Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bruno Quits Job at Financial Firm Where Unions Were Investors

ALBANY — Joseph L. Bruno, the State Senate majority leader, has resigned from his job at a financial firm three weeks after it was revealed that the firm manages tens of millions of dollars for labor unions in and around his district.

Mr. Bruno, whose outside business interests are under federal investigation, worked for Wright Investors’ Service for more than a decade. But neither Mr. Bruno nor Wright officials have been willing to disclose precisely what Mr. Bruno did for the firm or provide a list of its clients.

The New York Times reported on Dec. 1 that six labor union locals, mostly from the Albany area and including several with interests before the State Legislature, invested pension or health fund money with Wright. No evidence has surfaced suggesting that Mr. Bruno pressured or encouraged the unions to invest with the firm.

In a statement released on Friday, Mr. Bruno, the state’s top Republican, said the decision to sever relations with Wright came “after several weeks of discussion.”

“I have done so because the focus on my outside interests has taken attention away from more pressing issues, such as our efforts to address the critical needs of our state going forward,” the statement said.

A statement released by a Wright spokesman noted that most New York State legislators had part-time outside employment. Still, it said, “Given the current environment, in which such employment is often viewed in a negative light, it is likely that questions will continue to be raised about Mr. Bruno’s employment.”

This week, Wright, which is based in Milford, Conn., hired a corporate and crisis communications specialist to handle inquiries from the press. Officials have declined to say whether they have been approached by federal investigators or received subpoenas.

Mr. Bruno began working for Wright as a consultant in March 1994. Nine months later he became majority leader, and in 1998 he was made a salaried Wright employee.

Under state ethics law, legislators must list any outside employers on ethics filings, but are not required to disclose to the public what work they perform or how much they are paid. Government watchdog groups have long advocated further restrictions or an outright ban on outside jobs for legislators.

In a radio interview this month, Mr. Bruno defended his work at Wright, and suggested it was drawing scrutiny only because of his continuing feud with Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat.

“Why is The New York Times singling me out with my other income, which I have a legal right to earn?” he asked. Mr. Bruno added: “That’s personal. They like to take a whack at me; they’re the extreme liberals out there, and they love Spitzer, and because I’m having problems with him, they love to take a whack at me any chance they get.”

Russ Haven, the legislative director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, a nonpartisan watchdog organization, said in an interview that Mr. Bruno’s decision to leave Wright “removes the appearance of conflict. But it doesn’t address the larger problem of legislative disclosure, and the fact that many lawmakers have significant business and professional interests that may raise conflicts.”

Mr. Bruno has been an unusually stalwart ally of unions, especially for a Republican, and has forged a range of ties with local union leaders.

Records reviewed by The Times since the Dec. 1 article show that eight Albany area unions have had money invested with Wright at various times in the past decade.

An examination of state records and tax documents also reveals that several officials at the unions that invested with Wright also intersected with Mr. Bruno, whether by making political donations, by lobbying or by receiving state money disbursed at his discretion.

Three of the unions’ political action committees contributed to Mr. Bruno’s campaign fund. Four trustees at the unions, who help decide how to invest the unions’ money, were longtime political supporters of Mr. Bruno and some had endorsements listed on his campaign Web site.

Wolfgang Hammer, a longtime ally of Mr. Bruno’s whose name appeared on the site, ran a local branch of the union Unite Here until recently and was a trustee of two pension funds that invested money with Wright. Asked this week if he was aware of Mr. Bruno’s role there, Mr. Hammer said: “No comment, don’t even push it. No comment.”

He and two family members were ousted from leadership positions this month.

Some leaders of union locals also lobbied the State Senate. Kevin Hicks, a prominent carpenters’ union official until recently, was a trustee of three pension funds that invested with Wright and also personally lobbied the Senate on a wide range of issues, according to state records. Mr. Hicks recently retired from the carpenters’ union and took a job in labor relations with the Spitzer administration. He declined to comment.

