Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Carpenters nail motion to courthouse wall

Rank-and-file union members don’t want union heads to hammer out a contract with contractors until they have a chance to elect new leadership. Union heads fire back.

Carpenters are fighting for new union leadership

By Daniel Massey

Rank-and-file carpenters have filed a motion in federal court seeking to freeze contract negotiations between their union and several contractor associations, arguing that no deals should be made until they have a chance to elect new union officers later this year.

The carpenters want to extend their currents agreements, which expire at the end of June, for a year, to give their internal political process a chance to play out.

“Members are upset with contract negotiations because we’re totally shut out of the process,” said John Musumeci, a 25-year carpenter, author of a blog about the union and one of the members who filed the court papers. “One of the things we’re asking is to freeze everything until we have the election in December and then negotiate the contract next year.”

UBC Nomination and Election Procedure

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC), has made available the below booklet to help answer some of the most asked questions concerning eligibility, nominations and elections.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Order By Judge Berman

U.S.D.J. Judge Richard M. Berman, has issued an order on May 26, and concluded that the more transparency which can be provided to the membership with respect to each of the Benefit Funds, the better.

Accordingly, the Court would like to devote the first hour or so at the June 28, 2011 conference to a report on the status of the Funds,' including the following:

1. Brief description of each of the Funds' (a) purpose,e.g., health benefits, retirement, etc.; (b) current financial status; (c) individuals and/or firms which supervise and manage the Funds' affairs; (d) frequency of financial reporting; etc.;

2. Funds' results for the first quarter of  2011 and historical comparisons;

3. Known "threats to the continued vitality and integrity of the [F]unds" (Tr., dated Apr. 6,2011, at 21 :21-23);

4. What information, in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, would be useful in future Funds' written reports and statements, including, for example, income (including contributions), expenses (including payouts to participants and fees to professionals), comparisons to prior reporting periods, distribution by asset class of investments, return on investment for each class of assets in the Funds, and comparison of asset performance to prior reporting periods and to other relevant benchmarks; and

5. Publication of the Funds' reports on a publicly available website (e.g., Review Officer and/or the Court).

(see Court Order below)

Stop swinging at union hardhats: Construction workers' rep says they've done their part to cut costs

Union workers aren't to blame for the downturn in the construction business.
BY Gary Labarbera

New York City's long-term economic strength depends heavily on a vibrant construction sector. But the construction industry has been hit hard by the recession and its fallout. Jobs are down more than 20% since 2008, and new buildings are not rising as they were only a few years ago.

In recent weeks, observers have tried to pin the blame for this situation on union construction workers, cynically assuming the public would forget the risky financial and investment practices that actually caused the economic problems we're all facing.

A review of the facts shows how silly this attempt at distraction has been - revealing that the challenges most important to the future of the construction industry have been apparent since long before the recession.

From 2000-2008, construction spending in the city increased by a whopping 121%, according to data from the New York Building Congress. Yet during the same period, construction workers' average annual incomes increased by about 3.5% and construction jobs increased by less than 10%.

So where did this massive increase in spending go? It clearly didn't mostly go into workers' paychecks or job creation. And while contractors say they've been trying to cut costs, they don't offer independently verifiable data to substantiate the claims.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rank and File Carpenters Say Council Bylaws Are Unlawful

Rank and File members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC), have asked a federal judge to stay all proceedings, including the current bylaw review process, arguing that the "Draft Bylaws" put forth by the UBC, for the New York City District Council of Carpenters (Council), "effectuates an entirely new animal, that of the Council functioning as a Local Union," and for the purposes of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) is as a matter of law, unlawful.

The LMRDA (29 C.F.R. PART 451) defines a "labor organization" as one "in which employees participate and which exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours, or other terms or conditions of employment..."

By that standard, the proposed May 9, "bylaws" strip the Locals of all their traditional powers and functions and because the Council has taken on those functions, they argue, the Council, despite its name is in actulity functioning as a Local Union.

The pro se motion by John Musumeci (who runs a popular rank and file blog) and William T. Doherty out of Wilmington, MA, joined by several UBC members, was filed on Monday May 16, during a Court conference with Judge Berman of United States District Court in Manhattan.

