Residents, union reps demand MaxPac jobs (video)

by Tom Nash on February 18, 2011

Demonstrators file into City Hall following a rally held prior to a hearing on the use of union labor at the Max Pac development site.


Dozens crowded the Board of Aldermen chambers Thursday night to ask that the city do more to force the developers of a site being touted as an important part of Somerville’s future to include jobs for residents and union members as part of the plan.     

Standing outside City Hall before a hearing by the Legislative Matters Committee of the Board of Aldermen, residents and union representatives spoke of disillusionment after the developer began construction without following through on a covenant signed with the city that called for union and local labor to be used. The hearing was scheduled after 51 people signed a petition asking to air their concerns. 

See Save Our Somerville President Matt McLaughlin’s remarks to the demonstrators in the video below:    

The 184-unit apartment complex and 15 townhomes planned for the former MaxPac facility received the final green light from the Somerville Planning Board in January, shortly after the developer, KSS Realty, partnered with Boston-based Gate Residential Properties and announced the 184 units would be rentals instead of condos.    

At the hearing, speakers told aldermen of the struggles they have faced in the downturned economy. Several noted that with work hard to come by, the fact that such a large development was going up in the middle of the city without the use of local labor only added to the problem.    

Others said without more economic opportunity in the city, soon the only choice would be to move out.    

“People don’t want charity—they want jobs,” New England Jewish Labor Committee Director Marya Axner told the committee.    

“We are going to take control over our local economy,” said Rand Wilson, a union organizer who has led the protest of the development so far. “If we can’t, people won’t be able to afford to live here. If we can’t, people will lose their faith in government.” 

Daisy Vasquez, a worker at the former Ames Envelope facility in Somerville, described through a translator the “disillusionment” she felt when she was laid-off after 17 years with the company.   

“We have this hope for the not too distant future that people who live here will be able to get work here,” Vasquez said.   

The full hearing is expected to be available on the city’s website soon.    

So far, the Board of Aldermen has put forward a resolution calling for union and local labor to be used on the site, in addition to Alderman-at-Large Bruce Desmond’s call for rules to be changed so projects receiving government funds must use a higher percentage of union labor. 

“I think it’s shameful that there would be a covenant signed and that it would hold no weight,” Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz said after the hearing. “I call on KSS to honor their agreement.”   

Ward 1 Alderman Bill Roche went a step further and suggested the city look into holding up permits for the project until the developers agree to use local and union labor.   

“I think what they’re doing is illegal,” Roche said. “And if it’s not illegal, it’s unethical.”   

Ward 3 Alderman Tom Taylor, who chairs the committee, said he will invite the developers, who did not appear last night, to explain themselves and to look over the original covenant at a March 8 meeting. He said at the beginning of the meeting he could not locate it.  

KSS Realty Executive Ted Tobin, who was criticized by Wilson at the hearing for not attending, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Mayor Joseph Curtatone, who did not attend the meeting, later said through spokesman Michael Meehan that KSS has not finalized who will be getting contracts for the project. 

“Our first priority is always to encourage developers to use union labor,” Curtatone said. “We not only put that language directly in the covenant for the MaxPac project, but we have also facilitated active negotiations between KSS and the Boston Building Trades Council. For anyone concerned about the use of union labor on this project, I can say that Boston Building Trades have been at the table and progressing toward what we hope is a working agreement.”

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jackie February 20, 2011 at 6:25 PM

Keep KSS obligated to their word. If it was the other way around KSS would demand the terms be upheld. Somerville is a working class city. Put our people to work first

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