Tuesday, November 01, 2005

BJ's Backslide

The scheduled meeting of the Bronx Council delegation, purportedly being convened to elicit a resolution of support for BJ's to locate on Brush Avenue (the same site that the full council had rejected last February), never materialized. The reason for the non-event was the absence of four councilmembers--Seabrook, Palma, Foster and Koppell--who were uncomfortable with proceeding on any endorsement of BJ's.

The key problem here is that the attempt to bring BJ's back to the Brush Avenue site flies in the face of all of the public explanations for the original council rejection of the box store. The linchpin of this turn-down was the fact that BJ's has a virulently anti-labor policy and had acted aggressively (arresting two women of color) in resisting the organizing effort of the UFCW at the company's East New York location.

What has changed? The short answer: nothing. Underneath this apparent status quo, however, has been the persistent effort by BJ's to woo Bronx delegation members (meeting with delegation members four times). A more explicit interpretation of the change perhaps can be found in the Juan Gonzalez’s column on the BTM. This garden has a great deal of seeds.

What complicates all of this is the attempt by BP Carrion and the council delegation to craft a CBA that would effect a "neutrality agreement," one that would pave the way for the unionization of BJ's. Unfortunately no one ever approached labor to vet the proposal. Without the labor seal, and in the absence of any face-to-face meetings between BJ's and the unions, this was a non-starter.

All of this further complicates the fight over the fate of the Terminal Market. The controversy is exacerbated by the fact that, once the land is re-zoned, there is nothing to stop the site from housing a non-union store such as Wal-Mart. With all of the bad faith demonstrated, labor is skeptical about any assurances from certain Bronx electeds that the unions have nothing to fear from the Gateway Mall.