The motion seeks among other things to have the Court:

  1. Review de-novo the decision and; order of the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Harrington v. Herman and Harrington I & and; II and the final decisions of the court which issued in Harrington v. Chao, 372 F. 3d. 52 on June 21, 2004 for clear errors of law and fact.
  2. Mandate direct Elections of all Local Business Agent, Business Representatives and Organizer positions as declared officer positions under the Local autonomy guaranteed by the NLRA (1935) and its subsequent amendments (Taft-Hartley 1947) and (LMRDA 1959).
  3. Mandate direct Elections of all Council Officer positions by Secret Ballot of the members as guaranteed by Federal Labor Law and the NLRA.
  4. Direct the UBC and the BTEA and Contractor Associations to immediately suspend any and all Contract Negotiations and extend the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and Contract in 12-month increments as allowed under NLRB Board Rules and precedent case-law.
  5. Require the UBC and Council to submit a formal legal brief defending their position(s) as to why the Court should not declare the Council a Local and require Direct Elections of all Officer Positions via secret ballot of the rank and file.
The motion was filed as a direct action against the proposed restructuring and new Council bylaws by the UBC and supplements the previously filed Bilello Motion on January 26, and the Bill Lebo submission filed on April 3.

Doherty and Musumeci say the proposed bylaws "violated the terms of a "consent decree" the Council signed in 1994 in response to a federal effort to "eliminate fraud, corruption and restore democratic rights." The proposed bylaws among other things eliminates and eviscerates the local autonomy which is guaranteed and granted to workers under federal law and tramples on union democracy.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

NYC construction costs rising again

Construction costs jumped as much as 2.68% last year and are on track to rise as much as 2.86% this quarter; labor rates in city projects account for up to 60% of building expenses.

By Marine Cole

Construction costs in New York City are rising again, following a recession-driven drop in 2009, according to a review of several surveys by the New York Building Congress.

Average construction costs rose between 0.54% and 2.68% in 2010, according to the Rider Levett Bucknall survey and the Engineering News-Record's Building Cost Index, respectively. Both surveys predict that costs will continue to increase in the first quarter of 2011, by 0.76%, and 2.86%, respectively.

“Costs are now creeping up again,” said Richard Anderson, president of the Building Congress. This is a reversal from a decrease in construction costs in 2009, which was explained mostly by the national recession and a steep drop in residential and commercial construction. Last year's cost increases, as well as those anticipated for the first quarter of 2011 are still far below those of 2007 and 2008, when costs soared at an annual rate of around 12%.

The Building Cost Index bases its numbers on New York City's prices for lumber the most common type of cement, the national price for structural steel and NYC union wages, plus fringes for carpenters, bricklayers and iron workers. The RLB survey also includes estimates of bid price changes, including overhead and profit.

Notice Of Elections

I received this post card yesterday about the June 22nd election. This is interesting, the raising of the dues on retirees from $60.15 to $70.00 was never even discussed at a local meeting, why was this decision made now?

Cipriani's Rally Photos

Union Rank-and-File Organized Rally to Protest the BTEA

The BTEA represents the big bosses of New York City's building industry; the Building Construction Trades Council proclaims it "represents the interests of the unionized construction industry." Neither represent workers directly. Our rally is being organized by rank-and-file for the rank-and-file.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Message to All Members of Affiliated Local Unions of the District Council

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (“UBC”) has submitted a letter to Judge Richard M. Berman announcing a restructuring plan which will recast the New York City District Council of Carpenters (the “District Council”). The letter of Kenneth Conboy on behalf of the UBC is posted on the District Council website.

I urge all members to read and consider the contents of the letter. For the next two weeks, through June 10, 2011, all members may submit written comments to me about the UBC’s plans.

To comment, simply send me an email or letter containing what you want to say. In addition to general comments, I recommend that you cite specific sections when applicable. You must identify yourself and provide some contact information. Please clearly specify if you would like to have your comments kept confidential.

Review Officer
Dennis M. Walsh

(John's note: For your convenience click continue reading to view Conboy's letter and the Restructuring Plan) 

UBC Letter To Judge Berman

The below letter to Judge Berman from UBC counsel Kenneth Conboy dated May 26th, addresses the revised District Council Bylaws, The Restructuring Plan for the Locals, an update on our Benefit Funds and an update on Collective Bargaining.

Feds OK union display of giant rats

WASHINGTON – Federal regulators say union activists have the legal right to display giant inflatable rats outside companies during labor disputes.

The National Labor Relations Board says putting up a 16-foot-tall rat balloon is allowed even if the business is not directly involved in the conflict between the union and another employer.

The Carpenters union and other labor groups often use the giant rat as a form of street theater. The goal is to shame companies that hire outside contractors who refuse to use union workers or pay union-scale wages.

The case was closely watched by business groups who claim the giant rat is too coercive and confrontational. But the labor board says the rats are a form of symbolic speech that don't interfere with business activity.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Buildings Department Braces For 'Sabotage' In Labor Standoff

By Jon Lentz

The city Buildings Department is bracing for turmoil at construction sites when dozens of collective bargaining agreements expire at the end of next month, Commissioner Robert LiMandri told a City Hall breakfast yesterday.

