Sunday, September 28, 2008

Runaway Investor Leaves Tulfan Terrace in the Lurch

Will they ever finish?

An occasional series By N. Clark Judd

The half-finished building on Tulfan Terrace at Oxford Avenue just sits there, as it has for years, protruding over Riverdale Avenue like a gray wart with a tracery of scaffolding for veins.

With the economy in crisis and one of the original investors in the project evading a felony money-laundering indictment, there may not be much hope for the project to succeed. Like other projects on the hill above Riverdale Avenue, Tulfan Terrace has stalled, and there’s no telling when, or if, it will start again.

“Where you have abandoned property sites, where you have empty areas and they’re allowed to grow out … they’re a blight on the community that invariably, without exception, spreads,” said Charles Moerdler, chairman of Community Board 8’s land use committee and a former Department of Buildings commissioner.

The man who gave Riverdale this wart is named James Murray. A fugitive from the fraud and embezzlement charges he was slapped with in 2006, he’s reportedly cooling his heels in Ireland. His partners in the development, Robert Wagner and Michael Bookle, have to pay the federal government for his $6 million interest in the project, and already had to make arrangements to deal with the $3.5 million he had invested in another local project, 3536 Cambridge Ave., on top of settling millions more in construction loans, court records show.

While the remaining partners in the project are apparently struggling to come up with new investors, the project’s neighbors say they’re suffering because they live next to the towering, abandoned building.

For more than a year, members of the neighboring co-op at 525 W. 236th St. have been trying to get Mr. Wagner to clean up the site. Co-op board vice president Halema Hassan has complained of property damage from water run-off, damage to the sidewalk along Oxford Avenue, mosquitoes breeding in standing water, and debris on upper levels of the building that could fall.

“This is going on over three years empty, and two years construction, so we’ve been [dealing] with this for five years,” Ms. Hassan said.

In August, a representative from the Bronx borough president’s office sent a letter to city Department of Buildings officials with similar observations. According to online city records, no additional violations have been issued.

The Department of Buildings press office did not return a call for comment by press time.

Naomi Beth Gans, who lives across the street, pointed to wooden supports bolstering the property’s tall plywood fence, saying neighbors have repeatedly complained that the fence was unsafe.

The Tulfan Terrace tower was to have 30 units when completed, and fetch between $800,000 to $1 million a unit, Mr. Wagner said in an April interview. He did not return calls for comment for this article.

That the building is half-finished even now is not entirely Mr. Murray’s — or even Mr. Wagner’s — fault. Federal prosecutors have agreed to take their cut of profits from the building only after its other loans are paid off, stipulating that they have as much of an interest in the project’s success as Mr. Wagner does.

But the current market is not one in which investors are ripe on the vine, and the fruit of Mr. Murray’s alleged wrongdoing saddles Mr. Wagner and his partner with additional debt.

Walter Mack, an independent investigator who for about a decade rooted out mob influence and corruption in the New York City District Council of Carpenters, which represents area carpenters’ unions, uncovered a trail of cashed checks and conducted dozens of depositions that suggested to prosecutors that Mr. Murray’s On Par Contracting Corp. was paying carpenters in cash, under the table. U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia of the Southern District Court of New York alleged in a 2006 indictment that Mr. Murray falsified reports to the union and lied about the number of workers on his jobs to skip out on over $10 million in benefits payments to the union by paying its members in cash.

Mr. Murray then invested the money he should have spent on health care for his workers in otherwise legitimate real estate ventures, prosecutors say.

A 2006 civil lawsuit, settled in June 2007, ended when a federal judge found Mr. Murray liable for over $13 million in back payments to union benefits funds, including interest and fees.

But On Par — with Mr. Murray still a fugitive — sued the union in April for hundreds of millions of dollars, alleging that union officers had a “corrupt scheme” to take bribes in exchange for giving employers their pick of workers, giving On Par’s competitors an unfair advantage.

It may be a long time, if ever, before the legal issues are settled.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

UNION CARPENTERS & CONTRACTORS MARKETING CAMPAIGN 2008

Watch Our Television Ads with New York Mets player, David Wright. Visit BUILDITUNION.COM also see our Shea Stadium Sign.



video

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Council Employees Golf While Rome Burns

Dear Mr.Callahan, enclosed are some links to help you in your investigation into theft of service by NYC District Council union officials.. With thousands of Carpenters out-of-work, should District Council employees be golfing ? I have spoken to Frank Spencer on this issue yesterday. I am sure he would like your input to this theft of service.

