Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Join The Constitution Discussion

On February 22, an anonymous UBC member responding to EST Forde's letter "The Outlook For Local Union 157 Is Very Positive", posted the below comment which sparked a very interesting discussion about the UBC constitution and supervision of local 157.

Anonymous said...As a member of the UBC I find it appalling that we have a UBC Constitution but it is only the members that have to abide by it. The International and in this case the NYC District Council can ignore it and violate it at will. Such is the case with the Mr. Spencer and EST Mike Forde in regards to appointing officers to fill the vacant positions at Local 157.

To read more about what Anonymous has to say and to join the discussion with your views and opinions CLICK HERE.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hard Hat Horror

A construction worker in Chelsea had his head crushed when he leaned out of a moving elevator hoist Thursday, his boss said.

Sunil Askadian, 29, was in critical condition after the accident, which occurred about 4 p.m. at the site of a luxury condo going up at W. 18th St. and 10th Ave.

Askadian was riding on top of the elevator from the second floor to the third when his head got stuck between a safety railing and a steel plate, said Francisco Torres, the site manager.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

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

By Frank Spencer
UBC Eastern District Vice President and Supervisor for Local Union 157

It is my duty to explain to you the facts and the process in which three Local leaders lost their jobs and vacated their elected offices, and in which, under the UBC constitution, General President Douglas McCarron placed Local 157 under my supervision.

First, as supervisor, I assure you: this is temporary. The goal of this process is simple and at the very heart of what our organization is about: to ensure that members get the day-to-day representation their dues are paying for. In our trade, and especially our Brotherhood, we trust each other to do our jobs. Sadly, that trust was violated.


Jobsite visits are crucial to a Representative’s work. They defend members from crooked contractors by ensuring that hiring is fair, payrolls are honest, benefits are paid, work is safe, and more.

In Fall 2003, normal work by NYC’s court-appointed Independent Investigator (I.I.) found a firm with some 10 years of payroll and benefits fraud. No union staff or member was involved, but the I.I. found almost no visits to those jobsites in Local 157 jurisdiction in that time.

In November that year, Council leaders met all Business Representatives to review a document, “Business Managers and Representatives Duties and Responsibilities.” It requires “that representatives make a good faith effort to regularly visit all jobs assigned to them... that Representatives complete daily activity reports and submit them to their manager each week.” In January 2005, Council leaders sent a written reminder to all Business Managers regarding this policy, re-emphasizing the reporting requirements and again providing the necessary forms.


Early in 2007, while investigating another contractor for defrauding the members, the I.I. found telephone, timesheet, and other records showing that the Business Manager and two Representatives in Local 157 had not completed their activity sheets as required; had not conducted regular jobsite visits during that time; and were not even at work in their jurisdiction when they reported themselves as working a regular day (absences that far exceeded allowed leave). A fourth man had discrepancies, but not beyond his allotted leave. On November 13, 2007, the I.I. delivered a report to Council executives documenting Local 157 staff attendance from January 15 to October 15, 2007 (with vacation, sick, and other valid leave days removed). Testimony at the UBC supervision hearing indicated the following:

  • William Hanley, 153 work days: 52 unaccounted, 71 left early.
  • Fred Kennedy, 166 work days: 36 unaccounted, 109 left early.
  • George Dilacio, 162 work days: 29 unaccounted, 46 left early.

[In other words, in these 9 months, the men—beyond all of their valid time off—were paid to work a combined 481 days, yet could not account for 117 full days (24%) plus 226 partial days (47%).


The I.I.’s written evidence obligated Council leaders to respond. They met with each of the accused during the week of November 13, and offered each one a chance to challenge the facts; no decision or action occurred at that point. Officials convened on the 17th, and—given such long-running serious offenses—reached a strong consensus to end the men’s employment and have them leave office. On Monday the 19th, each man was given an option to resign within two days. On November 21, Business Manager/President Hanley and Representative/Financial Secretary Kennedy came in to Council offices and signed resignation papers. Representative/Vice President Dilacio did not appear and was dismissed.

UBC General President McCarron was informed. At his request, I reviewed the facts and recommended temporary supervision pending a hearing; he sent notice of supervision to the Local, dated November 21. On December 18, a special UBC hearing committee (Western District VP Michael Draper, EST William Halbert, and UBC Representative John Simmons) held a hearing in NYC. On January 21, the UBC General Executive Board adopted the hearing committee’s report that the supervision was warranted.


With key Local offices vacant, supervision enables your Local Union leaders to restore members’ trust, and Lawrence D’Errico—whose record the I.I. found clean—has a solid team working for Local 157 now. I look forward to continuing this transition; to better, hard-working leadership; and, especially, to ending UBC supervision of your strong, honorable Local as soon as is prudent.

(John's note: Spencer as supervisor of the “emergency supervision”has among other things, refused to answer membership questions (see video) which were emailed and posted on

Related Articles

The Outlook For Local Union 157 is Very Positive

By Michael J. Forde Executive Secretary-Treasurer
New York City District Council of Carpenters

Many of you have contacted us at the District Council with questions and concerns, as well as feedback, in regards to the current situation at Local Union 157. We, your elected officers of the New York District Council, want to assure you that we are doing everything in our power to guarantee that the membership of Local 157 is protected. We are all in this together, as your fellow members and as your Council leaders, and we are committed to unifying this District Council.

