Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Statewide Carpenters Union Eyed In Probe

Hearing on allocation of losses tied to Madoff

By Matt Glynn
Bernard L. Madoff is in prison, but unionized carpenters in New York State are still coping with the financial fallout from his fraudulent scheme.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America is looking into allegations that a union representing carpenters across the state disproportionately burdened upstate members with millions of dollars in investment losses stemming from Madoff’s fraud.

The UBC has scheduled a hearing today and Wednesday in Albany on actions taken by the Empire State Regional Council of Carpenters, which is based in Westchester County.

Douglas J. McCarron, general president of the Washington, D. C.-based UBC, laid out the allegations in a letter this month to Patrick B. Morin, the council’s executive secretary-treasurer. Copies of the letter were sent to members of affiliated local unions, including Cheektowaga-based Carpenters Local 289.

The 10-page letter offers a look into the financial ripple effect of Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme on some of its victims. In the case of the Empire State Regional Council, the impact hit individuals in the form of diminished pension, annuity and health funds for unionized workers at affiliated locals. The council says it has 15,000 members in a territory that excludes New York City.

Morin did not return a call to comment.

McCarron wrote to Morin that the UBC had received “numerous complaints” from local unions affiliated with the council over how the Madoffrelated losses had been allocated.

The total losses to the council’s pension, annuity and health funds were estimated at more than $160 million. The largest share of those losses, $97 million, was to the pension fund, McCarron wrote.

Madoff was arrested in late 2008 and later admitted to the Ponzi scheme. He is serving a 150-year prison sentence in North Carolina.

Buffalo-area victims of the scheme included Laborers Local 210, Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 3, and developer Howard Zemsky. Carpenters union workers had been identified in previous media reports as victims, but McCarron’s letter provides a more detailed account of the impact.

The letter refers to Syracusebased investment adviser J. P. Jeanneret Associates, a firm that placed money with Madoff on behalf of many unions in the state. Questions were raised at a meeting of the Empire funds’ board of trustees over whether Jeanneret was diversified enough in its investment products, the letter says.

“This appears to suggest that Jeanneret investments may not have been adequately diversified and raises questions regarding whether the Empire funds should have taken action to further diversify their assets to reduce the likelihood of large losses,” McCarron wrote.

McCarron also wrote that the UBC received information about possible financial irregularities within the Empire State Regional Council’s pension, annuity and health funds “and that these financial irregularities threaten the welfare of members within the council.”

The letter says it appears the Madoff losses were “disproportionately” allocated to former participants of the Upstate New York Carpenters annuity, pension and health funds, which were merged with the Empire State Regional Council’s funds before the Madoff fraud was uncovered.

McCarron said it appears the Empire Annuity Fund’s board of trustees approved allocating 75 percent of the fund’s Madoff-related losses to former participants in the Upstate fund —even though the Empire fund had assumed control of the former Upstate fund assets 2z years before the fraud was exposed.

The letter also says it appears that an investment of about $6.4 million in a Madoffrelated investment in December 2008 by the Empire Welfare Fund was allocated entirely to former Upstate Health Fund members, despite the Upstate fund having been dissolved and merged in early 2007.

“In addition to resulting in an inequitable allocation of losses, attributing such investment to the Upstate area appears to be fraudulent,” McCarron wrote.

Upstate members took a hit on an individual level, as their health reimbursement accounts and annuity accounts were sharply cut, the letter said. It recounts the story of one Upstate member who had to pay a monthly health insurance premium of $1,060 to avoid the termination of his health insurance.

Thomas Burke, president of Carpenters Local 289 in Cheektowaga, said he expects some of his local’s 1,400 members will probably testify at the hearing, but he couldn’t predict what the outcome of the process might be.

“We’re all going to have to wait and see what happens at the hearings,” Burke said.
Burke said however much an individual union member lost as a result of the Madoff fraud, the loss is significant.

“Any time you take a hit on a fraudulent scheme, it’s not coming back,” he said.

Local 747 in Syracuse said on its Web site it will provide buses for members who want to travel to Albany to testify at today’s hearing.