Fraternally yours, William Davenport local union 608


08-cv-06959_024_1 Golf Outing

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wall Street crisis rattles dreams for new towers at World Trade Center site

With several financial giants collapsing - and others teetering - many experts wonder who will occupy the Freedom Tower and other World Trade Center skyscrapers developed by Larry Silverstein.

Wall Street's wipeout is taking its toll on Ground Zero - sparking fears that a forest of empty towers could rise on the 16-acre site.

With jobs and companies disappearing and the tax base under siege, the viability of mega-rebuilding plans at the World Trade Center is on the line, insiders say.

Factor in a glut of office space that's expected to flood downtown and Depression-era forebodings about the economy and a perfect storm is bearing down on lower Manhattan.

"A tidal wave is coming - and we're going to be the first ones hit," said City Councilman Alan Gerson, who represents the district.

The No. 1 challenge: filling 10.1 million square feet of commercial space in five skyscrapers, much of it designed specifically for financial giants that no longer exist or are struggling to survive.

Hanging in the balance are the iconic, 1,776-foot Freedom Tower to the north, a replacement for the toxic Deutsche Bank tower to the south and three enormous towers on Church St. built by developer Larry Silverstein, including one that will be taller than the Empire State Building.

The towers are set to rise almost simultaneously on the site during the next five years - despite a credit crunch, the liquidation of Lehman Brothers, the demise of an independent Merrill Lynch, the bailout of AIG and cloudy prospects for both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

Some worry about the return of the "hollow high-risers" - a phrase first used to describe the original World Trade Center when it opened in 1973 with no private-sector tenants.

"The Freedom Tower very possibly will turn out to be a white elephant," said George Marlin, an investment banker and former executive director of the Port Authority.

"I think it's premature to predict empty towers, but clearly the staggering economy will affect the demand for office space in lower Manhattan," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, the West Side Democrat whose district includes Ground Zero.

The Port Authority, which owns and is developing the site, is confident despite the market meltdown. "Even within the economic cycle we're in now, we think all the buildings will get built, and someone will come in and fill them," said PA Executive Director Chris Ward.

Silverstein notes he has faced doubters before. When he started building 7 World Trade Center in 2002, the downtown vacancy rate was 17%, but the building now draws top rents, he points out.

"The naysayers then and now don't seem to understand that we are building in anticipation of future demand, not based on today's market," Silverstein said.

Still, potential problems loom. The buildings were designed with massive, column-free trading spaces to accommodate the needs of Wall Street behemoths, experts say. Many of those companies are now on the ropes.

Silverstein's projected 79-story, 2.3-million-square-foot Tower 2, for instance, has four sprawling trading floors, and his 71-story, 2.1-million-square-foot Tower 3 has five.

Already, Merrill Lynch has pulled out of talks to move into Tower 3, while JPMorgan Chase scaled back its building plans at the former Deutsche Bank tower site.

Silverstein faces another challenge: His three towers come with a $6 billion price tag at a time when banks are tightening up on credit. His windfall from insurance payouts and tax-exempt Liberty Bonds totals $4 billion, so he'll still need $2 billion more from the banks.

"The big question is what the crisis means for projects that are not fully financed," said Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress. "Will all three Silverstein buildings go ahead, and if so, on what kind of time frame?"

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Tell Me Lies

On the Local 157 Supervision:

As suspected by many rank and file members union politics played a role in the November 26, 2007 International Union Trusteeship of Local 157.

In a Press release on November 30, 2007 the District Council said "To stabilize the governance of the Local and restore the service the Local 157 membership and all District Council carpenters working in that Local’s jurisdiction deserve, the District Council invoked the procedures of the UBC Constitution and asked General President Douglas McCarron to order an emergency, temporary supervision over the Local.

We now have obtained audio proof that the supervision of local 157 was politically motivated in order to stop former Local 157 Vice President George Dilacio from becoming president.

Excerpts of what President Thomassen said regarding the supervision of Local 157:

“I was in the office with Mike when McCarron called, He Asked, what is going on with the local?

We said George was fired as a business agent but he is staying as a vice president, He is elected and we can’t take him out of that position and he is going to become the president.

“McCarron said no way PUT THE LOCAL UNDER SUPERVISION.”

What President Thomassen just described and admitted is an unlawful trusteeship established in bad faith in order to stop George Dilacio from becoming president.

