Bowlmor Lanes — the Union Square bowling alley/nightclub — is under fire today from a New York City carpenters union accusing the hotspot of “[desecrating] the American way of life.” How? By hiring contractors who’ve allegedly bilked workers building their planned 90,000-square-foot Times Square funhouse (scheduled to open in November) out of fair pay and benefits.
On Monday, two protesters were parked outside of Bowlmor’s University Place location, handing out leaflets to passersby. But their beef isn’t with the bowling alley, exactly — it’s with the contractors Bowlmor hired to build its new, four-story outpost in the old New York Times building on West 43rd Street.
Both contractors have some seriously high-profile chops, too: P. O’Connor Contracting, a Queens-based construction firm whose clients have included the ritzy Le Parker Meridien hotel, and Vanguard Construction & Development Co. — a separate construction firm that’s done work for NYU, Daniel Boulud’s slew of award-winning-restaurants-that-are-all-named-after-him, Gucci, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Barneys, and the St. Regis and Carlyle hotels.
Tammy Rivera, an organizer for the New York City District Council of Carpenters, told Runnin’ Scared that the conflict is “not a union issue,” but a protest of the substandard compensation that Bowlmor’s contractors pay.
“The contractors that they hire do not pay area standard wages to the workers,” Rivera said. “They don’t get any benefits and they’re getting below standard wages.”
According to the state department of labor, the “prevailing wage” for construction workers in Manhattan hovers around $40 an hour, but Rivera says the Bowlmor workers are earning a paltry $12-15.
“We’re letting people know they don’t care about the workers,” Rivera said. “We just want to let people know that this is what’s going on — this is how they’re picking their contractors and this is how they’re taking care of their workers.”
The criticism of Bowlmor’s contractor choices isn’t the bowling alley’s first brush with bad publicity this year. Two months ago, five employees sued venue owner Tom Shannon for allegedly using Facebook and Myspace to “weed out patrons who were deemed racially problematic.” (Shannon’s lawyers filed a response to that complaint in Manhattan Civil Supreme Court earlier this month denying the allegations, but the case is still pending.)
According to Eater, the new Bowlmor location is expected to feature seven “themed” bowling areas, 50 lanes, two nightclubs, a ballroom, and a David Burke restaurant.
Reps for P. O’Connor, Vanguard, and Strike Holdings (which owns Bowlmor) were not immediately available for comment.