Above all, we want to assure the membership that your local is not going to be merged. Your charter will remain in place and Local Union 157 will maintain its standing within our District Council. Local Union 157 is an important part of our organization and an asset to our Union family.

During this challenging time of reorganization, new appointments have been made to your local’s leadership to assist in facilitating this process. We are pleased to announce that Brother Lawrence D’Errico has been appointed as the new Business Manager of Local 157. Along with Brother D’Errico, we have assigned Local 157 members Anthony Pugliese and Ramadan Ibric as Business Agents. Additionally we have assigned District Council employees Richard Tuccillo and Michael Murphy as temporary Business Agents of Local 157. United in the mission to serve the members of Local 157, we are here to address any and all of your concerns. Please be assured that we are in daily contact with all of the above-mentioned Representatives and that we are back to “business as usual.”

At this time, all of Local Union 157’s bank accounts are frozen. Therefore, the District Council is currently paying all of the local union’s bills. This situation is only temporary while we work with your new accountant to reorganize the Local’s books and accounting methods. Additionally, your office staff is receiving updated computer training in order to meet the needs, demands and requirements of the new procedures being put in place. During this transition process, services to the members will continue as normal.

Specifically, Local 157’s Scholarship Fund, as well as other benefits such as the sick donation fund and accidental death & dismemberment policy, will not be affected during this time. Another positive change that you will notice is the facelift given to your union hall, with fresh paint and a few renovations.

We are all working to help Local 157 grow and once again become a Local that all can look to with pride and respect. To help with this effort, we will be offering the membership of this District Council more opportunities to help our organizing efforts expand, by hiring them as new District Council Organizers. You recently received a letter informing you of the interview process and inviting you to apply. We are looking for members who sincerely want to assist us in building and strengthening our Union, members who understand the critical nature of organizing as it relates to the health and future of our Union.

We look forward to receiving many applications and hiring the “best of the best” to join the effective, elite group of organizers already on staff in an all-out push to protect the future of your Local, our District Council and our great Union.

The outlook for Local Union 157 is very positive. Jobs are being turned, workers are being protected and your leadership is on the street working for all of you. Together we will certainly maintain the nobility and grandeur that has been and is Local 157.

We Will Move This Great Local Forward

By Lawrence D’Errico, Business Manager, Local 157

I am grateful for the opportunity to personally address the members of Local Union 157 and bring you up to date on what the Local has been doing since we began supervision by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.

On November 26th, 2007, I received a letter from UBC General President Douglas McCarron informing me that our Local was being placed under UBC supervision, to be overseen by UBC Eastern District Vice President Frank Spencer as Supervisor and NYC District Council of Carpenters (NYCDCC) Executive Secretary-Treasurer (EST) Michael Forde as Assistant Supervisor.

We have sent a newsletter, (read below) from which this message is copied, that is the first of my ongoing efforts to keep everyone informed.

In the newsletter, page one is Vice President Spencer’s report on the official steps leading to supervision. Page four is a letter from EST Forde on why he is so supportive of Local 157. My reports on the two middle pages detail many aspects of Local 157’s good health.


Upon receipt of the letter from President McCarron, the two supervisors appointed me, Lawrence D’Errico, as Business Manager of Local 157. They also assigned Brothers Anthony Pugliese, Ramadan “Rambo” Ibric, Richard Tuccillo and Michael Murphy to be our Business Representatives. For those of you who don’t know us, here is some background:

  • I am a 24-year Local 157 member and have held the elected positions of Recording Secretary and Council Delegate. I have been a Journeyman, Shop Steward, and Foreman, and, for the past 12 years, a local union Business Representative. I also serve as a Labor Trustee for the NYCDCC Benefit Funds.
  • Anthony Pugliese, Local 157, has 33 years as a UBC Journeyman, Steward, Foreman, and, for the past 10 years, a Council Organizer. He is on Community Board 6 in Brooklyn.
  • Ramadan “Rambo” Ibric, Local 157, a 22-year member, has been a UBC Journeyman, Foreman, and a Council Organizer for the past 10 years. He is on Community Board 5 in Queens.
  • Richard Tuccillo, Local 157, is a 22-year UBC veteran with more than 10 years as a Council Representative covering trade show work, grievance processing, and other duties.
  • Michael Murphy, Local 608, has 21 years in the Brotherhood with the past 6 as a Council Representative. He also works very closely with our Anti-Corruption Program.

I have worked with all of these men for many years and sincerely thank Supervisors Spencer and Forde for allowing them to assist me at Local 157. I also want to thank Council EST Michael Forde, President Peter Thomassen and Vice President Denis Sheil for their ongoing support during this transition.

I am honored to have outstanding members like Brothers Pugliese, Ibric, Tuccillo, and Murphy joining me in representing Local 157. I know my fellow members will give them the same respect we have always shown to officers of Local 157.


