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Committee Says Non-Union Contractors Shut Out

June 19, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The National Right To Work Committee has protested to Chrysler Corp. Chairman Lee Iacocca that non-union contractors have been shut out of the $230 million project to renovate the Statute of Liberty.

The committee, which opposes compulsory unionism, sent a letter two weeks ago to renovation chairman Iacocca, saying that ″forced union membership embodies the very antithesis of all for which our Great Lady stands.″

Larry Valente, project manager for the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Centennial Foundation, said Wednesday he does not think there is any official policy about using union labor on the renovation.

In the New York area, however, ″it is difficult to do a project with some union and some non-union labor,″ said Valente. He said ″it may be academic as to whether it (using union labor exclusively) is a policy or not. The problem is the practicality of the situation.″ The project is being performed almost entirely with union labor, except for the use of a few French copper workers with specialized skills.

The Right To Work Committee wrote Iacocca after learning about the experience of Virginia businesswoman Patricia Bradburn, a non-union contractor, who went to New York last year to bid on part of the renovation.

Mrs. Bradburn said that when she went to Liberty Island, she was told by principals from the general contractor that she was free to submit a bid, but that only union bids would be awarded.

Mrs. Bradburn said one sandblasting contractor told her on the ferry back from Liberty Island that ″if your company got the bid and made it from Manhattan to the statue, they would not make it back. ... We do not allow non- union workers in New York-New Jersey territory.″

″The intimidation really sunk in and I had to seriously believe the threat that was made and I did not submit a bid,″ Mrs. Bradburn said. ″Had it been a bridge or a barge, I just would have said ‘that’s the way it is,’ but Lady Liberty represents why we are all here. Here she stands and she can only be handled by union labor. It just smacks of something very un-American. I have no problem with unions. I think they were organized initially to help the workers because management was unfair.″

She and her husband and their two sons operate a company that uses a patented dryblasting process to remove paint and rust from metal surfaces.

Mrs. Bradburn said that on the Statue of Liberty project, one of the general conditions laid down by Lehrer-McGovern Inc., the general contractor, is that any non-union subcontractor must foot the bill for a labor dispute stemming from the subcontractor’s use of non-union labor.

″No one in their right mind would walk into a situation like that,″ Mrs. Bradburn said.

″For you to allow and encourage this trampling of worker freedom - in the name of liberty - sends a chilling message that freedom in America stops at the door of Big Labor,″ Reed Larson, president of the National Right to Work Committee, said June 5 in the letter to Iacocca, chairman of the foundation. ″Until you halt the abuses now perpetrated in your name, it is an act of the utmost cynicism for you to solicit support for this project.″

A spokesman for the Right To Work Committee, Clayton Roberts, said the group had received no response.

Valente said he was unfamiliar with the committee’s letter. Valente also said there still are bids to be awarded on various stages of the renovation.

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