He said his department will be on high alert as the June 30 deadline nears, and is planning how to navigate picket lines and deal with deliberate destruction by disgruntled workers.

“That’s certainly planning for the worst, and if that happens we’ll have to do that,” said LiMandri, who noted his department has a strong relationship with the city’s district attorneys. “Sabotage is certainly, I’m sure, at the top of every construction manager’s mind, but make no mistake about it: this city is not going to tolerate that kind of behavior.” '

The commissioner’s candid assessment came at a discussion hosted by Baruch College’s Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute and sponsored by the law firm Greenberg Traurig, during which he talked about the department’s challenges and successes since he took over in 2008.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Audio of Review Officer Forum of Monday, May 23, 2011

Review Officer Dennis Walsh
By Joesph

Audio in MP3 format of the entire "Review Officer, (RO) Forum" held Monday, May 23, 2011 from 4:30pm to 7:00pm at 395 Hudson Street on the second floor in the meeting space of the school.

By Daniel J. Franco: For your convenience, scroll and hit play or right click then select "save as" or "save link as" the following links to directly download the recordings - ROMAC 2011-04-27; RO Forum 2011-05-23.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Random Thoughts

Random thoughts on the passing scene:

On March 21st, Brother Mike Bilello was elected President pro tem for the "meeting only" and appointed Brother Gerry Gausman Vice President pro tem. Gausman immediately became President on April 12th, when former Local 157 President Lawrence D'Errico was vetoed from office. Bilello is now running against Gausman, the man he selected as the best qualified person to lead Local 157.

Brother Patrick Brennan, at the March 21st, and April 18th, meetings highly praised President pro tem Mike Bilello, stating, "Bilello is the most qualified person to lead Local 157." Brennan has now flip-flopped and is running against Bilello, on Gausman's Carpenters for Solidarity Slate.

On April 18th, President pro tem Gerry Gausman, without explanation violated the UBC Constitution by failing to preside over the April meeting. He then agreed with and participated with Mike Bilello in a scheme to defraud the membership by holding unconstitutional nominations for President pro tem, (which Bilello was elected). The two then continued to run a hoax of a meeting for over three hours, whereby both he and Bilello tell the membership that after the meeting, "no one is in charge" of Local 157.

Gausman who is running for President, says on his campaign website that he "plans on working for the members and having their best interest at heart." Gausman violated the member’s best interest when he failed to preside and open the April meeting and went along with Mike Bilello to defraud the membership by holding unconstitutional nominations for President pro tem. If Gausman cannot stand up and defend his own rights, how can he possibly defend the rights of the membership?

When questioned by the membership at the April meeting why "no one is in charge" of the Local, unconstitutionally elected President pro tem Mike Bilello incorrectly stated, that there is "a lot of gray area in the UBC Constitution" regarding how positions are filled (see GP McCarron letter for a clear explanation). Bilello who obviously believes the words of the UBC Constitution have no meaning has defrauded the membership and has demonstrated that he is incapable and he simply does not qualify in any way, shape or form to run a simple union meeting, let alone run the District Council. This fact alone should disqualify him from seeking elected office.

At the Local 157 meeting for nominations, the incumbent elected Executive Committee made the unprecedented decision not to seek reelection.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Winner: Dorrough Declare Constitutional Expert

On April 18th I posted a contest in the forum posing four questions seeking clarification regarding constitutional matters involving officers of a Local Union.

Having received an official answer from UBC General President Douglas J. McCarron, I can now declare Brother Richard Dorrough the official winner. Brother Dorrough's answers to the constitutional questions closely match General President McCarron's answers.

Brother Dorrough is therefore awarded the title of "UBC Constitutional Expert." Congratulations Richard.

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Condé Nast NYC HQ Will Be High-Tech, Green and Ultrasafe

By Sam Gustin

One World Trade Center, slated to become the new headquarters of Condé Nast, publisher of Vogue, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, GQ and Wired, will be one of the most technologically sophisticated buildings in the world, officials say.

On Wednesday, the company informed employees that it is close to reaching a deal with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to lease 1 million square feet of space inside One World Trade Center, the 1,776-foot-high skyscraper being built adjacent to ground zero, the site of the 9/11 attacks. Condé Nast will pay an estimated $2 billion over 25 years to become the anchor tenant of the building, which will become New York’s tallest upon completion.

