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Robert De Niro’s NYC Wildflower LTD hit over nonunion hires

“Never rat on your friends …” is one of his most famous lines, but acting legend Robert De Niro is now co-starring with a giant inflatable union protest rat.

The “Goodfellas” star and his partners broke a promise to use union workers to build a sprawling new film studio in Queens — prompting labor activists to set up their symbolic inflatable rat at the site in protest, according to officials.

The “Taxi Driver” actor and the development firm he’s using, Wildflower LTD, agreed to “seek union labor” during a public review of the $600 million Astoria complex, according to a July 2021 document from the Queens borough president’s office.

But despite the star’s history as a vocal union supporter,  the vast majority of workers assigned to the seven-story studio were non-union — including plumbers, sheet metal workers and electricians, state Sen. Jessica Ramos said.

Workers set up Scabby the Rat outside the studio site in Queens.
Laborers Local 79

“Black and brown construction workers are being exploited at this site, not receiving living wages and not receiving the union training they need to build this well,” Ramos said at a  press conference Thursday , according to, which first reported the conflict.

Ramos and reps from laborers’ Local 79, Steamfitters Local 638 and Sheet Metal Local 28 had gathered Thursday to protest the multi-building project, which will replace the old Steinway Pianos factory on 19th Avenue near Luyster Creek.

At the demonstration, workers set up Scabby the Rat — a 12-foot inflatable rodent symbolic of union protests — outside the yet-to-be-built studio.

The majority of the workers on the site are non-union hires.
The majority of the workers on the site are non-union hires.
Laborers Local 79

And Anthony Guerrero,  political director of Sheet Metal Local 28, demanded that De Niro “put his money where his mouth is,” according to

De Niro, who’s a longtime member of the Screen Actors Guild, told an audience during a 2020 acceptance speech that he was grateful for the backing of the group — particularly “these days, when there’s so much hostility towards unions.”

But work on his soon-to-be studio flies in the face of those values, Ramos said.

De Niro himself is a longtime member of the Screen Actors Guild.
De Niro is a longtime member of the Screen Actors Guild.
Jackie Brown /

“You’re either a union man or you’re not — there’s no in between,” she said.

In a tweet, she added: “Robert De Niro is a self-professed union man, and is spending $600 million to build in Astoria. Don’t wait until the studio is built to bring in union jobs, bring union quality work into the very foundation, and build a studio Queens can be proud of.”

Construction on the studio began earlier this year after the city approved several zoning changes needed to build it. 

The project’s general contractor, Leeding Builders Group, has previously called itself an “open shop” firm — a term used for a non-union operation.

"Black and brown construction workers are being exploited at this site," said Senator Jessica Ramos.
“Black and brown construction workers are being exploited at this site,” said Sen. Jessica Ramos.
Laborers Local 79

The so-called “studio village” designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group will have 11 sound stages, and a public waterfront promenade with cafes and offices, according to the Real Deal. 

Along with the “Raging Bull” star, it was also spearheaded by De Niro’s real estate broker son Raphael De Niro, and is expected to be complete by late next year.

A rep for De Niro didn’t immediately return a request for comment Friday. A rep from Wildflower Studio also didn’t immediately answer questions from The Post.

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