The fact is the trusteeship of local 157 was unlawful and the constitution was not followed.

The Unity Team unrestrained and armed with all the Internationals levers of money and power, employ fear, propaganda and fraud by requesting a trusteeship be place on local 157.

They abused their power, and used the weapon of trusteeship to stifle democracy and deny members their legally protected rights.

The trusteeship left 4500 members and their families in the dark, without a voice in union affairs for almost a year.

On Fighting Corruption:




On Carpenters taking "cash."



Friday, September 12, 2008

Carpenters Union Leader Gets 5 Years For Fraud

NEW YORK—A former shop steward and executive delegate for the Carpenters Union was sentenced Friday to five years in prison.

Michael Annucci, also known as “Mickey” Annucci of Local 157 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, was convicted following an eight-day trial in February for conspiracy, wire fraud, aiding and abetting the embezzlement of funds from employee benefit plans, and receipt of bribes by a labor representative.

Annuncci 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.

U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia said for five years Annucci ripped off workers causing many to lose pension credits and health care coverage. Judge Barbara Jones said the 5-year sentence is meant to "send a message to other union members and executives that this type of conduct will not be tolerated."

From July 2001 through February 2006, Annucci was the shop steward for a Manhattan jobsite of L&D Installers, Inc., a furniture installation and construction contractor. L&D was a party to a collective bargaining agreement 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. Annucci submitted false shop steward reports to the union, on a weekly basis, for nearly five years. As a result, carpenters got paid lower wages and lost credit towards pension, vacation and retirement benefits, and some lost their health care coverage. At the same time, L&D paid Annucci for hundreds of overtime hours and at least 80 days that Annucci did not work.

In sentencing Annucci, Judge Barbara S. Jones stated that “this is a very serious offense,” and that the length of the sentence is necessary “to send a message to other union members and executives that this type of conduct will not be tolerated.”

In addition to the prison term, Annucci was sentenced to two years supervised release. He is to surrender to begin serving his sentence next month.

Related Articles:

Annucci Sentencing
Annucci Found Guilty

Thursday, September 11, 2008

911 Tribute

Tuesday, September 11, 2001- A day New Yorkers and Americans will never forget and one that will live in our memory forever. As America shakes off the shock of this devastating terror attack, we salute the selfless men and women, who have dramatically reminded us that we live in the greatest city, and in the most wonderful country on earth.

Nothing compares to the pride we felt as New Yorkers when we witnessed the super-human sacrifice of all those who answered the call to help with rescue efforts at the World Trade Center. We mourn for those courageous citizens who made the ultimate sacrifice and pray for their families.

Click here to play, Dedicated to the men, women and children who lost their lives; all those who sacrificed their lives; And to all the Heroes that responded to the emergency Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Rain Waits for the Labor Day Parade to Get Its Message Across Town

By STEVEN GREENHOUSE

The Labor Day Parade was back a few days past Labor Day and with a storm threatening to rain on it.

Despite warnings of a downpour, tens of thousands of stagehands, nurses, electricians, truck drivers, carpenters, retail clerks and other union stalwarts marched up Fifth Avenue on Saturday morning in soupy air that often made the march feel more like a steam bath in motion.

The parade had several missions: honoring wounded veterans, showing that organized labor can still flex its muscles, and rallying union members to vote for pro-labor candidates this fall.

The loudest cheers went to the two dozen wounded veterans who led the parade and to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was just behind them marching alongside Gov. David A. Paterson, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and various labor leaders.

Last year, union leaders decided not to hold a parade, instead staging a rally at ground zero to call for more government assistance to workers injured in the cleanup in Manhattan after the 9/11 attack.

Parade organizers broke with the tradition of naming a politician or union leader as grand marshal. Instead that distinction went to the Wounded Warriors Project, a group of soldiers wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Leroy Scott, a former Army staff sergeant who lost his right leg in Iraq, was at the front of the parade, driven in a police vehicle.

“This is awesome,” said Mr. Scott, of Browns Mills, N.J., profoundly moved by all the spectators and cheers. “The people in New York have been so hospitable and supportive.”

Gary La Barbera, the president of the New York City Central Labor Council, which organized the parade, said it was important for the labor movement, indeed the nation, to help wounded veterans find jobs and reintegrate into society.

“The motto of the Wounded Warriors Project is, ‘The greatest casualty is being forgotten,’ ” Mr. La Barbera said at a breakfast at the Roosevelt Hotel as he presented the group a $125,000 check from the city’s unions. “This year, New York City working families remember and will never forget. A nation should be judged on how it treats its veterans, and we’ve always been there — the labor movement.”