“Through unprecedented collaborations with technology and energy leaders throughout the world, One World Trade Center’s design team used the latest methods to maximize efficiency, minimize waste and pollution, conserve water, improve air quality and reduce the impacts of the development,” according to the Port Authority.

The news was greeted with a broadly positive response. (It’s not every day that you see such diverse — and tough — critics as the New York Post’s Steve Cuozzo and Reuters’ Felix Salmon so roundly upbeat about a city development.)

The truth is, Condé Nast’s decision move its headquarters — and 5,000 employees — downtown, is an immense boost for lower Manhattan, and a crucial vote of confidence that will likely spur other companies to relocate there, as well. The New York Times first reported news of Condé’s imminent pact, which had been brewing for several months.

Take Back Our Union

View Map and Directions>>>
Please Come Support the “Workers’ Rights Slate” as they run for the Executive Board in Local 157.

When: Thursday, May 26, 2011 4pm-?
Where: Jack Dempsey’s (33rd Street Between 5th and 6th Ave)


Workers’ Rights Slate
President- Patrick Nee
Vice President- Thomas McGonnigle
Recording Secretary-Levi Messinetti
Financial Secretary- Peter Corrigan
Treasurer- Matt Seabury
Conductor- John “Terror” Carty
Warden- Johnny “Cigars” DeFalco
Trustee- Mariano Arocho
Trustee- Gaunlett Holness
Trustee- Kevin Corrigan

Thursday, May 19, 2011

NYC construction jobs hit 13-year low

Nearly 35,000 jobs shed since peak in late 2008 amid slump in residential and commercial projects; higher education, hospitals and public projects are only ones holding up.

By Marine Cole

Employment in New York City's construction industry slumped to its lowest in nearly 13 years amid the ongoing drought of residential and commercial projects.

The number of jobs in construction fell to 101,200 in the first quarter of 2011, according to a New York Building Congress analysis of New York State Department of Labor employment statistics released Thursday. That is down nearly 26% from the recent peak of 136,000 jobs in the third quarter of 2008. The most recent figure is the lowest recorded since the second quarter of 1998, when employment stood at 99,000.

“The main reason for the decrease is the precipitous drop in private-sector activity, including residential and commercial,” said Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress. “The only bright spot is institutional work led by higher education and hospitals. That work is continuing.” He added that there’s still significant public-sector work, too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Elevator Plunges In Manhattan

MYFOXNY.COM - 22 people were hurt when an elevator plunged from the fourth floor to the basement in a Manhattan building.

The FDNY was called to a five-story building at 620 6th Ave. in the Flatiron section just after 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

24 carpenters working in the building were taking a freight elevator up in a building that houses a TJ Maxx and Bed, Bath and Beyond stores. It suddenly plunged all the way to the bottom of the shaft.

Rescue personnel were able to quickly get everyone out of the elevator. 10 of the injuries are called minor. At least nine of the injuries are being called more serious. Several of the workers suffered neck and back injuries and were strapped to boards as a precaution.

The injured were transported to Beth Israel and Bellevue Hospitals.

The building where the accident happened is a historic structure, built in the late 1890s as the Siegel Cooper Dry Goods Store. It was turned into a commercial building in the 1990s after being used as a warehouse for decades.

City inspectors are investigating what went wrong.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Career Opportunity: Council Representatives – Dockbuilders

The New York City District Council of Carpenters is seeking to hire Council Representatives from the Dockbuilder’s Local.   The selected candidates will have had direct and substantial experience in the jurisdiction and work of the Dockbuilders and be knowledgeable about 1456’s main CBA.

To be considered, candidates must be members in good standing and must be members of the Dockbuilders Union since at least May 1, 2001.  Successful candidates will have strong working knowledge of the trade, including the Collective Bargaining Agreement, job site safety, and the grievance filing process.  Candidates must demonstrate that they have worked substantial hours during their tenure.

Letter From Supervisor Spencer

Click to enlarge.

Former carpenters' union boss pleads guilty to taking kickbacks

Robert Snell / / The Detroit News

Detroit— The former head of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to accepting kickbacks from a casino consultant and a Chicago businessman who donated $10,000 to ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's nonprofit foundation.

The former union official, Walter Ralph Mabry, reached a plea deal with prosecutors that could send him to prison for 21 months.

But defense lawyer Arthur Weiss argued Mabry should spend no more than six months in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 16 by U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow.

"We will pursue corruption whether it occurs in City Hall, public schools, federal agencies or labor unions," U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a statement. "When labor leaders abuse their positions for personal gain, they rob the working men and women they were entrusted to represent."