Wright also handled money for the New York District Council of Carpenters pension fund. A spokeswoman for that local, based in New York City, said its officials were not aware of Mr. Bruno’s role at Wright. Senate Republicans secured $50,000 for a technical college affiliated with the council in the 2005 budget. John E. McArdle, a spokesman for Mr. Bruno, said any such grants “were for legitimate governmental purposes.”

Several union officials said in interviews this week that they did not know Mr. Bruno worked for Wright, while others declined to discuss the matter. One union official whose pension fund has done business with Wright, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was aware that Mr. Bruno worked there but said he had never been solicited by him for investments.

“It was common knowledge for me, and I knew a few other people knew it, but I’ve never had any pressure put on me,” the official said.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Local 157 Has A Day of Reckoning At Hearing

On an extraordinary day of words and images, a three member UBC Hearing Committee and Local 157 members heard testimony on Tuesday from UBC leaders, Independent Investigator, and many rank and file members about the conduct of three local 157 business representatives and why the action to place the local under supervision was necessary.

After an introduction of the UBC committee members, we heard testimony from Eastern District VP Frank Spencer who told committee members, the action to place local 157 under supervision was fully justified.

Mr. Spencer said that Local 157’s business representatives were not performing their jobs, their was a lack of leadership and characterized the appearance of local 157’s headquarters as atrocious.

Up next was Independent Investigator, Bill Callahan, who the help of a slide show presentation described the allegations against the business representatives and stated that the “local is a mismanaged mess due to a lack of leadership from a absentee business manager and that only 2 of the B/A's filed the required (Business Agent Activity) reports, which are required to be filled out by all B/A's weekly.”

The evidence against President and business manager Bill Hanley, Vice President/ business representative George Dilacio, Financial Secretary/business representative Fred Kennedy and Trustee/business representative Danny Demorato was in the form of cell-phone and attendance records that showed the business representatives had numerous unaccounted for days off and left work early, instead of working the streets of Manhattan's East Side, where they were suppose to be.

Many Local 157 members who testified reacted to the allegations against the business representatives with shock and dismay saying “the B/A's do a wonderful job and were always there helping members at any given time” brother after brother said.

Local 157 brothers and sisters spent all afternoon and evening telling the committee how the business representatives “always checked jobs”, “the guys were always there”, ”they were doing a great job”, “all stand up men”, “very professional”, " I can call the B/A's morning ,noon and night", “honor to work with such men”, "the B/A's were at the locals offices before 6 a.m. every morning, handling inquiries and making calls to contractors”.

Members also testified at times very loudly and raised questions why only Local 157's officers were scrutinized about their attendance and cell phone records.

"Did they check any other locals to see where their officers are all day?” one brother asked.

“This is a witch hunt against local 157”, “it’s a rail road job”, “ we see a pattern of the west side taking over Manhattan and this is all political”, "they even took local 157 out of the Carpenter magazine" said several members.

The hearing committee will review all the testimony and evidence and make a report and recommendation to the UBC General Executive Board for final determination.

Below is the transcript of the hearings:





Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Glance at Union Endorsements

Major labor endorsements made early in 2008 Democratic presidential primaries:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York

United Transportation Union. Endorsed in August 2007.

Intl Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Endorsed in August 2007.

Transportation Communication Union. Endorsed in September 2007.

National Association of Letter Carriers. Endorsed in September 2007.

Intl Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers. Endorsed in September 2007.

National Federation of Teachers. Endorsed in October 2007.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Endorsed in October 2007.

Intl Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Endorsed in November 2007.

Amalgamated Transit Union. Endorsed in November 2007.

Intl Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Endorsed in December 2007.

Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut

International Association of Fire Fighters. Endorsed in August 2007.

Former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina

United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. Endorsed in August 2007.

United Steelworkers of America. Endorsed in September 2007.

United Mine Workers of America. Endorsed in September 2007.