McCarron in his letter said the hearings will determine if supervision by the UBC over the Empire State Regional Council should be imposed.

Monte Byers, chief of staff for the UBC, said the hearings will not be open to the public. “This is a chance for the members to express their legitimate concerns,” he said.

Byers said he expects the UBC will release a statement following the hearings.

The UBC’s General Executive Board will make a final determination about the next step after the UBC’s Hearing Committee submits a report and recommendations, Byers said.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Crane Falls Against Financial District Building

by Sarah Wheaton

A crane tipped and fell against a commercial building in Lower Manhattan on Saturday evening. There were no injuries, the police said, but four buildings and part of a fifth were evacuated and traffic was rerouted.

No one was operating the crane when it fell about 7:30, the police said, and some cement fell off the building, at 80 Maiden Lane. The Fire Department sent numerous trucks to the scene, and firefighters were working to secure and remove the crane.

“We tried building up the pressure in the crane to no avail,” said Deputy Assistant Chief Robert Boyle, of the Fire Department. “We’re now at a standstill.”

Officials closed Maiden Lane from Water Street to Broadway and Pearl Street from Fletcher Street to Wall Street, and four buildings were evacuated, including 100 Maiden Lane, a residential building, as well as 2 Gold Street from the 25th floor down.

The base of the crane was in Louise Nevelson Plaza, a triangular slice of a sculpture garden across the street from 80 Maiden Lane.

“The crane had authorization to move mechanical equipment on to the top of 80 Maiden Lane,” Robert LiMandri, the buildings commissioner, said at a news conference. About 7:30, he said, “the boom drifted.”

“There’s minor damage to the parapet wall of the topmost facade of the building,” he said.
David Robertson, who lives nearby at 10 Liberty Street, said he was alerted to the crane’s fall by a noise that sounded like metal on metal. “You could’ve heard it half a mile away,” he said.

Mr. LiMandri said it was too early to tell if there was any negligence or wrongdoing. “We are certainly going to pull this crane out of service and we’re gong to do a full investigation,” he said.

Dave Lawrence, 26, who lives at 2 Gold Street, said he and his companion watched the crane being installed. “As it went up it was tilting, skewed,” he said. “As the crane got higher it was bad. We figured, they’re engineers, they must have it figured out.”

The couple left for the day, then returned to hear sirens. “We said, ‘I bet that’s that crane,’ ” Mr. Lawrence said.

The crane, which is owned by Bay Crane, looked precarious as it leaned on the corner of the building. Curious neighbors came out to watch — one woman even brought a bowl of pretzels.

Susan Stevens, who lives at 100 John Street, said she was listening to the radio when she heard sirens. “I’d be nervous now if there was a crane near my building,” she said.

Mohammed Bacchus, a security guard at 80 Maiden Lane, said he saw the crane begin to lean, then gradually fall toward the building. “It took about half an hour,” he said. “Then it just gently grazed the building.”

While the latest episode appeared to have caused minimal damage, it jarred a city that experienced two fatal crane collapses over a two-month period, the first of which occurred almost exactly two years ago. In mid-March 2008, seven people were killed when a crane slammed into residential buildings on East 51st Street, destroying a town house. And two construction workers were killed in May 2008, when a crane fell at a construction site on East 91st Street.

On March 8, James F. Lomma, the owner of the New York Crane and Equipment Corporation, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter charges stemming from the latter collapse.

Mr. LiMandri said the crane that fell Saturday was a mobile one used for relatively small jobs, and it had been used during the day, lifting mechanical equipment and building supplies.

As for the effort to remove the crane, he said, “We’re going to work all night.”

Update From Spencer

Fspencer Letter(2)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What Obama’s New Health Care Bill Means For Us

Unless you have been living under a rock lately, you are well aware that our country is about to see some major changes to health care. Health care reform was a top priority of President Obama and it has been very apparent as he has been very determined to sign his reform bill into law.

To be frank, I haven’t been following the whole thing as closely as I would like. I feel like I still need to do some homework to get caught up on the details, but below I have pasted in a great article that explains what the Obama’s health care bill will mean for us – this year, next year, and in the years to come.

