A New Jersey labor union has apologized for ‘poor judgment’ after it left a coffin with a picture of a toe-tagged dead body outside of an elementary school last week – causing the furious school superintendent to knock it over and cover it up.
Liuna Local 77, which represents construction workers, was protesting the Edison Township school district’s decision to hire a contractor that would ‘only hire workers of Macedonian and Serbian decent’ for a $9 million job, the union said Friday.
They left a coffin right next to Lincoln Elementary School’s welcome sign with a banner featuring a photo of a dead body’s toe-tagged feet and the words, ‘Irresponsible contractors are killing our middle class wages.’
In video captured by Edison mayoral candidate Keith Hahn, school Superintendent Bernard Bragen walks toward the coffin and topples it onto the grass.
Liuna Local 77 left a coffin with a banner of a toe-tagged dead body outside of Lincoln Elementary in Edison Township, New Jersey in protest of a contracting firm hired by the school
In video captured by Edison mayoral candidate Keith Hahn, school Superintendent Bernard Bragen walks toward the coffin and topples it onto the grass
Bragen says he tried to get the union to remove it.
‘They said, ‘tough s***,”’ he told NJ Advance Media.
‘It’s inappropriate for children to have a casket, especially 5 and 6-year-olds who are returning to school after probably some of the most traumatic times we’ve had in the last 18 months,’ Bragen added, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hahn said he also had a hard time reasoning with the union.
‘They didn’t want to hear it. They insisted on leaving it there,’ Hahn said. ‘Parents were very angry.’
The union had previously installed a giant inflatable rat outside of the elementary school on Wednesday, the first day of classes, but they say students were never exposed to the rat or to the coffin. (Scabby the Rat is a popular symbol used by labor unions engaged in feuds with businesses.)
‘All of these things were set up before school had started and the coffin and banner were down before students arrived. How do we know this? Because at 8.21 a school official actually knocked down the display which was never put back up before its removal,’ union business manager Carl E. Styles wrote on Facebook.
Union business manager Carl E. Styles apologized Friday on Facebook, saying they exercised ‘poor judgement’ and that he agrees the coffin was inappropriate for a school setting
The union says it was protesting the hiring of Pal-Pro Builders for a $9 million expansion of Lincoln Elementary. The union claims the firm doesn’t hire local workers
‘Regarding the coffin’s use as part of the protest. Some have argued that its use was inappropriate for an elementary school setting. We agree and have begun a review of the process and will work to ensure we don’t make this mistake again.’
The union was protesting the district’s hiring of Pal-Pro Builders for a $9 million expansion at the school. The union claims Pal-Pro does not hire local workers.
‘I don’t know that Pal-Pro did or didn’t hire anybody,’ Bragen said. ‘They never afforded me the opportunity to have a conversation.’
School Board President Jerry Shi told Patch that the expansion project for the school ‘went through the legally required open public bidding process,’ and by law, the school district is required to hire the lowest bidder.
‘The Board Attorney reviewed all of the bids and found the Pal Pro Builder’s bid was the lowest valid bid and hence the contract was awarded,’ Shi said.
Liuna Local 77 has received a slew of negative reviews on Facebook after the incident.
‘One of the most disgusting acts out “adults” I have ever observed. Placing a coffin in front of an elementary school because you do not understand how to compete,’ said Jack McPherson in a review left Saturday afternoon.
Liuna Local 77 has received a slew of negative reviews on Facebook after Friday’s stunt
‘Leadership should step down and members should publicly denounce what happened. Whether the kids were there is irrelevant. The “reverend” who leads this group of animals is a disgrace to the cloth.’
‘UNION LOSERS INTIMIDATING CHILDREN FOR NOT GETTING YOUR WAY,’ wrote Rich Konopka on Sunday morning.
Hahn, the mayoral candidate, said he’s not necessarily against the union’s efforts, but that he was worried about the stunt’s effect on students.
‘I’m a retired law enforcement officer. I’m not anti-labor union. But someone needs to stand up and tell them that what they are doing is wrong,’ he said
In its apology, the union added: ‘We think it is not good to expose young children to the imagery and we also think it distracts from the issue-at-hand – that a contractor hired in Edison is using what appears to be discriminatory hiring practices. We believe workers should not be discriminated against based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or any other arbitrary standards and we are willing to fight to ensure workers are protected.’