Brothers and Sisters, I look forward to working with you and with the leaders of our membership and our Council. Together, we will move this great Local forward to an even brighter future. I will be making ongoing reports to keep you fully up to date.

As always, Local 157’s doors remain completely open to all. Please feel free to contact me at any time with any questions or concerns. I wish you all continued health and safety.

Supervision Newsletter Feb

Monday, February 18, 2008

Organize or Die!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Organized Labor Still an Important Political Player

For the first time in a generation, American labor unions increased their share of membership among workers. Last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were 311,000 more union members in 2007, the largest increase since 1983. This reversal is a critical development since a strong labor movement is essential for making a more just society and an important component of a winning progressive coalition. By offering workers a voice inside and outside of the workplace, labor unions benefits members and non-members alike.

Despite American labor’s long post-World War II decline, the direct economic benefits of unionization are still considerable. According to the Economic Policy Institute unionized workers are paid 20 percent more than non-union workers. When non-cash benefits like health insurance are included union workers enjoy a 28 percent advantage in total compensation over their non-union members. Union workers are more likely than employees who are not in unions to have paid leave and pension plans. Labor unions also raise standards across the board: The average non-union worker in an industry with 25 percent union density was paid 7.5 percent more because of a strong union presence. At a time when corporate profits are reaching record highs while the share of the national income going to wages and salaries has reached record lows, labor unions are an essential corrective to an increasingly unequal economy.

In addition to the job unions do in the workplace, organized labor has been a major advocate of progressive change in the political arena. Unions have been behind important legislative and regulatory reforms from the minimum wage to the Family and Medical Leave Act which guarantees workers job-protected unpaid leave to care for a new child, a sick family member or their own illness.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Changes To Carpenters Welfare Fund


In an effort to crack down on members defrauding the Welfare Plan, the NYC District Council will no longer provide retiree health benefits for any member and their beneficiaries who defraud the Welfare Fund .

Effective April 1, 2008 any member who is determined, in accordance with the adjudication procedures adopted by the New York City District Council Of Carpenters, to have defrauded the Welfare Fund or aided and abetted another to defraud the fund shall be ineligible to receive retire health benefits.

Participants have the right to appeal a denial of benefits in accordance with the Welfare Plan appeal process

If you have any question regarding these changes to the Welfare Plan you should contact the Fund Office at 212-366-7300.

Related Article

Friday, February 15, 2008

Brooklyn Gowanus Condo Plan

The Toll Brothers have revealed plans for their unnamed development on the banks of the Gowanus Canal. The plans are in a "scoping" document filed with the Department of City Planning. The developers are looking to rezone a three-acre property between the Canal, Bond Street, Carroll Street and Second Street as a "special mixed use district" in advance of an overall Gowanus rezoning. The plan includes buildings ranging from 4-12 stories in height, with the tallest structure (125 feet) being near the canal. There would be 577 units of housing, 447 of them market rate and 130 of them affordable. The overall project would total 605,380 square feet and include 260 underground parking spaces. There would be 2,000 square feet of "community space" and 2,000 square feet of retail. It includes 3 acres. .6 acres of publicly accessbile waterfront. The very end of First Street where it dead ends at the canal would be "demapped" to allow for a continuous "waterfront esplanade." The scoping document lays out plans for an environmental impact study and other things necessary for public review.

According to the document:

The western end of the project site, along Bond Street, would have the lower six-story component (up to approximately 60 feet). The midblock portions of the buildings would consist of four-story (43-foot-high), townhouse-style housing...

In order to ensure that project structures are not impacted by flooding, the elevation of the project site would be raised, including along First Street and the proposed esplanade. In addition, to reduce the potential for flood damage or impacts on residential structures, the lowest occupied floor elevation would be constructed above the 100-year base flood elevation...

A public scoping meeting will take place on Thursday, March 13, 2008 from 2:00 to 5:45 PM and from 6:00 to 8:45 PM at the Department of City Planning, Spector Hall, 22 Reade Street. The Toll Brothers say the project would be complete in 2011.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Hawaii Training Center Sets Groundbreaking

The Hawaii Carpenters Union will break ground on its apprenticeship and training center at the Kapolei Business Park on Feb. 22.

The Hawaii Carpenters Union Training Center will be home to the union's four-year training program for construction apprentices and journeymen.

The three-story, 56,000-square-foot centers sits on 2.7 acres at 2040 Lauwiliwili St. Construction is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2009.

The union, which bought the land for approximately $3.7 million, expects to spend $15 million to build the center. It will have at least 10 classrooms, a wood shop, conference rooms and hands-on training areas.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dozens of Companies Underpay or Misreport Workers, State Says


A new crackdown on employers in New York State that are paying workers off the books has snared dozens of companies and uncovered millions of dollars in violations, state officials said on Monday.

In 15 enforcement sweeps, state investigators found $19 million in wages that were not reported to the state and $3 million in underpayments to workers, the state’s labor commissioner, M. Patricia Smith, said at a news conference. Investigators also uncovered nearly $1 million in taxes that had not been paid to the state’s unemployment insurance fund.