Union Rank-and-File Organized Rally to Protest the BTEA

Time: Tuesday, May 24 - 5:00pm - 8:00pm

Location: BTEA Leadership Dinner, Cipriani Wall Street
55 Wall Street (Between William St. and Hanover St.)

On December 29, 2010, Louis J. Coletti, President of the Building Trades Employers' Association sent a letter to Gary LaBarbera, President of the Building Construction Trades Council, referring to the 30 collective bargaining agreements to be re-negotiated on June 30, 2011. This document, "Roadmap to Recovery," presents the BTEA's "Framework for Reducing Union Costs," a 26 point list of demands calling for 20% reductions in the... wage/benefit package, and other unprecedented concessions.

McCarron Letter Regarding Constitutional Matters

On April 19, I posted a topic in the forum "ATTENTION ALL CONSTITUTIONAL & PARLIAMENTARY EXPERTS" asking you to answer four questions. Below is the official answer to the constitutional questions from UBC General President Douglas McCarron.

(John's note: What happened at the April 18 union meeting was a travesty which trampled on the rights of all union members. Mike Bilello and Gerry Gausman, (both running for President of Local 157) have acted in a way that has inspired a significant no confidence vote against them. Everyone that participated in this hoax of a union meeting in April should be brought up on charges for violating the UBC Constitution and members rights.) 

Tensions Rise Among NYC Union Carpenters

Rally For Solidarity Members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters gathered to protest proposed changes to wages and mobility rules.
ENR New York

New York City union carpenters' rank and file members rallied at union headquarters in Manhattan on April 12, protesting proposed changes to wages and mobility rules and calling for reform of council leadership. The “Rally for Solidarity” came as heated bargaining continues between local unions and contractor groups.

John Musumeci, Local 157, likened the conflict to the union battle in Wisconsin earlier this year. “We are in that same fight, only our fight is not with the governor; our fight is with [United Brotherhood of Carpenters'] General President Douglas McCarron and his sock puppet [New York City District Council of Carpenters Supervisor] Frank Spencer,” he told protesters.

Musumeci accused McCarron of “cozying up to” contractors. He also called for reform of union bylaws to “empower membership.”

The carpenters union is still reeling following a series of federal investigations into alleged wrongdoings by past council leaders. The alleged infractions included fraud, kickbacks, illegal drug use and credit card abuse. U.S. attorneys appointed Spencer as emergency supervisor in 2009.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Independent Slate

Click to enlarge and print.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lebo on Transparency and Council Bylaws

I have read through the draft of the proposed bylaws that the UBChas submitted to you. I thank you for this opportunity to comment on said proposal. My first reaction to these bylaws was one of disbelief and anger. I realized after reading them that there was a distinct lack of the protections, discussed by the UBC’s attorney Kenneth Conboy, at the April 6, 2011 status conference with Judge Berman. There was absolutely none of the transparency also discussed. I would have thought Judge Berman was quite clear that he considered “openess”, or in other words, transparency, to be a virtue. I’m sure, you also feel,that transparency is also key to an open, honest, and corruption free NYCDCC, as do I.

Ex-Michigan union leader accused of receiving kickbacks

Robert Snell / / The Detroit News

Detroit— The former head of the Michigan Council of Carpenters was accused today in federal court of accepting kickbacks from a casino consultant and a Chicago businessman who donated $10,000 to ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's nonprofit foundation.

The former union official, Walter Ralph Mabry, was charged with fraud in connection with kickbacks he received from April 2004 through September 2006. They were paid by casino consultant Joseph "Roxy" Jewett and John Orecchio, a Chicago businessman, according to federal records.

The charge, punishable by up to three years in prison, comes one week after Mabry, 65, was freed from federal prison after serving a sentence for receiving illegally discounted work on his Grosse Pointe Park home.

New York real estate board calls for national certification

Cranes Today

REBNY, the Real Estate Board of New York, has launched a campaign to change the city's approach to crane operator licensing, citing safety and cost concerns.

Crane operator and mechanic licensing in New York City is currently run, for most crane types, through a scheme run by the NYC Department of Buildings. The licensing programme hit the headlines last year after former acting chief inspector of cranes James Delayo admitted taking bribes to license operators who hadn't passed exams.

