occur on union work sites, where highly trained professionals have the peace of mind to focus on doing a quality job.

Tell your city councilman you won’t stand for such mistreatment of your fellow New Yorkers at the hands of the rich and powerful. Unions are our best hope to even the playing field.

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