Transport Workers Union. Endorsed in September 2007.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Nails in Their Stockings

It's a heave-ho, not ho-ho, for carpenter-union bigs
by Tom Robbins - The Village Voice
December 11th, 2007

Bad tidings always carry an added sting when delivered during the holiday season, which is one reason there's not much of a festive spirit right now over at the offices of Carpenters Local 157 on East 25th Street.

A few days after Thanksgiving, the local's 4,500 members learned through the grapevine that most of their top elected officers had suddenly been ousted—for reasons that were not immediately clear. Rumor was that the local was also being taken over by the national union, but this too was hard to nail down. What was known was that the monthly membership meeting was abruptly canceled, as was the annual Christmas party—a move that really added insult to injury.

"Nobody knows what the hell is going on," griped a veteran carpenter who called this newspaper in a vain attempt to find something out.

A couple of phone calls quickly established that yes, the city's carpenters union was again embroiled in a corruption scandal, and yes, the parent union had stepped in, and yes, heads had already rolled.

You'd think that in the age of computers and mobile phones (which I can confirm are possessed by the vast majority of the city's rank-and-file carpenters), the details of this coup would have already been shared with the membership. But here it is, three weeks later, and the key information has yet to be imparted by the New York City District Council of Carpenters to these hardworking New Yorkers.

For details, members had to turn to a new, and very unofficial, website ( There, carpenter John Musumeci posted a press release from the district council that shed only the faintest light on the situation: "Some representatives assigned to work in Local 157 were not performing their jobs in the manner expected of them by the District Council," it stated with all the clarity of mud. Here then, based on discussions with several sources, are the facts of the matter as assembled by the Voice:

The first official out the door was William Hanley, 55, the $140,000-a-year president and business manager of Local 157, who resigned his position shortly before Thanksgiving. Hanley's sudden retirement came after he was confronted with evidence gathered by William Callahan, the union's court-appointed independent investigator. The evidence was in the form of cell-phone records that suggested the union leader had spent many weekday afternoons roaming Long Island, where his family happens to have a splendid waterfront home, instead of working the streets of Manhattan's East Side, where his members are employed.

Similar evidence was presented against Hanley's second-in-command, financial secretary Fred Kennedy, who made the same quick career choice. Local business representative Daniel DeMorato was suspended from his post and reassigned. But another target, local vice president George DiLacio, told his interrogators to get lost. DiLacio refused to give up his elected post at the local but was summarily fired from his $127,000-a-year job as a union representative.

Callahan's report on his findings has yet to be made public, but excerpts from it were quoted in a letter to the local from national carpenters union president Douglas McCarron. In it, McCarron quotes Callahan describing Local 157 as "a mismanaged mess where [business agents] come and go as they please, following few, if any, rules."

The ousted officials couldn't be reached, but a friend of Hanley's said the carpenter had simply decided to throw in the towel. "He was at a point where he didn't care any more," said the friend. "He just wanted to go."

As well he might. Even though its ranks are filled with bright and active blue-collar workers, the carpenters union has been unable to climb out of a 30-year-long quagmire of corruption. Several recent heads of the union's 25,000-member district council have faced corruption charges: Teddy Maritas disappeared and was presumed murdered in 1982 after he was indicted in a mob-bribery scheme; Paschal McGuinness was acquitted of corruption charges, but was forced to retire when federal prosecutors hit the union with a 1990 civil-racketeering case; Fred Devine was convicted of stealing more than $175,000 in union funds.

The current council leader, Michael Forde, was convicted in 2004 of taking a $50,000 bribe from a mobster's son-in-law while seated in a Hooter's restaurant on West 56th Street. The money was alleged to have sealed a promise that Forde would look the other way while nonunion workers renovated the old Park Central hotel. The conviction, however, was set aside after the judge determined that members of the jury had spoken disparagingly of union officials during the trial, and had read an account of the affair in the Voice. Forde's retrial has been put off repeatedly. It is currently scheduled for January.