“We think this not only is going well in terms of collecting money, but it’s having a real deterrent impact,” Ms. Smith said about the sweeps.

The sweeps grew out of a task force that Gov. Eliot Spitzer set up in September to crack down on companies that illegally classify employees as independent contractors, often to avoid paying unemployment insurance taxes and workers’ compensation premiums.

“I created this task force as a part of my economic security agenda to reduce longstanding abuses of workers and to level the playing field for law-abiding businesses,” Mr. Spitzer said in a statement on Monday.

Mr. Spitzer set up the task force after several labor leaders had complained that unionized trucking companies and construction contractors were being undercut by competitors that classified many of their employees as independent contractors.

“The misclassification of employees is not just a labor problem, it is an economic and human rights crisis,” said Gary La Barbera, president of the New York City Central Labor Council and president of Teamsters Local 282, which represents truck drivers for the construction industry.

Ms. Smith said the sweeps focused on the construction and restaurant industries and sought to ferret out off-the-books work as well as the misclassification of workers as independent contractors. State officials said that worker misclassification — from the failure to pay unemployment insurance taxes to failure to withhold income taxes — causes substantial revenue losses at various levels of government.

In their sweeps, which investigated 117 companies, state officials found that 2,078 employees had been misclassified as independent contractors. The task force also found 646 workers who were owed minimum and overtime wages totaling about $3 million.

Ms. Smith noted that soon after being visited by the task force, one employer began paying unemployment insurance taxes for 205 employees it previously had not reported.

The employers that were found in violation of various state labor laws will be required to pay back taxes, back wages and unpaid workers’ compensation premiums, with state officials often assessing additional penalties.

The sweeps were undertaken by the state’s Labor and Tax Departments, Workers’ Compensation Board and attorney general’s office, and the New York City comptroller’s office.

“I wouldn’t doubt that 10 percent of the state’s workers are either misclassified as independent contractors or work off the books,” Ms. Smith said.

She said that a higher percentage of employers misclassified workers upstate than downstate, and a higher percentage of employees worked off the books downstate.

She said the state planned more sweeps that would look at not just the construction and restaurant industries, but also at car washes, janitorial firms and trucking companies.

In conjunction with Monday’s news conference, the task force released a 29-page report on employee misclassification. “These trends appear to be increasing over the past decade,” the report said, “with large numbers of employees misclassified and therefore unprotected by the most basic labor rights.”

The report called for a single statewide standard to determine whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


By Jillian Jonas

The recent construction site accident at the Trump Soho residential hotel – in which worker Yurly Vanchytskyy fell more than 40 stories to his death – has brought fresh attention to a longstanding problem. That is, the matter of safety, of both workers and the public, at development sites and within the city’s aging housing stock.

The Jan. 14 death follows a series of other construction accidents in 2007, such as the retaining wall that crumbled at an Upper West Side site in July, the fire at Deutsche Bank in lower Manhattan in August, and, in December, the window washer who fell to his death on the Upper East Side crane and the crane that snapped at the Morgan Stanley site in lower Manhattan, nearly killing an architect working inside a trailer. In light of these incidents, observers both within and without the construction industry are refocusing attention on how to improve construction site safety citywide.

There’s no question that construction and related fields are perilous jobs. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on work fatalities, construction deaths in New York City more than doubled from 2005 to 2006, from 20 to 43. (Data for 2007 is not yet available.) Over that period, New York City also had a higher percentage of construction deaths than the U.S. overall, according to BLS: "the construction sector accounted for 43 percent of all fatalities; nationally, construction also led other sectors ... accounting for 21 percent of all job-related fatal injuries." The city's Department of Buildings (DOB), however, reported that between Jan. 1, 2007 and Oct. 31, 2007, construction-related fatalities dropped 43 percent from the same period in 2006, from 14 to 8, and injuries stayed constant – but accidents on high-rise sites increased from 23 to 42.

Tallies aside, the often dramatic incidents have led an array of elected officials, activists and leaders in the industry itself to take steps to improve construction worker safety and stem illegal activity at worksites that may contribute to the injury and death toll. Efforts include re-introducing state legislation that would make DOB more answerable to communities; creating a more efficient and streamlined way for DOB to implement regulations; lobbying for more frequent and thorough enforcement measures; and pushing for increased funding for building and safety inspectors.

Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers' Association – which held an emergency summit Jan. 23 on concrete-pouring procedures after the Trump death – says he'd like to see something started that's similar to the police department's COMPSTAT program where “you target the resources where the problem is.”

“There’s a different type of developer … a new cadre of developers taking advantage of the New York market," Coletti said. "It’s a very different phenomenon than anything we’ve dealt with before.”

“The only way it's [going to improve] is more money set aside for safety people and building inspectors,” agreed Sal Zarzana, president and business manager of Carpenters Local Union 926.

Other ideas on the table include creating voluntary contracts between developers and community boards, increasing workers' safety training and overcoming the language barrier that becomes an obstacle for numerous laborers – as many construction workers, and victims of recent accidents, are Spanish-speaking immigrants.