If you are unsure of the details, I recommend reading it. There really are a lot of changes that will likely be affecting every American. It isn’t one of those obscure bills that only affects a small handful of people.

So, as the details continue to unfold – which I am sure this whole health care reform thing is just beginning, I will continue to post helpful info about it. Enjoy!

On March 23, 2010 President Obama signed the health care reform bill into law. While there are still differences that need to be reconciled between the various versions of the healthcare bill here is the timeline for the health care reform changes and how Obama’s health plan (”ObamaCare”) and health care reform affects you and your health insurance:

New Health Care Bill: Changes Happening in 2010
  • Children age 26 and younger will be able to remain covered under their parents health insurance plans (this is increased from past age limits which were anywhere from age 22-25).
  • Medicare recipients will receive a $250 rebate to help in closing the “doughnut hole” (with the goal being to close the doughnut hole completely by 2020).
  • Health insurance companies will be banned from excluding coverage for pre-existing conditions for children.
  • Adults with pre-existing conditions will be eligible for coverage into high risk health insurance pools until future health care exchanges are up and running.
  • Health insurance companies will be prohibited from levying annual limits and lifetime limits on coverage.
  • All new health insurance plans must provide coverage for preventative services with no out of pocket cost (all health plans will be forced to comply by 2018).
  • Those companies that offer health benefits for early retirees ages 55 to 64 will receive assistance from a temporary reinsurance program.
  • All new health insurance plans will have to comply with new regulations that lay out an appeals process for when health insurance claims are denied.
  • Small businesses that employ less than 50 people are eligible for a tax credit equal to 35% of their health insurance premiums (this increases to 50% by 2014).
New Health Care Bill: Changes Happening in 2011
  • Medicare will offer wellness visits for free one a year and personalized prevention plans. All new Medicare plans will offer preventative services with no out of pocket cost.
  • Seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage or the Prescription Drug Plan will receive a 50% discount on brand name drugs immediately with additional prescription drug discounts to follow.
  • The current penalty tax of 10% on all distributions from a Health Savings Account before the age of 65 on nonqualified medical expenses will increase to 20%.
  • A small business alternative to a cafeteria plan will be presented so that small businesses can offer tax free benefits without having to deal with the administrative costs of a cafeteria plan.
  • Everyone earning more than $200,000 as an individual or $250,000 for those who file married filing jointly will have their Medicare payroll tax increased from the current 1.45% to 2.35%.
Health Care Bill: Changes Happening in 2013
  • A $2,500 annual cap will be placed on all contributions to flexible spending accounts (amount indexed for inflation each subsequent year).
  • The current tax deduction that employers receive for subsidizing the prescription drug costs of their employees who are eligible for Medicare Part D will be done away with.
  • A 2.9% excise tax on the sale of medical devices will be put into place. Certain common items like glasses, hearing aids, etc. are exempted from this tax.
  • The hospital insurance tax will increase .09% for those who earn more than $200,000 ($250,000 for those married filing jointly).
  • Additional requirements on health insurance companies to implement uniform standards for exchanging health care information, electronic communication, and other measures to reduce insurance company administrative costs.
  • The minimum threshold for being able to claim an itemized deduction for health care expenses increased from 7.5% to 10% of AGI although those over the age of 65 can stay at the 7.5% threshold through 2016.
Health Care Reform: Changes Happening in 2014
  • All US citizens will be forced to have health insurance coverage considered acceptable by the US Government or else pay a fine of $95 in 2014, $325 in 2015, $695 in 2016 (capped at 2.5% of AGI). All of the fines are per person per year except for families have a cap on the total fine of $2,250 and the fine amount for children is half of the adult fine.
  • Eligibility standards are implemented for newly formed health care exchanges.
  • Businesses with 50 or more employees will face a fine of either $2,000 or $3,000 per employee for not offering health insurance coverage.
  • Group health insurance plans have a maximum waiting period of 90 days.
  • Health insurance companies are prohibited from using an individual’s health status to issue a policy or renew a policy. All pre-existing conditions must be covered and higher health insurance rates cannot be levied because of health, gender, etc.
  • The eligibility standards for Medicaid will be changed to 133% of poverty for those who are not considered elderly.
  • New annual fees will be levied on all health insurance providers based on an insurance companies market share and whose total premiums exceed $25 million.
Health Care Reform Bill: Changes Happening in 2018
  • The “Cadillac” health insurance plan tax will kick in. An excise tax will be levied on all employer provided health insurance plans costing more than $27,500 for families and $10,200 for individuals (with increased limits for those considered to be in “high risk” professions).
What do you think about Obama’s health care reform? Is it good for you? Good for the country?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