Before his sudden retirement, Hanley was viewed as a strong contender to lead the union should Forde finally be forced from office. Considered popular with the members, Hanley was a third-generation carpenter. Both his father and grandfather ran the local before him. Gene Hanley, William's dad, ran into his own problems back in 1987, when investigators managed to plant a bug in his office in the local's headquarters. The device picked up conversations between the elder Hanley and contractors seeking relief from having to pay full union wages and benefits to workers.

"You could hear the desk drawer open and close as he put the envelopes inside," said an investigator who worked on the case. Gene Hanley was ultimately sentenced to a four-year term for taking bribes.

No specific allegations were ever lodged against the son, but William Hanley was made well aware that prosecutors were taking a hard look at him as well. Over the past year, federal prosecutors won indictments of two shop stewards with close ties to Hanley and who had been assigned to oversee a massive renovation of the old Met Life buildings on Madison Avenue. The stewards, both of whom were local officers, were charged with defrauding the union by submitting phony reports that omitted the names of dozens of union members.

One of the stewards, Frank Proscia, pled guilty in late October. The other, Michael "Mickey" Annucci, is due to go to trial next month. When Annucci was arrested last year, investigators suggested that he help himself by telling what he knew about corruption. Like what? asked Annucci. Like about Bill Hanley, the investigators answered, according to an affidavit filed in the case.

Carpenters are pretty well inured to these goings-on by now, but the members of Local 157 have been burning up their cell-phone minutes over the last month complaining about how they're kept in the dark. Although no official notice has gone out yet, a day-long hearing is expected to be held on December 18. It will be attended by top leaders of the national union in Washington, who can expect an earful from rank-and-file discontents.

One of the questions that members are likely to raise is why only Local 157's officers were scrutinized about their attendance records. While no one I spoke to could vouch for the whereabouts of the ousted officers all day long, several said they could always rely on finding Hanley and Kennedy at the local's offices before 6 a.m. every morning, handling inquiries and making calls to contractors. Asks one disgruntled nail-driver: "Did they check any other locals to see where their officers are all day?"

The probe also follows criticism by the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office that, prior to the Hanley probe, investigator Callahan had been largely ineffective in his role. Members have also protested that the investigator has focused more on Local 157 than Forde's home base, which covers Manhattan's West Side. Callahan's supporters, however, say he has just been following the evidence. The Hanley probe, they say, was spurred by an anonymous tip to his "corruption hotline." If so, carpenters' cell phones are likely to start humming.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Five Minutes With: Frank Spencer

On November 26, 2007 acting on a petition by the NYC District Council, General President Douglas McCarron ordered an emergency, temporary supervision over Local 157, and appointed the UBC’s Eastern District Vice President Frank Spencer to lead this supervision and oversee the orderly restoration and responsible management of Local 157. We met with Frank on December 11, and talked about the current state of Local 157 and what this supervision means for the future.

Local 157 blogspot: What exactly does an emergency supervision mean?

Frank: Under section 10H of the UBC Constitution General President McCarron granted me full supervisory authority over Local 157, and the power to assume and exercise full and complete authority over the conduct of Local 157, which would include the authority to enforce collective bargaining agreements, the authority to administer all of the locals assets, the authority to appoint conduct and cancel meetings, the authority to remove and hire any and all offices, delegates, stewards and employees.

Right now all membership meetings have been suspended and bank accounts and assets of the local are frozen. We are currently analyzing the books to stabilize the locals state of affairs to protect the welfare of its members and insuring the proper functioning of Local 157.

Local157 blogspot: How long do you anticipate the supervision to last?

Frank: It depends upon how quick we can get things turned around. We will know more after the December 18, hearings.

Local157 blogspot: What happens to the elected officers of a local placed under supervision?

Frank: All officers of the executive board and the locals delegates to the District Council have been suspended.