Julissa Bisono, a worker organizer for the worker advocacy group Make the Road By Walking, says she sees frequent cases of worker exploitation. Just about every worker she counsels has been injured on a job site, Bisono said. “They don’t train me,” is a frequent complaint, she said, “and Health and Safety only make a quick run-down.”

“There’s no substitute for training, training and more training,” said Jeff Zogg, executive director of the General Building Contractors of New York State. And, he said, “owners need to have greater awareness how risky and dangerous this business is. ...Patience can be a virtue.” At the same time, Zogg warned, too many rules and regulations “can overburden those [already] complying, causing delays …there’s a very fine line.”

A report issued by the Fiscal Policy Institute last month said the construction industry employs more than 200,000 workers in New York City, almost a quarter of whom work in the illegal "underground" construction industry. Not only does this lead to a half-billion-dollar annual financial loss because of unpaid payroll taxes and workers compensation premiums, according to the report, but it correlates with dangerous practices. Data from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “indicate a strong correlation between construction fatalities and the characteristics of the underground economy: half of the deaths occurred among workers at very small construction companies, three-fourths of the workers involved worked for non-union companies, and failure to provide safety training was cited in over half of the cases.”

The city's DOB, which regulates construction in the five boroughs, has a number of initiatives underway to promote safety, says press secretary Kate Lindquist. The DOB has an excavations inspection team, a professional certification review and audits team and a stop work order patrol in operation. As of this month, a new "construction superintendent rule" went into effect requiring low-rise buildings to have a registered construction superintendent in order to get a building permit, and this year "general contractor registration" will go into effect requiring contractors building one-, two- or three-family homes to register with the DOB, giving more teeth to enforcement of low-rise sites, Lindquist said.

Construction of low-rise buildings – 14 stories and under – is up 31 percent over last year, and "construction incidents" on such buildings are up 2 percent, from 288 in 2006 to 294 in 2007, she said.

But "the regulation framework within New York City is geared toward high-rise construction,” maintains Coletti of the building trades association. He also thinks DOB is not proactive enough. “DOB has always been reactive,” he said, voicing a sentiment echoed repeatedly by those interviewed. Until recently, “it was the Wild West show out there. They need more resources.”

Industry insiders and residents have been expressing concern about the pace at which buildings are going up. Officials need to “take a close look at the accelerated schedules—are they unsafe job conditions?” Coletti asked. Soho residents had been complaining about how quickly the top floors of the Trump building were built – concrete that wasn't given enough time to dry is suspected as the cause of the structural failure there – and given that the building faced strong opposition in the neighborhood from the get-go, some wonder whether the contractor was rushing to complete the building before legal challenges to the controversial building were heard.

Cracking down on violators has proven effective. With building in NYC going gangbusters, scaffold-related accidents jumped high enough that the city felt it had to take action. In 2006, Mayor Bloomberg's "Suspended Scaffold Worker Safety Task Force" was created; Coletti served as chair. Their investigations often found contractors not employing licensed master riggers, as the law requires – and not suffering penalties. The legislation resulting from the task force, said Joel Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee on Occupational Safety and Health, had a “salutary effect” on safety, proving “you can have an impact.” In April, Mayor Bloomberg signed several scaffolding-related laws that increase penalties, and DOB has reported an 83 percent decrease in scaffolding-related fatalities since then.

Other construction safety efforts underway include:

• State Assemblyman James Brennan, a Brooklyn Democrat, held hearings into problems with the DOB in 2006 and introduced several reform-minded bills last year. Three passed the legislature, with Gov. Spitzer vetoing legislation mandating re-inspection every 60 days for hazardous violations, based on the city’s recommendation that it would be too costly an undertaking. Brennan plans to redraft and resubmit the bill.

Brennan said he’ll again push for a "DOB Community Accountability Act" where the agency will have to report to community boards and the borough presidents “accidents, the investigation of the accidents' circumstances, and all violations issued.” But the biggest battle he anticipates will be the one over mandating the licensing of general contractors.

• Since last year, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has been working on a "Task Force on Responsible Contracting," a joint effort with local communities and unions. “I've been working to bring community and labor leaders to the same table so that we can forge a strong consensus behind development that is safe for workers and neighbors, provides high-quality jobs, and meets community needs," Stringer said in an e-mail. The group had intended to approach developers to voluntarily agree on certain policies, but by working through the community boards they broadened their scope, developing a questionnaire and checklist to include issues such as employment opportunities, context, environmental sustainability and impact on infrastructure.

• The city’s building codes will be updated this summer, for the first time since 1968. The DOB’s website lists new laws modernizing building, fuel gas, mechanical and some fire safety codes, to name a few. There will be a three-year phasing-in cycle.

• City Council Speaker Christine Quinn announced a hearing on construction site safety for next Monday, Feb. 4 to “examine, among other topics, if we need to enhance worker training, whether city regulations around high rises are sufficient, if we have a large enough workforce to keep pace with development demands and whether the timeframe for the development of high rises is appropriate."

Still, recent published reports deepen questions about DOB. Christopher Santulli, a top agency commissioner who is responsible for developer compliance, is working without a current engineering license, in violation of the law, the New York Post reported last week. And according to a Daily News report, DOB Commissioner Patricia Lancaster allegedly signed secret agreements to not reveal problems with a controversial architect, did several other high-ranking officials – a practice that's now banned.