The lifting trade in New York City is dominated by two union branches, IUOE Local 14, representing operators, and IUOE Local 15, representing mechanics, among others. Both union locals have been investigated for organised crime links. In 2003, federal indictments charged 42 people with racketeering, in connection with Colombo and Genovese organised crime family control of the two locals. In July 2008, IUOE Local 14 settled civil racketeering claims by agreeing to allow the courts to appoint an ethical practices attorney and hearing officer, and by agreeing to changes to its membership polices. Both Locals have since been reformed. However, the licensing scheme, and the control it gives them over New York's construction trade, remains a source of concern for many.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Connecticut carpenters and contractors agree to new contract

By Rob Varnon

A labor dispute that idled some construction sites last week has ended as Connecticut carpenters are expected to vote on a new contract Thursday.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, locals 24, 210 and 43 returned to work Monday as a good faith gesture while talks between their union and a statewide contractors' association, the Connecticut Construction Industries Association, resumed after a weeklong work stoppage.

"Everything is back to normal. Peace and cooperation reign," said Mark Erlich, executive secretary-treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, after negotiations concluded Monday.

Erlich said the work stoppage came about in a "strange" way.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Message to All Members of Affiliated Local Unions of the District Council

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America has submitted to me for review a set of draft bylaws proposed for use by the New York City District Council of Carpenters (the “District Council”). The draft bylaws are posted on the District Council website.

I urge all members to read and consider these draft bylaws. For the next thirty days, through June 9, 2011, all members may submit written comments to me about the draft bylaws.

To comment on the draft bylaws, simply send me an email or letter containing what you want to say. In addition to general comments, I recommend that you cite specific sections when applicable. You must identify yourself and provide some contact information. Please clearly specify if you would like to have your comments kept confidential.

Review Officer
Dennis M. Walsh

(John's Note: I posted the bylaws in the forum section of the blog for your comments.)

New Push for Union Wages

Lawmakers, Industry Warm to Construction Issue That Has Long Been Resisted


Facing pressure from organized labor, key legislators and real-estate executives are signaling a new openness to an idea they have long resisted: a law requiring union wages for construction of city apartment buildings.

Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the state Assembly that would mandate significantly higher wages for workers building certain new apartment buildings that use a popular tax break. The requirement, which would drive up costs for hundreds of new apartments every year, has long been advocated by unions but successfully blocked amid resistance from the real-estate industry and the Bloomberg administration.

But now it's showing signs of traction as the real-estate industry grapples with a complex mosaic of political and financial issues in New York and Albany, and some union officials are hoping real-estate executives will concede on the wage policy while they seek to gain ground on other priorities.

Among the issues dominating discussions are laws regarding rent regulation, which sunset June 15; a push by developers to cap taxes on certain rental buildings; and a press by landlords to reverse a court ruling that lowered rents in some older apartments. The Albany legislative session ends next month.

Meanwhile, in New York, the bulk of construction-union contracts expire by the end of June, and real-estate executives are negotiating for concessions on wages and work rules in an attempt to bring down construction costs.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Crane workers collect up to $400K a year each for dozens of phantom jobs at Ground Zero site

Construction workers at Ground Zero are costing millions in unnecessary expenses.

It's a pretty sweet gig if you're guaranteed $400,000 a year for hanging around and doing no work - and it's a flaming outrage if you're getting fat like that on the backs of the taxpayers.

Which is what some members of Locals 14 and 15 of the operating engineers are spectacularly doing on large construction sites across the city. Boiled down to the essence, a typical clause of their contracts reads:

Show up. Punch in. Walk around. Punch out. Collect 400Gs, plus a generous pension, plus an even more generous retirement annuity.

The operating engineers have jurisdiction over the heavy machinery that moves material on big projects. The multibillion-dollar reconstruction at Ground Zero is their biggest job today - and their biggest ripoff.

The Port Authority will spend $100 million over the course of three years paying through the nose for these no-work sinecures and other featherbedded positions, according to an analysis by the Real Estate Board of New York.

No-work and all pay at Ground Zero as rebuilding costs up $96 million under lax union rules

In the next three years, no-work jobs could add $96.2 million to the cost of the many World Trade Center rebuilding projects
BY Brian Kates

No-work jobs in a mob-linked union could add nearly $100 million to the public cost of rebuilding Ground Zero, a new report charges.

The Real Estate Board of New York, a major developers' group, says antiquated rules let a cadre of crane and heavy equipment workers pocket six-figure paychecks for little more than showing up.

In the next three years the no-work jobs, controlled by Locals 14 and 15 of the Operating Engineers, could add $96.2 million to the cost of World Trade Center projects, the REBNY says.

The projects include the Freedom Tower, the transit hub, the 9/11 Memorial and surrounding street work.

Contractor and union sources confirmed that the eight tower cranes at the WTC site guarantee a bonanza for Local 14 operating engineers and the Local 15 specialists who fix them.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

REBNY working on Manhattan interior-construction PLA

by Daniel Geiger

The Real Estate Board of New York is in preliminary negotiations with the city’s most powerful labor council to explore wage cuts and other concessions that would reduce the expense of interior-construction work for REBNY members.