This Will Not Stand

No one should be confused about the outcome of Sunday's vote in the House on the healthcare bill.

This is not the end of the fight. It is the beginning.

The fight will continue in the Senate where Democrats will now try to pass a reconciliation bill filled with "fixes" to the healthcare bill passed Sunday. Republicans are committed to holding the Democrats accountable for their vote and making sure they do not abuse the reconciliation process.

The fight will continue in the states where 38 of them have filed or are planning to file legislation that rebukes Obamacare's "individual mandate" that requires you to purchase insurance even if you would rather pay directly for medical care. In addition, Attorneys General from several states plan to file lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the healthcare bill's individual mandate.

And most importantly, the fight will continue at the ballot box for the millions of Americans who refuse to be ignored. In the end, it is only by repudiating those politicians who voted for the health bill in free and fair elections that we can repeal this bill and start over on common sense, market-oriented, patient-centered health reform.

Defying the Will of the American People

The American people spoke decisively against a big government, high-tax, Washington knows best, pro trial lawyer, centralized bureaucratic health system.

In every recent poll, the vast majority of Americans opposed this monstrosity.

Sixty-six percent of Americans think the bill will make things worse or make no difference for themselves and their families (Gallup).

Forty eight percent of Americans think the plan is a "bad idea." Only 36 percent think it is a "good idea" (NBC/Wall Street Journal).

Only 17 percent of Americans think the bill will cause healthcare costs to go down. Nearly double that think their costs would go up (Pew).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew the country was against the bill. That is why she kept her members trapped in Washington and forced a vote on Sunday.

She knew if she let the members go home their constituents would convince them to vote no.

Look at what happened with House Democrats Scott Murphy (N.Y.), John Boccieri (Ohio), and Brad Ellsworth (Ind.). The Center for Health Transformation commissioned surveys late last week specifically polling their constituents. We found deep and overwhelming opposition. In Rep. Boccieri's district, his constituents opposed the bill by a 61-33 margin. For Rep. Ellsworth, it was even worse: 63 to 30 opposed.

But all three congressmen ignored their constituents. All three chose Speaker Pelosi over their constituents.

What we saw Sunday night was a pressured, bought, intimidated vote worthy of Hugo Chavez but unworthy of the United States of America.

The Machine

The Obama-Pelosi-Reid machine has combined the radicalism of Saul Alinsky, the corruption of Springfield, Ill., and the machine power politics of Chicago.

It is hard to imagine how much pressure they brought to bear on Congressman Bart Stupak to get him to accept a cynical, phony and possibly unconstitutional executive order on abortion. The ruthlessness and inhumanity of the Obama-Pelosi-Reid machine was most clearly on display in their public humiliation of Stupak when he was forced to speak out against a Republican effort to add the very language Stupak authored preventing taxpayer funding of abortion.

Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings (who, while serving as a federal judge, was impeached and removed from the bench before being elected to the House) articulated the principles of this machine mentality on Sunday when he said, "There ain't no rules here, we're trying to accomplish something. . . .All this talk about rules. . . .When the deal goes down . . . we make 'em up as we go along."

It is hard for the American people to believe their leaders on the Left are this bad.

They are.

The American People Will Not Allow a Corrupt Machine to Dictate Their Future

On the floor Sunday night, Congressman John Boehner aptly summarized the consequences of voting for this bill:

"If we pass this bill, there will be no turning back. It will be the last straw for the American people. And in a democracy, you can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it. And if we defy the will of our fellow citizens and pass this bill, we are going to be held to account by those who have placed us in their trust."