Since the Trump accident, City Councilman Tony Avella, a Queens Democrat who is running for mayor, called for Lancaster’s resignation. “DOB is incompetent, it’s the only way to change the agency … Never in 25 years of [community service] have I seen so many near accidents and terrible safety measures.” Avella said that in his district alone “there are 300 to 400 complaints” registered with the agency.

Both Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn, however, have subsequently expressed their support for Lancaster, an architect whom Bloomberg appointed in 2002 with the express mission of reforming the agency.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE-- MICHAEL J. GARCIA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that MICHAEL ANNUCCI, also known as "Mickey Annucci," was found guilty today of charges relating to his participation in a scheme to defraud the benefit funds of the New York City District Council of Carpenters (the "District Council") of at least half a million dollars. According to the evidence presented at the eight-day jury trial before United States District Judge BARBARA S. JONES:

ANNUCCI served as a shop steward for the District Council, an Executive Delegate to the District Council representing Local 157 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and a member of the District Council's trial committee, which imposed discipline on carpenters who broke union rules. From July 2001 through February 2006, ANNUCCI was the shop steward for a Manhattan jobsite of L&D Installers, Inc. ("L&D"), a furniture installation and construction contractor. L&D was a party to a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") with the District Council, pursuant to which L&D was obligated to pay all of its workers at a specified hourly rate and to make contributions for each hour worked to District Council benefit funds, which provide life insurance, hospitalization, medical care, pension and vacation benefits to union members.

As a shop steward, ANNUCCI was required to enforce the CBA by submitting weekly reports to the District Council setting forth the hours worked by each of carpenters assigned to the jobsite. The union’s auditors rely on the accuracy of shop steward reports in auditing contractors to ensure that all benefits contributions have been paid.

ANNUCCI, however, omitted more than 22,000 hours from his shop steward reports, thereby enabling L&D to cheat the benefit funds out of hundreds of thousands of dollars it owed. As a result, carpenters got paid lower wages and lost credit towards pension, vacation and retirement benefits, and some lost their health coverage. At the same time, ANNUCCI received full benefits, was regularly paid for overtime hours that he did not work, and was paid for at least 80 days off.

Co-conspirator FRANK PROSCIA, who succeeded ANNUCCI as L&D’s shop steward in February 2006, pleaded guilty in October 2007 to one count of aiding and abetting the embezzlement of monies from District Council benefit funds.

ANNUCCI is scheduled to be sentenced May 7, 2008. PROSCIA is scheduled to be sentenced on March 7, 2008.

ANNUCCI was convicted of one count of wire fraud – on which he faces a maximum sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment -- and of conspiracy, theft of union benefit funds, and unlawful acceptance of payments by a union representative -- on each of which he faces a maximum of 5 years’ imprisonment.

Mr. GARCIA praised the efforts of the Department of Labor, Office of Labor Racketeering, and the assistance provided by the District Council’s anti-corruption committee.

Assistant United States Attorneys LISA ZORNBERG and KATHERINE GOLDSTEIN are in charge of the prosecution.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

There Once was a Ruling that some Judged Snappy…

Decision reversing $2.35 million award to builder takes cue from limerick penned by union officials

By Stephen Franklin
Chicago Tribune

A limerick penned by union officials that led to a jury award of $2.35 million in damages to a Lake County home builder apparently wasn't poetic justice—at least not according to Judge John J. Bowman.

So the 78-year-old jurist, writing for a three-judge court of the state Appellate Court's Second District, reversed the jury's award with his own poetic words:

"There once was a union that called plaintiffs' work crappy;

"This made plaintiffs quite unhappy;

"At trial, the jury filled plaintiffs' purse;

"But, alas, on appeal, we must reverse."

The 21-page ruling, handed down late last week, explained why the court had reversed a Lake County jury's monetary award in September 2006 to John Maki and his company, J. Maki Construction Co.

The jury had found the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters guilty of defaming Maki and his firm with handbills alleging the construction of substandard homes. The fliers rhymed Maki's name with "crappy," and Maki sued the union, claiming it had impugned his professional integrity and ability.

The handbills were part of a campaign the carpenters waged against the non-union construction company. At one point, roaming picketers followed Maki wherever he went, the court noted.

Three union officials also were ordered by the jury to make payments ranging from $22,500 to $45,000. These too were set aside.

Travis Ketterman, the carpenters' attorney, hailed the appellate court's ruling.

"Too bad the Maki people didn't have a sense of humor. That would have saved them a lot of time and money," he said.

Frederick Schwartz, Maki's attorney, disagreed. "The appellate court got it wrong and we will take it to the Supreme Court," he said.

As for the judge's rhyming, University of Illinois Law School professor Matthew W. Finkin said that such literary styling in a court opinion "is rare these days."

"There are judges who inject a degree of humor," he explained. "But to be good at that, you have to be really good."