The talks would impact a number of unions involved in the building trades that handle interior construction including plumbers, painters, electricians, and carpenters, and are aimed at boosting the competitiveness of union labor as the industry has continued to struggle in the wake of the recession and lose market share to cheaper non-union workers.

“It’s about figuring out how to bring down costs,” said Steven Spinola, president of REBNY, a real estate industry association whose membership includes the city’s largest commercial landlords. “The private sector needs to bring down costs to keep our partners in organized labor working. If there are cost savings, more money can be invested in construction and more work can be created for the unions so we all benefit.”

Subcontractors Charged in Scheme

Six subcontractors and their owners were charged Thursday with allegedly participating in a scheme that overcharged business clients for interior construction projects.

The indictments on grand larceny charges were the second part of a case that was uncovered as part of a widening Manhattan District Attorney probe into fraud and corruption in the construction industry, prosecutors said.

On Wednesday, Lehr Construction Corp. and four of its top executives pleaded not guilty to hatching and executing a billing model that overcharged clients for work by secretly agreeing with subcontractors it hired to inflate their costs in return for guarantees of future contracts with Lehr.

The scheme allegedly resulted in $30 million being siphoned over 12 years from clients that include investment banks, law firms and the Economist Magazine, prosecutors said.

Six of the subcontracting firms and their owners were arraigned in State Supreme Court Thursday. The owners of the companies pleaded not guilty to grand larceny and were each released on $50,000 bail.


All members of constituent local unions of the District Council, as well as employees of the District Council, Benefit Funds and local unions are invited to attend the next Review Officer Forum at 395 Hudson Street. I will speak as well as answer questions and hear from those in attendance who wish to share their thoughts on matters relating to the District Council, the Consent Decree and the Stipulation and Order.

The forum will be in the meeting space of the school on the second floor from 4:30 to 7:00 p.m. Please have your current union or employee identification cards ready for presentation at the door to gain admission.

Dennis M. Walsh
Review Officer

Audio: Review Officer Member Advisory Committee (“ROMAC”)

Review Officer Dennis Walsh
By Joesph

Review Officer Member Advisory Committee (“ROMAC”). The first meeting of the committee was held on Wednesday, April 27, 2011, at 4:00 PM., in the large meeting room on the 10th floor at 395 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014. This is the Total 2H 47m 54S Audio of the Meeting.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Paul Ryan: Secret Union Lover?

By Suzy Khimm

The GOP lawmaker's generally anti-union track record has one outlier: a pro-labor law that affects his family's construction company.

Republican golden boy Paul Ryan is hardly known for his sympathies to organized labor. With his drastic budget proposal to privatize Medicare and unabashed support for Governor Scott Walker's anti-union bill, the Wisconsin congressman has become the new face of the GOP's right flank.

But a closer look at Ryan's voting record reveals a single eyebrow-raising exception when it comes to labor unions: Ryan has consistently broken with his party to defend a law protecting the wages of unionized construction workers. His stance on the issue has earned him the support of a handful of unions back home, setting them apart from the majority of Wisconsin's labor community, which who has cast Ryan as public enemy No. 1. What explains this break in GOP orthodoxy? Ryan's family owns a construction firm that relies heavily on union labor—and the company could suffer if the law were repealed.

Since he was first elected to Congress in 1998, Ryan has been a staunch supporter of the Davis-Bacon Act, which prevents federally funded construction projects from undercutting the prevailing union wages in any local area. Republicans have been pushing to repeal Davis-Bacon for years, claiming that it benefits unions at the expense of taxpayers. In a handful of states, GOP lawmakers have already succeeded in overturning state versions of the law. But as recently as February, Ryan joined 47 other Republicans and 185 Democrats to oppose overturning Davis-Bacon, defeating the repeal bill.

Ryan's support for Davis-Bacon is an outlier in the lawmaker's predominantly anti-union record. As Walker tried to push through a bill that eliminates most union rights for public employees, drawing thousands of protestors to the Capitol in Madison, Ryan famously compared the protesters to the anti-government uprising in Cairo and likened the anti-Walker demonstrations to "riots." He opposes the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for unions to organize, and received only a 20 percent rating from the AFL-CIO in 2008. But for a few local unions in Wisconsin's 1st Congressional District, Ryan's support for Davis-Bacon has been enough to win their support—along with tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

Painters union comes to agreement on work rule changes and wages

By Daniel Geiger

The city’s biggest painters union has reached an agreement with the contractors that employ its members to cut labor costs and make their services more competitive against encroaching non-union labor at a time when the construction business has dramatically slowed down.