2010 and 2012 will be among the most important elections in American history.

These elections will allow us to save America from a leftwing machine of unparalleled corruption, arrogance, and cynicism.

The American people will not allow a corrupt machine to dictate their future.

Together we will pledge to repeal this bill and start over on meaningful, effective, healthcare reform.

Together we will prove that this will not stand.

Your friend,

Newt Gingrich

Former Chief Crane Inspector Admits Taking Bribes for Lies

By John Eligon

A former chief crane inspector for New York City’s Department of Buildings pleaded guilty on Tuesday to taking bribes from a company in exchange for falsely certifying cranes that had not been inspected and issuing crane operator’s licenses to people who had not completed examinations.

The inspector, James Delayo, is to be sentenced on May 4 to two to six years in prison as part of the deal under which he pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree bribe receiving, the most serious charge he faced. The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. Mr. Delayo also agreed to file amended local, state and federal income tax returns for 2000 through 2008.

Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said in a statement, “The defendant’s willful disregard for the safety of this equipment and the skill of crane operators endangered the lives of Manhattan’s residents, visitors and construction workers.”

“This is another case where responsibility and safety were trumped by greed,” Mr. Vance added. “These crimes threaten the industry that built our great city, and this fraud hurts the honest business owners and employees who every day put safety above profit.”

Sitting before Justice Thomas A. Farber of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, Mr. Delayo, 61, a 26-year veteran of the Department of Buildings, read a statement saying he had accepted more than $10,000 in bribes from Michael Sackaris, the owner of Nu-Way Crane Service.

Mr. Delayo said he had accepted the bribes “to complete and file false inspection reports” with the Buildings Department “indicating cranes owned by Nu-Way had passed inspections when, in fact, the cranes had not been inspected, or I had only conducted perfunctory inspections of those cranes.”

On at least six occasions, Mr. Delayo said, he accepted Mr. Sackaris’s bribes to certify in documents filed with the department “that Nu-Way employees seeking crane operator licenses had passed their practical examinations.”

Mr. Delayo declined to comment after the hearing. But outside the courthouse, his lawyer, David M. Oddo, said his client was sorry for what he had done.

“By taking this plea, Mr. Delayo has taken responsibility for some of the unfortunate decisions he made as chief inspector,” Mr. Oddo said.

Mr. Delayo did not believe that his actions put people in danger, Mr. Oddo said, in part because he did visual inspections on some cranes and thought, based on his experience, that it was enough to tell that the cranes were in good shape. Some cranes that he did not properly inspect later passed inspections, Mr. Oddo said. He also noted that the bribes did not involve tower cranes, the type used for high-rise construction that was involved in fatal collapses in recent years.

But the charges against Mr. Delayo surfaced in the wake of two crane collapses that left nine people dead and opened a window onto what the authorities said was a lackadaisical and occasionally corrupt manner in which cranes and their operators were approved for work in the city.

Mr. Sackaris and Michael Pascalli, an operator at Nu-Way accused of receiving a license but not having taken the test, are also under indictment. Both appeared before Justice Farber on Tuesday, and their cases were put off until April 9 for disposition, indicating they, too, were probably working on plea agreements.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Local 157 & Local 608 Representatives Relocated to the District Council

From Starting in March, Local 157 and Local 608 representatives will be working together on a daily basis out of the NYC District Council offices to cohesively build our market share and protect the area standards that are set.  All shop stewards working in Local 157 and Local 608 jurisdictions will report to the Labor Technical College 2nd floor common room on Wednesday and Thursday mornings between 6 am and 8 am to drop off their shop steward reports.

Working together, these representatives will be rotated throughout Manhattan and the Bronx to protect our work.  Normal union business, including dues collection will continue to be carried out in Local Union offices.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Probe Set On Carpenter Union Losses

Brotherhood of carpenters investigation will examine Madoff scheme ramifications


ALBANY -- The $160 million that unionized carpenters in New York state lost to Bernard Madoff, and the way those losses were -- or weren't -- shared among the union's members, are the focus of hearings to be held at the end of the month in Albany.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America has scheduled hearings March 30 and 31 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in downtown Albany to look into the management of union pension, annuity and health funds by the Empire State Regional Council.

