Statement from Local 77 Business Manager Carl Styles

As part of their protest against a contractor who stated to union officials that he would only hire workers of Macedonian and Serbian decent, members of the LIUNA Union 77 have been staging a peaceful protest outside of Lincoln Elementary School in Edison Township. The union believes there is no room for discriminatory hiring practices in this community or any community and are willing to fight against unscrupulous practices that hurt workers. The contractor Pal-Pro Builders has been hired by Edison Public Schools to perform work. 

Before the school day on Friday, September 3, 2021, members of LIUNA Local 77 began setting up to peacefully protest. As part of their preparations, they assembled props including an inflatable rat, which symbolizes unfair labor practices, as well as a coffin and banner which symbolizes how bad employment practices kill middle class jobs.  All of these things were set up before school had started and the coffin and banner were down before students arrived.  How do we know this? Because at 8:21 a.m. a school official actually knocked down the display which was never put back up before its removal.

Regarding the coffin’s use as part of the protest.  Some have argued that its use was inappropriate for an elementary school setting.  We agree and have begun a review of the process and will work to ensure we don’t make this mistake again.  We think it is not good to expose young children to the imagery and we also think it distracts from the issue-at-hand—that a contractor hired in Edison is using what appears to be discriminatory hiring practices.  We believe workers should not be discriminated against based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or any other arbitrary standards and we are willing to fight to ensure workers are protected.

To be clear.  We do not condone the use of any props or messaging that may negatively affect children and apologize for the poor judgement. In this instance, the coffin was down before students arrived and we think that is for the best.  We will work to do better, and we hope Edison Township Public Schools will, too.  We need to send a message that Edison Township Public Schools will not reward discriminatory business practices.  On this matter, we should ALL be on the same side!”  

Rev. Carl E. Styles is Business Manager of Building Laborers Local 77 representing more than 1,500 members if Central and Southern New Jersey. Through its innovative apprenticeship and training programs, industry-leading labor-management partnerships, and commitment to protecting the rights of workers, Local 77 is proud to serve its members, its signatory contractors, and the communities where they live and work.  Reverend Styles also serves as Pastor of Bethel United Methodist Church in Camden, New Jersey.