June 17, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Actor Robert De Niro is an ardent supporter of union workers, except when it comes to the construction of his new $600 million movie studio in Astoria.
That is the view of State Senator Jessica Ramos and other unionized construction workers who held a rally Thursday outside the site where the actor’s massive studio complex is currently being built.
The protesters, which also included trade union representatives, are upset that Wildflower Ltd is using non-unionized workers to construct the state-of-the-art facility, which will include 11 sound stages—in addition to carpentry shops, dressing rooms, lounges and office spaces.
They said that De Niro has pledged to hire more than 1,000 union workers to staff Wildflower when the complex opens—but argue he should be using union workers to build it.
“Wildflower Studios promised to bring 1,000 good-paying, permanent union jobs to Astoria, but there’s no reason those opportunities have to wait until the studio is built,” Ramos said.
“When you build union, your project finishes on time, your worksite is safer, and the labor force gets the respect and family-sustaining wages guaranteed to them by a solid contract.”
Ramos, who is the chair of the Senate Labor Committee, was joined at the rally by members of Laborers Local 79, Steamfitters Local 638 and Sheet Metal Local 28.
De Niro, Ramos said, is a union member himself and praised its benefits while accepting a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild two and a half years ago.
“As a proud union member… we urge him to put his professed values behind his hiring practices.”
Michael Prohaska, business manager of Laborers Local 79, said that De Niro benefited from a long career with union support and representation—and he should extend that benefit to them.
Prohaska called on De Niro to hire union workers to construct Wildflower Studios.
“The actor and developer publicized thousands of union theatrical jobs at the new studio but overlooked the economic power and importance of union jobs for the studio’s construction,” Prohaska said.
“A start-of-the-art, multi-million-dollar facility of this caliber needs a state-of-the-art workforce, and that’s what Local 79 is urging Mr. De Niro to acknowledge and address.”
The Queens Post reached out to Wildflower for comment but has yet to receive a response.
Shame on Robert De Niro!!! Union construction workers rallied with NY Senator @jessicaramos to protest the exploitation of construction workers at Wildflower Studios. We expect a union member like De Niro to build up workers, not take advantage of them. pic.twitter.com/C6U7YEyDVl
— Laborers Local 79 (@local79nyc) June 16, 2022