Upstate union members may have been "discriminated against" in allocating losses from the Madoff investments, wrote Douglas J. McCarron, general president of the UBC, in a 10-page letter to Patrick B. Morin, executive secretary-treasurer of the Empire State Regional Council.

Copies of the letter were sent to various union officials and all union members affiliated with the Empire Council. (see below)

In one case, the loss of a $6.4 million investment with Madoff made by the Empire Welfare Fund was allocated entirely to the former participants in the Upstate Health Fund, even though it had been folded into the Empire Fund and dissolved two years earlier, McCarron wrote.

Upstate members saw their fund accounts dwindle; in one case, a member's health account was wiped out, and he had to pay a monthly premium of $1,060 to keep his health insurance, McCarron wrote.

A trustee from the former upstate funds may have been illegally barred from board meetings when Madoff issues were being discussed. Madoff had admitted operating a massive Ponzi scheme that cost investors billions of dollars and is now in prison.

And while the Empire Council had agreed to provide information about the allocation of Madoff losses, McCarron wrote, much of it hadn't yet been provided.

Morin didn't return a call for comment.

Monte Byers, chief of staff for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, confirmed that the hearings are scheduled but declined to comment specifically about the allegations.

Union members' concerns about the health of their retirement and other funds were first described in a story Feb. 15, 2009, in the Times Union.

At that time, several members, including Charles Lezette and Rich Dorrough, said that Empire Council officials weren't sharing much information about the Madoff losses. They told them that their annuity fund was "temporarily on hold and we can't touch it," Dorrough recalled at the time.

Carpenters Local 370 in Albany has about 900 members in the Capital Region. Officials there declined to comment Friday afternoon and referred questions to Morin.

Scan Packet 02

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Final Hearing Committee Report

In an effort to hear our members concerns, the UBC conducted hearings in October 2009 at the Javits Center regarding the affairs and operation of the New York City District Council of Carpenters.

Recently, the UBC submitted the attached report which contains the findings of the Hearing Committee.
Hearing Committee Report

Atlantic Yards Ground-Breaking

Ready to dig in are Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner, Mayor Bloomberg, Gov. Paterson, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Jay-Z and Barclays president Robert R. Diamond
Ready to dig in are Forest City Ratner CEO Bruce Ratner, Mayor Bloomberg, Gov. Paterson, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Jay-Z and Barclays president Robert R. Diamond

Pomp overshadowed protest Thursday as ground was broken on the future home of Nets  - the centerpiece of the controversial Atlantic Yards project.

Marching bands and speeches from politicians and dignitaries drowned out demonstrators ringing what is to be called the Barclays Center, for the bank that bought the naming rights to the 18,000-seat sports arena.

"I can't believe I'm standing here today," said developer Bruce Ratner, whose six-year battle to build the project has been buffeted by the economic recession and resistance from businesses and Brooklynites being displaced.

"Today is a great day for Brooklyn," Ratner said.

A large white tent was erected on the site where Atlantic Ave. intersects with Flatbush Ave. to accommodate hundreds of supporters, who enjoy smoked salmon hors d'oeuvres - and Junior's Cheesecake.

"This really is such a huge win for the Nets. It's just a shame it doesn't count in the standings," Mayor Bloomberg told the crowd.

Organizers prepared 70 silver shovels for the event.

Bloomberg was joined by Ratner, Gov. Paterson, Barclays Bank President Robert Diamond, Borough President Marty Markowitz, Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Rev. Al Sharpton and rapper and Nets co-owner Jay-Z in breaking ground.

A protest outside the site drew about 200 foes of the project, who countered that the construction will doom Brooklyn.

"I hearby proclaim March 11, 2010, the destruction of Brooklyn's soul day," said a protester wearing a Markowitz mask.

One protester was arrested for disobeying a police order to stop pounding a drum.
Demonstrators briefly blocked traffic on Atlantic Ave. until cops dispersed them.