Organizers seemed intent on finishing before the wind picked up and the rain descended. Ed Ott, the labor council’s executive director, said one of his goals was “to have everyone walk fast.” And that they did — the first marchers going from 44th Street to the reviewing stand 25 blocks north in just 30 minutes. The crowds were robust before thinning above 59th Street.

At the breakfast, Mr. Bloomberg joked that top city officials had “talked to God and got the rain delayed until this afternoon.” He repeatedly praised the city’s 300,000 municipal workers as “the best work force that anybody has ever put together.”

There were signs reading “Buy Union, Buy American” and “Labor Weathers the Storm.” Some workers chanted, “We are the union, the mighty, mighty union,” while an asbestos worker blew a three-foot-long shofar. The ironworkers’ union had a truck that carried a 15-foot-long model of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Mrs. Clinton was the star attraction at the preparade breakfast. “It’s going to be like walking in a sauna,” she said, “but we will be demonstrating our commitment as all of us go down the avenue, making it clear that New York understands the importance that the American labor movement has played in building the American middle class.”

She next turned to the fall campaign. “We have a big job ahead of us,” she said. “No one has more of a stake than the American middle class and the American labor movement that we elect a Democratic president of our country. This is a fight for our future and is a fight we must win.”

With New York State expected to back Senator Barack Obama, the labor leaders talked of sending members to campaign in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.

Stuart Appelbaum, the parade’s chairman and president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said, “For us, this year, this election is important as the election of President Franklin Roosevelt in 1932.” He said that a Democratic White House could lead to a law that would make it easier to unionize workers, helping to reverse labor’s long decline.

One marcher, Adriana Falcon, a member of the metallic lathers’ union for three years, was pushing her 4-month-old daughter, Lillyanna, in a stroller, as her son, Jessiah, 7, pushed his scooter.

“This parade is excellent,” Ms. Falcon said. “I’m here to support our troops and our union.”

When she heard of openings for lathers’ jobs, placing rebar for reinforced concrete, she spent six days in line to apply, sleeping in a tent during the wait.

“The union is good for me and my children,” she said. “And the benefits are great.”

Friday, September 5, 2008

Worker Is Killed in City’s Latest Crane Accident

By KEN BELSON and WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM

A construction worker fell about 400 feet to his death on Thursday as he and others worked to lower a tower crane at a building site on the West Side of Manhattan. It was the latest in a series of high-rise accidents in recent months — and the third fatal accident involving cranes — that are certain to bring renewed scrutiny to the Bloomberg administration.

The accident occurred about 9:30 a.m. as a team of seven men worked to lower part of a tower crane that had been used to erect a 58-story tower at 600 West 42nd Street, between 11th and 12th Avenues, where the developer Larry A. Silverstein is building the Silver Towers on the River, a 1,350-unit residential building scheduled to open next year.

The worker, Anthony Esposito, 48, a crane rigger, was on a 20-foot working platform attached to the crane about 40 floors up, said Deputy Chief Anthony DeVita of the Fire Department. The platform apparently tilted, according to one investigator, and Mr. Esposito lost his footing.

Mr. Esposito was wearing a safety harness, but it was not attached to anything, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.

The authorities are trying to determine whether the platform was properly anchored, the investigator said. It appeared to have been secured at only two points instead of four, the investigator added.

Tony Sclafani, a spokesman for the Buildings Department, said the platform was inspected on Tuesday. But he would not say whether it had been moved or altered since then.

Hours after the accident, a stream of family and friends had gathered at Mr. Esposito’s house in Baldwin, on Long Island.

A family friend who called himself Rocky but would not give his last name said Mr. Esposito had three children — one who just received confirmation, and a 13-year-old daughter and a child in high school.

“He worked for his family first,” Rocky said, adding that Mr. Esposito knew his job was risky. “He caught the train at 5:30 a.m. every morning, he worked Saturdays, holidays, whenever he can for his family.”

Chief DeVita and other city officials said the crane did not appear to have any structural problems.

The operation and inspection of tower cranes have received considerable scrutiny this year after nine people were killed when two of them fell in separate accidents.

The first accident occurred in March on East 51st Street, and left seven people dead. In that case, nylon straps snapped as they were being used to help “jump” the crane — in that case, raising it. The crane in Thursday’s accident was also being jumped, although in this case it was being dismantled, or lowered — an equally perilous operation.