MIDTOWN'S biggest development puzzle is a mystery no more. The image at right shows the first rendering of the West Side's most buzzed-over, blogged-about new skyscraper - Boston Properties' 1 million square-foot office tower at Eighth Avenue between 54th and 55th streets, to be known as 250 W. 55th St.

The design by Skidmore Owings & Merrill's Chris Cooper has not been previously released. It calls for a glass curtain-wall tower of 39 stories, set back from the avenue atop a graciously proportioned base boasting a 57 foot-high, wraparound glass retail façade and 25,000 square feet of stores.

Excavation and demolition of smaller buildings on the site are underway and Boston says tenants will be able to move into its new project by January 2010.

Publicly traded Boston, led by Mort Zuckerman, finished assembling the site last year, and real estate circles have mused ever since over its plans for the once low-rise block.

Boston bought the land from developer Robert Gladstone, who previously acquired it from Hearst and from a local family for a total of around $200 million. In a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Boston pegged its total investment in the project at $910 million.

Law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher has signed a lease for 220,000 square feet on its upper floors; a deal with law firm Proskauer, Rose for between 500,000 and 600,000 square feet is pending. CB Richard Ellis is the leasing agent.

To complete its assemblage, Boston is buying air rights from Broadway's Shubert Organization. Sources said that deal has received the blessing of the Department of City Planning, paving the way for the sale to go through and for construction to begin once the site is completely razed.

Eighth Avenue has now become an unlikely architectural showcase with recent completions of Sir Norman Foster's Hearst headquarters at 57th Street, Renzo Piano's New York Times Co. tower at 41st Street, and Arquitectonica's Westin Hotel at 43rd Street.

Meanwhile, Stephen Pozycki's SJP Properties' 40-story 11 Times Square, designed by FX Fowle, has begun to rise at the southeast corner of 42nd Street, and Jay Eisaenstadt is completing a 43-story condo at 47th Street designed by Ismael Leyva.

But until now, the Boston project remained shrouded in mystery as the company negotiated simultaneously with the Shuberts, prospective office tenants and a handful of residential tenants still living at the site.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

City Seeking Tougher Rules for High-Rise Construction – 78% of the Worker Fatalities Nonunion Contractors

By DIANE CARDWELL The New York Times

The city’s Buildings Department, moving to shore up safety on construction sites after a worker fell 42 stories to his death last month, proposed new regulations on Monday that would require general contractors and concrete operators to register with the city.

The regulations, which administration officials have begun developing with the City Council, would also require special safety managers at more construction sites as well as specifically for concrete.

“Concrete operations are extremely specialized and require a precise coordination of large numbers of workers,” Patricia J. Lancaster, the commissioner of the Buildings Department, said before the Housing and Buildings Committee of the City Council. “Registration will enable us to better ensure that operations are code compliant, that safety violations are attended to and fines paid, and that recalcitrant actors come into compliance before registration is renewed.”

Under Ms. Lancaster’s proposal, general contractors, as well as those working with concrete, would have to register with the Buildings Department to obtain construction permits. The system would allow the department to use the contractors’ record of compliance with safety and building code provisions in issuing or denying permits and to demand that fines be paid before registrations are renewed.

In addition, the proposal would require that safety managers be present at all buildings at least 10 stories, or 150 feet, high. The current regulations require safety managers for buildings at least 15 stories, or 200 feet, high. Concrete contractors would also have to designate a separate safety manager for the concrete operations.

Although Buildings Department officials say they have been looking into the safety of concrete operations since November, that push intensified after Yuriy Vanchytskyy plunged to his death on Jan. 14, because wood forms used to hold wet concrete apparently collapsed during construction on the Trump SoHo hotel.

According to department data, the death was the third since 2006 related to concrete operations on a high-rise site. Sixteen people have been injured during such operations in the past two years, and 61 percent of the 41 occurrences in which material fell from high-rise sites last year was related to concrete, according to the department.

The proposal, said Raymond McGuire, managing director of the Contractors Association of Greater New York, a trade group, was developed in consultation with the construction and concrete industries and represents a consensus view.

“I think the commissioner’s proposals make a lot of sense,” he said. “We approve of what she’s trying to do.”

Speaker Christine C. Quinn of the City Council echoed that view, calling the suggestions “a very good and solid, no pun intended, first step.” But, she added, “they’re not everything we need to do,” saying that the city also needed to look more closely at regulating smaller construction sites that often use nonunion labor, making them more difficult to track.

Although there were signs that deaths and accidents on low-rise buildings were on the decline, she said, it was unclear that legislators really had a handle on “enough of what’s going on.”

According to statistics presented at the hearing by Louis J. Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers Association, an average of 78 percent of the worker fatalities each year between October 2004 and September 2007 were on projects built by nonunion contractors.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The UBC is Looking For A Few Good Men

On January 25, 2008 the NYC District Council Of Carpenters mailed a letter asking any active members interested in a position of Organizer/Representative to respond immediately.

“We are seeking aggressive, dedicated Union members committed to building and servicing the ranks of our membership.”