The new arena, set to open in 2012, is part of the $4.9 billion Atlantic Yards Project, which includes 16 residential and commercial towers.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Construction Unions Rally At WTC Site

Members of the city's construction unions spent their lunch break today rallying at the World Trade Center site – hoping to break the stalemate between developer Larry Silverstein and the Port Authority. (Video)

Thousands of carpenters, iron workers and laborers were joined by elected officials and local residents in an effort to demonstrate they are ready to build two more office towers at the site.

Construction is already underway on the centerpiece of the site, One World Trade Center, as well as a memorial and transit hub. But work on the other planned towers has stalled.

"Let me finish by once again pleading with our partners on this job to sit in a room, lock the doors, don't eat, don't drink and come up with a solution that will benefit everybody," said Lou Coletti of the Building Trades Employers' Association.

"It is a disgrace that nine years after this attack we are still looking at a hole in the ground," exclaimed City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. "That we are still fighting this fight."

"All of us have let you down. We've let this city down. And we've let our country down," said Congressman Joseph Crowley. "And we've left a hole in the ground to remain as a monument to those who would destroy our country."

It's not only the workers and elected officials who are frustrated by the lack of progress, but also Lower Manhattan residents. Julie Menin, the president of Community Board 1, was on hand for the rally. She issued a statement earlier today saying the site continues to be a "hole in the heart of the community."

Silverstein wants the Port Authority to finance at least two of the three towers.

An arbitration panel set a deadline for Friday for an end to the fight between the two. If no solution is reached by that time, the panel could impose a solution of its own or give both sides some more time to sort the situation out.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


The Local 608 presidential election of 2010 will be considered by most members as the greatest election upset in Local 608 history. Virtually every prediction indicated that incumbent Martin Devereaux would easily defeat Joseph Firth's Members Choice Slate.

“History was made at Tuesday's March 2, Special Election; at 395 Hudson Street when almost two thousand rank and file members voted and tossed out Martin Devereaux’s incumbent slate, Firth’s supporters said.

Devereaux, vice-president of Local 608, was named acting president on August 10, 2009 after it and 10 other locals were put under emergency supervision by the International following the Forde indictment.

On August 5, 2009 the feds charged District Council of Carpenters boss Michael Forde and nine others, including two mob associates, with taking bribes to let contractors cheat workers of wages and benefits.

Devereaux replaced Local 608 president John Greaney, who resigned the position and is one of the defendants in the Forde federal indictment.

In June 2008, Devereraux and Forde beat a the rap in a case charging they took bribes from a man linked to the DeCavalcante crime family, the mob that inspired the hit HBO series "The Sopranos."

The two were convicted in that case in 2004, but a Manhattan Supreme Court justice tossed the conviction because some jurors had read news accounts of the case.

The pair was acquitted after a second trial in June 10, 2008.

Firth supporters say he won the election by framing the issues on the heavy handed tactics used by UBC International Supervisor Frank Spencer.

Spencer was brought in by the International Brotherhood to supervise the district council in the wake of Forde's indictment.

Spencer made no secret of his support for Martin Devereaux, naming him business manager of Local 608 and firing Joe Firth as business representative for alleged violations of the job referral rules and trashing his reputation in a November 18, letter to 608 members.

Firth’s supporters re-acted with anger to Spencer’s letter and were very vocal at the regular schedule November 608 meeting, forcing Devereaux, in a letter to the membership, warning the members to “act professionally or Spencer will dissolve Local 608.”

This seemed to anger the many Firth supporters even more, the only ones who got on board with Spencer’s "threat to dissolve the local" was Devereaux and his Slate as they were continually heckled and shouted down at each meeting.

Firth and his slate turned the election against Devereaux into a struggle for union democracy, a cry for freedom and a greater voice in running local affairs without the heavy hand of Spencer and the UBC.

Firth still has some obstacles to deal with, he has allegedly been brought up an chargers and the trial board found him guilty with the recommendation of expulsion from the UBC.

Firth is appealing the decision, while the appeal is pending he remains in good standing and president of Local 608.

Also elected with Firth was business rep. John Daly, vice president,  Levi Messinetti and Mike Fitzgerald, trustees and twenty UBC Convention Delegates.