The March collapse prompted the Buildings Department to issue tougher safety protocols for jumping cranes, and this was the first fatal accident to occur during a jump since.

Those protocols required that a Buildings Department inspector be present when a crane is jumped.

That provision was eliminated when the department issued a later set of protocols just two days before a second fatal crane accident in May.

That accident, on East 91st Street, did not involve a crane jump and left two workers dead.

There was no inspector at the scene on Thursday, Mr. Sclafani said.

In issuing the protocols in May, the department said it stopped requiring an inspector because a review of crane jumps found it unnecessary.

As friends of the Esposito family gathered in Baldwin, the New York City Council voted unanimously to adopt a series of crane safety measures, many of which echoed the new protocols.

The accident happened early in the workday at the gleaming glass towers overlooking the Hudson River, as cars and tourist buses streamed past on the West Side Highway.

Several construction workers, visibly shaken, waved off reporters as they left the building and walked to their cars.

Keith Gray, 44, the foreman of the sheet metal workers at the site, said he saw Mr. Esposito half-covered with an orange tarp as emergency workers worked on him. Mr. Gray, who works for Aabco Sheet Metal, said Mr. Esposito was wearing a yellow body harness that stretched from his thigh area up to and around his shoulders.

“The guy had a harness on when he was on the ground,” Mr. Gray said, “but I heard he was not attached — he was not hooked off. If he was hooked off, we have supports along the building and he’d have been attached to that, and then if he fell he’d a been dangling in the air.”

One investigator involved in the inquiry said Mr. Esposito had unhooked the harness shortly before he fell.

Another investigator said federal safety officials were looking into whether the platform was sufficiently secured and whether one of the safety railings on the back side of it — where Mr. Esposito apparently fell — had been removed.

Experts said jumping a tower crane was one of the most dangerous phases in the use of the giant machines.

Mr. Sclafani said the department had issued a stop-work order on the site, which includes two 58-story towers. Mr. Esposito fell from the northwest corner of the complex. Work began in October 2007, and the towers have been built to their full height.

Richard Mendelson, the area director for the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration who will supervise the agency’s investigation, said it was too soon to draw conclusions about what led to Mr. Esposito’s death.

In the investigation, OSHA and the Buildings Department are being joined by prosecutors from the rackets bureau in the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, which has looked into the two earlier fatal tower crane accidents, and the city’s Department of Investigation.

As Chief DeVita briefed reporters about two hours after the accident on Thursday, a large black section of the crane was being lowered to the ground behind him, with nylon straps clearly visible securing a section of the crane’s frame.

The bills that the City Council approved late Thursday would, among other things, require that general contractors hold safety coordination meetings with engineers, riggers and safety managers before erecting or dismantling a crane, and that crane workers take a 30-hour training course. The law allowed stop-work orders to be imposed faster.

“We’re not going to tolerate sloppiness that leads to injury and death,” Mayor Bloomberg said.

The general contractor at the site of Thursday’s accident was Gotham Construction, and the concrete subcontractor was DiFama Concrete, according to city records. Mr. Esposito worked for DFC Structures, an affiliate of DiFama, according to a spokesman for the company.

A worker for DiFama died in January when he fell 42 stories from the top of Trump SoHo, a condominium hotel under construction at Varick and Spring Streets in Manhattan.

DiFama has a history of safety violations at projects in Manhattan and has been fined tens of thousands of dollars in penalties, according to federal records.

In November 2004, another DiFama employee died when he fell 60 feet from a platform on the mast of a construction crane at what is now the Lumiere, a seven-story condominium on 53rd Street, west of Eighth Avenue.

A woman who answered the phone at the company on Thursday said it would have no comment.

Mr. Morgenthau’s rackets bureau and the city’s Department of Investigation are conducting a broad criminal investigation into corruption in the Buildings Department’s cranes and derricks division, which has already resulted in the arrests of an inspector and the unit’s acting chief inspector. The office of a crane company, Nu-Way Crane Services, were searched as part of the investigation and more charges are expected, people briefed on the inquiry have said.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Too busy to enjoy Labor Day?

EDITORIAL: Labor Day is generally regarded as simply a day off - the end of the summer, a day to rest, a time to shop. For most, it presents an opportunity to catch up on all the chores we just can't get done during the workweek. Yet Labor Day is a time to recall the fabulous contribution of American workers in rendering this a nation of outstanding achievement and prosperity. It should be a time to reflect upon the dignity and beauty of work - and the proper sphere of leisure.

