NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The show did not go on at the site of the future New Brunswick Performing Arts Center on Livingston Avenue, where work ceased on the $172 million project that has booked shows as early as September.
Several workers picketed Monday in front of the building that will soon become a home for theater, dance and opera, brandishing signs and posing next to two towering inflatable rats.
Anthony Abrantes, senior council representative for the Keystone Mountain Lakes regional Council of Carpenters, said workers were protesting the use of non-union laborers on the project.
"That particular project has two sources of funding," Abrantes said. "One which triggers prevailing wage because it has publically funded dollars in it. Second, it has union pension money invested in the project as well. So the project is a union project, however, the contractor who is controlling the project is sneaking in labor on the weekends and afterhours and even during the day and paying them substandard wages."
Abrantes identified that contractor as AJD.
A spokesperson for the Middletown-based company that, accodring to its website, specializes in low-, mid- and high-rise residential buidlings since being founded in 1977 by Anthony J. Diaco, said the company had no comment.
Abrantes said that while the use of non-union laborers affects six-15 workers on the job, the other 100-plus workers at the site refused to cross the picket line. As a result, no work was done on the project Monday, Abrantes said.
Although Devco is overseeing the construction of the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center, which will be located on the site of the former George Street Playhouse and Crossroads Theater, the city, Rutgers, Middlesex County and other organizations are partnering on the project.
The project, which broke ground in 2017, also includes about 30,000 feet of office space above the theater.
On Monday, the workers began picketing at about 6 a.m. and ceased at about 11 a.m. By 11:30, the site was vacant. Orange cranes sat at the ready to hoist workers into the air. Stacks of drywall sat unattended. A blue lunch box had been left behind.
Abrantes anticipates the Keystone Mountain Lakes carpenters will be picketing again Tuesday morning.
"There have been prior discussion over the past several months (with AJD)," Abrantes said. "This has been going on in evenings and weekends and throughout the day. And for some reason, they just they aren't complying with their obligation."