Minimum qualifications for the position are:

  • 10 years working for the UBC
  • Member in good standing
  • Not be a contractor member
  • Fulfilled Union Activity Obligations

Members interested in the position should submit a resume and work history showing your qualifications to the NYC District Council of Carpenters, 395 Hudson Street New York, NY 10014, Attn: 3-Day Hiring Program no later than February 20, 2008.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

N.Y.C. ‘Underground’ Construction Economy Costs Workers and Taxpayers

In New York City’s booming construction industry, at least 50,000 workers are misclassified by employers as independent contractors or are working off the books—costing workers lost wages and benefits and local, state and federal governments nearly $500 million in 2005. A new report says that without tougher enforcement of employment and wage laws, the cost could jump to as much as $557 million next year.

Building up New York, Tearing Down Job Quality, released in December by the Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI), estimates nearly a quarter of the city’s 200,000 construction workers are part of the growing “underground economy.”

Says report author and FPI deputy director James Parrot:

Official figures don’t reflect activity of a growing number of unscrupulous employers skirting the law. Taxpayers are forced to pick up the tab for Social Security and other payroll taxes that go unpaid when construction workers are hired off the books. And law-abiding employers are put at a real disadvantage, forced to bear many costs shifted to them from employers breaking the law.

The report says about half the underground workers are in residential construction but that misclassified workers and off-the-books workers also are in commercial projects, including some in infrastructure projects that are completely government-funded.

The FPI study says:

Despite the dangerous working conditions, workers in the underground economy are paid very low wages, are denied the protections of universal social insurance programs (workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, disability), do not have health coverage or retirement benefits, are not able to join a union and rarely are they entitled to paid sick leave, holidays or vacations. Working in the underground construction economy is like working in the 19th century when it comes to labor rights, protections and employment standards.

The report says even as workers are exploited, the growing underground construction economy cost taxpayers and the state nearly half a billion dollars in 2005.

  • Contractors in the underground economy skirt payment of legally required payroll taxes and workers compensation premiums and shift these and other costs onto taxpayers and their competitors who play by the rules. Three categories of costs were estimated for 2005:
  • $272 million in unpaid legally mandated payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and social insurance premiums covering workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance and disability insurance.
  • $148 million in health care costs shifted to the workers themselves, taxpayers and other employers that provide employee health insurance.
  • $70 million in lost personal income taxes because there is no withholding for the underground economy and/or they are paid off the books.

In addition to the report’s recommendations for thorough enforcement of employment and tax laws, it calls for stronger enforcement and expansion the city’s and the state’s prevailing wage laws.

The underground economy shifts many costs to others while construction companies paying prevailing wage internalize these costs, provide their workers with health insurance and retirement security, and compensate their workers at levels that make possible a middle class living standard. Prevailing wage means a more skilled and more productive workforce. The prevailing wage economy offers workers a career, economic security and a path into the middle class. The underground construction economy offers none of that, and it puts workers at a far greater occupational risk and cheats workers, taxpayers and law-abiding employers on a large scale. Click here to read the entire report.

Related Articles

On December 21, 2007 Local 926 President/Business Manager Sal Zarzana, organized nearly a thousand union carpenters, construction workers, labor leaders and elected officials in Brooklyn to protest the Underground Building Economy in NYC.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Family Mourns Loss Of Man Who Died In Fall From Scaffolding

Family members are mourning the loss of a man who died Wednesday during his first day on the job at a non-union construction site in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn.

Police say 43-year-old construction worker Jose Palacios plummeted 13 floors to his death when a scaffolding collapsed on Clinton Avenue.

Officials with the Department of Buildings say fast winds caused the scaffolding to give way.

Co-workers say they tried to save him, but that it was already too late.

"I felt he was gone," said fellow construction worker Ricardo Uribe. "His face swelled up. Immediately when I got to him, when the scaffold fell, we already had a lot of blood."

Uribe said it was Palacios' first day on the job.

Another man was also hurt in the accident when he fell from the 13th floor down to a ledge on the 10th floor. He's listed in serious condition at an area hospital.

Palacios' nephew, who also works in construction, says they had talked about work safety recently, just after a worker died after falling hundreds of feet from a building in Manhattan.

"It's very dangerous on the scaffold," said nephew Octavio Solis. "He said, 'don't worry, don't worry. I'm safe,'"

Palacios leaves behind a wife and 17-year-old daughter in Mexico City. He left them behind once before when he came to the States seeking more opportunities.

"He comes here for work, to give his family a better life. Just for that," nephew Octavio Solis.

Now his family in the States, the niece and nephew he lived with in Astoria, Queens, have the grueling task of telling his family in Mexico.

"All his family is in Mexico. How are we [going to] talk to them?" said Solis.

Palacios' mother's health is fragile, Solis says.

"She's 74 years. She's old. She's sick with diabetes. She could die, too," said Solis.

The DOB had sent out an advisory Wednesday morning about the high winds, urging all builders, contractors, developers and property owners to secure their construction sites and buildings.

But officials still don't know exactly what caused the scaffolding to collapse.

Clinton Court Development, the company running the site where Palacios died, was issued six violations at the Fort Greene project in November 2006, including failure to provide horizontal safety netting and guard rails.

Buildings officials say they're looking into whether those violations were ever addressed.