The first labor celebration was held on Sept. 5, 1882 in New York City. Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, along with Matthew Maguire, secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York, are considered the founders of the original "workingmen's holiday." Mr. McGuire suggested honoring those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold." A parade of approximately 10,000 workers marched from City Hall to Union Square. They then had a picnic, listened to a concert and to speeches. In subsequent years, other states followed their example. In 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation which made the first Monday of September a federal holiday.

On this Labor Day, we might gain much wisdom by comparing our daily lives to the lives of the 10,0000 workers who marched for their rights in the 19th century - and who established this day of festivity and recollection. How much have our lives improved since then? What new challenges have emerged?

Working men and women have come a long way from the 19th-century battles in which they were often at odds with exploitative employers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are currently 15.4 million labor union members nationwide - and unions have firmly established their place in many industries. In the 19th century, women were confined mostly to the private sphere of the home. Today, the labor force is more diverse, consisting of 82.1 million men and 70.7 million women. In the 19th century, the average American worked 12 hours per day and seven days each week, often in hazardous conditions. Children were also employed, as child labor laws were initially non-existent and then, once enacted, not strictly enforced. Today, working conditions have vastly improved - men, women and children enjoy rich legal protections regarding every aspect of their employment, including the amount of hours they work and their safety.

Indeed, many workers still face daunting challenges: 7.6 million workers hold down more than one job; 3 million workers face commutes of 90 or more minutes each day and 8 percent of laborers work more than 60 hours per week. Yet, the vast majority of Americans have abundant choice in the kind of job they undertake and the number of hours they wish to devote to their employment.

In contrast to the 19th century, Americans no longer consider it sufficient to simply work as a means of satisfying the bread-and-butter needs of their family. The concept of "work" is now more often linked to the notion of a "career"; that is, finding our mission and leaving our mark in the world. In considering our job options, we take into account our likes and dislikes, our attributes and skills. We weigh whether the job is truly "satisfying." This contemporary angst is indeed a luxury, for it demonstrates that employment is not strictly a matter of necessity as it was for most of our forefathers; it is now a matter of individual fulfillment.

However, as standards and expectations rise in the 21st century, one of the most-oft heard complaints is that there is a shortage of "time"in our lives. A new word has entered the lexicon - "multi-tasking" - doing multiple chores at once in order to save time. Is this perception of lacking time because we have too much work to do compared to our ancestors or because work and leisure have been entirely re-defined?

According to a study conducted by the Heritage Foundation in August, 2007, titled "Upwards Leisure Mobility: Americans Have More Leisure Time than Ever Before," since the mid-1960's, the amount of time the typical American spends working fell by eight hours per week. And the time the average American spent on leisure activities rose by just under seven hours per week. The study reports that this additional leisure time "is equivalent to an extra seven to nine weeks of vacation per year."

Also, more Americans have recreational activities than previous generations; since 1970, Americans steadily spend more money on their hobbies. Lower-income Americans now work less and enjoy more leisure than higher-income Americans. The study finds that it is precisely this propensity to work less that accounts for the lower pay among low-income earners. Hence, leisure is a major aspect of the life of every American worker.

Individual fulfillment is thus no longer defined as simply being a servant of the family through labor. Now, there is great pressure to have multiple achievements both inside and outside of the workplace. For example, a woman who has an employment and raises her children also feels the need to have "me" time - time to exercise, to pursue hobbies. This means that increasingly "leisure" is being intruded upon with more and more requirements. The lives of children have also been filled with so many activities that there has emerged the concept of the "soccer mom": the woman who shuffles her children from one activity to the next. Thus, leisure is no longer defined as simply rest from work, or doing things we enjoy - leisure itself is full of social expectations, demands and pressures.

As material and social standards increase for America's workers, we are unable to make key distinctions. The line between work and play is being blurred; there is ceaseless consumerism - and ceaseless activity. Are we essentially crowding out the spiritual and supernatural from our lives - that which gives us perspective on work and play?

This Labor Day, in solidarity with the 10,000 19th-century laborers who established a day of rest, let us give thanks to the many blessings we enjoy as a result of the work of all who came before us. Let us also reflect on how American prosperity has resulted in a constant lack of "time" in our daily lives: Is this really due to too much work or to utter confusion regarding our essential values and priorities?