Local157 blogspot: How will replacements be selected to fill the vacated elected local positions?

Frank: General President Douglas McCarron will make all appointments with recommendations from EST Mike Forde and myself.

Local157 blogspot: There is going to be hearings schedule, what can you tell me about that.

Frank: General President McCarron will appoint a hearing committee made up of board members from the UBC.

Hearings will take place at the NYC District Council on Tuesday, December 18. There will be three sessions starting at 8:30 am to 11:30 am, 1:00pm to 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm.

All members of Local 157 will have an opportunity to appear at the hearing and present testimony and their views regarding the conduct of the affairs of local 157.

Local157 blogspot: How will the College Scholarship Program and Sick Fund Program be affected?

Frank: We will apprise and evaluate the situation at a later time after the hearings.

Local157 blogspot: What do you think about our website?

Frank: It's very good, as long as it's accurate.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Toys for Tots A Hugh Success

Volunteer members of Local 157 had a successful day as they rode their motorcycles over to the Ronald McDonald House. Brothers and sisters brought a little Christmas cheer to children as they distributed toys. Were getting a pretty good response says Bruce Miranda, who coordinates the event.

“It’s a great feeling given out toys, and then showing the kids around the motorcycles. It's a nice little event for the families.” For more pictures click here.

Help Us Spread The Word

The simplest and possibly the most effective of all options to help us to get the word out about our website is by telling and emailing your friends. Send an email to all your friends with a link of and invite them to pass it on.

Another way you can help us is by posting a flyer at your job site. Click this link and print out a job site flyer to either hand out or post in your shanty.

I will be meeting with Eastern District Vice President, Frank Spencer on Tuesday, December 11, and will post an update about this supervision.

Thank you for your help in spreading the word!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Local 157 Annual Toys for Tots Motorcycle Run

They roar over the streets of Manhattan starting at Local 157 headquarters and ending at 73rd street, home of the Ronald McDonald House.

Each year Local 157 members headed by Bruce Miranda (pictured left), collect new unwrapped toys during October, November and December and ride their motorcycles to distribute those toys as Christmas gifts to children undergoing cancer treatment at the Ronald McDonald House.

Even though our local has been shut down and placed under emergency supervision on November 26, as they say in show business, “The Show Must Go On”.

If you would like to be a part of the Toys for Tots motorcycle run bring your unwrapped toys and meet us at local 157 headquarters at 157 east 25th street at 9:00 am Sunday, December 9, 2007 and help give a Christmas to children and their families at this most emotional time.

Local 157 Supervision Letter

Local 157 Supervision Letter

When Union Leaders Don’t Follow Through For Their Members, It Disappoints Us All

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

No Rats For Birthday Girl Randi

By Elizabeth Benjamin

The Carpenters union called off their planned demonstration outside UFT President Randi Weingarten’s birthday celebration tonight (featuring a scheduled “roast” by Mayor Bloomberg), saying they’re satisfied with the teachers’ pledge to pay for union construction workers on a Bronx project to build housing for educators.

Carpenters union sources said they began receiving “frantic” calls from UFT surrogates over the weekend when word of a possible demonstration started leaking out and are now feeling rather triumphant, albeit a wee bit remorseful at having turned on a fellow member of the labor movement to protect their own interests.

"We hate to do this on somebody's 50th birthday, but — what better time, you know?" an organizer for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Thomas Costello, said.

“It’s unfortunate we have to twist arms like this, especially with another labor organization,” said Stephen McInnis of the carpenters union. “But we’re happy they came around. When you’re 100 percent right, sometimes you have to make a decision.”

Last night, Weingarten issued a statement announcing the UFT had withdrawn its support for the project, for which the Teachers Retirement System had agreed to purchase $28.2 million worth of bonds, and intended to picket the construction site this morning because the developer had not guaranteed to pay the prevailing wage.

“…we stand today with our brother and sister unions and ask TRS to sell the bonds and, in essence, walk away from this deal,” Weingarten said. “Affordable workforce housing for teachers – and indeed, for all workers in New York City – is vitally important, but we cannot support an initiative that does not respect or support union workers.”

McInnis said UFT and Comptroller Bill Thompson’s office have agreed to sit down with the developer and figure out how to make up the difference to have union labor on the project. It’s unclear exactly how that will be worked out - if the bonds will be resold to someone else, for example - or what the final cost will be.


Teachers-union President Randi Weingarten has found herself caught between a rock and some hard hats over a $28 million project to develop affordable housing for her members - because it's using non-union construction workers.

The much-ballyhooed plan to provide educators low-cost housing in The Bronx is facing the wrecking ball after the union chief urged trustees of the teachers' pension system - whose bonds are funding the project - to pull out.

"Teacher and work-force affordable housing is very important to us, but so is ensuring that construction is union built," Weingarten said in a letter to the trustees.
Weingarten said she learned about the union issue just last week. The union boss said she would voice her displeasure over the non-union workers today during a demonstration at the Melrose job site.

But union carpenters are planning to picket the UFT's Manhattan headquarters, where Weingarten will celebrate her 50th birthday at a 7 p.m. ceremony, according to a source.

The hard hats say that if she weren't trying to cut corners by using non-union help, she would have at least known about the arrangement sooner. "Either it was ignorance or apathy," said Stephen McInnis of the New York District Council Carpenters Union.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Brooklyn Construction Booming: Hip Hotel On The Rise

Here's the latest vision for a hip new boutique hotel coming soon to Downtown Brooklyn.

Long Island City-based V3 Hotel is planning to break ground Dec. 11 on the $60 million, 23-story Hotel Indigo on Duffield Street featuring 180 amenity-rich rooms, a rooftop bar, a swanky restaurant and 17,000 square feet of new retail.
"This is definitely a higher-end hotel than what we're used to seeing in Brooklyn," said V3 CEO Ben Nash.

The project is just part of 1,973 new hotel rooms slated to come to the borough's downtown area by 2012 - and that doesn't include another 225 hotel rooms expected to be built within the long-delayed Brooklyn Bridge Park project, records show.
Currently, the only major hotel serving the downtown area is the 637-room New York Marriott on Adams Street.

Joe Chan, president of the public-private Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, said building a new hotel in the Big Apple was once considered trendy only if it was below 96th Street in Manhattan but that has changed citywide - "especially in Brooklyn, which has become a tourist destination in itself."

He noted planned draws like an arena for the NBA's Nets and the expansion of the Brooklyn Academy of Music Cultural District.

But not everyone is enamored with the hotel projects.

"We don't need hotels for rich people from out of town; we need services for our community," said Diana Smith, a Fort Greene resident and board member for Families United for Racial and Economic Equality.

Designed by renowned architect Karl Fischer, the Hotel Indigo is expected to be complete in late 2009.

Known Hotels in Development

• The Smith, 75 Smith St., 93 rooms. Boymelgreen Developers and Meltzer/Mandl Architects.
• 32-38 Nevins St., 180-200 rooms. McSam Hotel Group with Michael Kang Architect.
• Cambria Suites 75 Schermerhorn St., 300 rooms. Choice Hotels and Perkins Eastman Architects.
• Hotel Indigo, 237 Duffield, 180 rooms. V3 Hotel Management and Karl Fischer Architect.
• Holiday Inn, 300 Schermerhorn, 250 rooms. Tyler Hospitality and Gene Kaufman Architect.
• NY Marriott at Brooklyn Bridge Expansion, 333 Adams St., 280 rooms (already open). Muss Development and William B. Tabler Architects.
• Sheraton/Aloft, 216 Duffield, 500 rooms combined. The Lam Group and Gene Kaufman Architects.
• Atlantic Yards’ Miss Brooklyn, 150 rooms. Forest City Ratner and Frank Gehry Architect.