The Association of Master Painters of New York, a trade group that represents commercial painting contractors, and District Council No. 9, the painters union, reached a deal on Wednesday for a new four-year labor contract that included modest increases in total compensation while instituting more flexible work rules that contractors said would yield savings. The agreement also included steep wage cuts for residential projects outside of Manhattan, in what appears to be a bold move by union contractors to win back a segment of the construction market ceded to non-union labor.

“We agreed to a modest wage increase over the four years, but we saved money overall,” said Peter Cafiero, owner of the painting contractor Island Painting and one of the chief negotiators in the deal the contractors struck with the union.

Union painters earn roughly $60 an hour, a compensation package that includes wages and employer healthcare and pension contributions. In the deal, contractors agreed to modestly increase that compensation to $65 after four years, an annual growth rate of just under 2%. Cafiero said that the contractors received concessions in return. The painters union agreed to work for $22 an hour in total compensation on residential jobs in the boroughs and work rule changes that will reduce overtime costs by at least 20 percent.


The Association of Master Painters & Decorators of NY and the Painters D.C. #9 have reached a 4 year contract agreement. Below are some of the key details included in the agreement:

Contract Duration: May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2015

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Four Construction Executives Are Charged With Fraud


Four veteran construction executives and their company have been charged with systemically stealing tens of millions of dollars from investment firms, insurance companies and law firms as they built corporate offices in buildings across Manhattan.

The four men, who worked at Lehr Construction Corporation, routinely inflated the cost of mechanical, electrical and other subcontractor costs by 10 percent to 13 percent on office projects, according to an indictment unsealed Wednesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office raided Lehr’s offices 14 months ago, seizing records, hard drives and a “black book” that they said provided a detailed accounting of the scheme. Prosecutors said the company, which also was indicted, and the senior executives — Jeffrey Lazar, Todd Phillips, Steven Halper and Steven Wasserman — stole at least $30 million from 1998 to December 2010. The men were to be arraigned midday.

Two scaffolding honchos hit with tax fib charges


Two owners of Regional Scaffolding -- a company that has made tens of millions of dollars off state and city contracts, including at the now-demolished Deutsche Bank building -- were charged today in Manhattan with filing a false 2007 tax return.

According to the complaint against them, Paul Mazzucca, 39, and Lawrence Blinn, Jr., 47, under-reported the company's income and fudged paperwork to cover for paying workers less than union wages and failing to withhold the appropriate taxes.

They face anywhere from probation up to four years prison if convicted of a single count each of first degree offering a false instrument for filing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Carpenter big Michael Forde must pay $5.7M after pleading guilty to racketeering last year

BY Brian Kates

Michael Forde is serving an 11-year sentence in a West Virginia prison.

A federal judge has ordered former city carpenters union boss Michael Forde to pay more than $5.7 million in restitution for ripping off his members and their benefit funds.

Judge Victor Marrero's order comes on top of $600,000 Forde must repay the District Council of Carpenters for legal fees and unauthorized charges.

Forde, who pleaded guilty to racketeering charges last year, is serving an 11-year sentence in a West Virginia prison.

The judge ordered him to cough up 25% of his gross monthly income until the debt is paid.

District Council Supervisor Frank Spencer praised the order but conceded that "the council and benefit funds will never fully be repaid."

News Release: Restitution Order Statement By Frank Spencer

May 2, 2011

Kristofer Eisenla, 202-518-6484


NEW YORK – Frank Spencer, Supervisor, New York City District Council of Carpenters, released the below statement in response to the Court’s Restitution Order regarding Michael Forde, John Greaney and Brian Hayes, which was ordered by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on April 19, 2011.

“I am pleased that the Court has ordered restitution to be paid to the New York City District Council as a result of criminal acts of Michael Forde, John Greaney and Brian Hayes. This judgment is a victory for the hardworking men and women of our union.

“The District Council and the Benefit Funds are to be reimbursed a total of nearly $6 million. While this amount represents an increase in the originally proposed amount, we continued to urge the U.S. Assistant Attorney to seek more funds. Michael Forde is required to repay our Union over $600 thousand that was spent on legal fees and unauthorized charges. While the Council and Benefit Funds will never fully be repaid, the order requires Michael Forde to reimburse the Union and the Benefit Funds 25 percent of any income he receives until the judgment is paid off.

“Our members will now begin to be reimbursed for the corruption and abuse of authority by former leaders and members. We will continue to ensure that our Union – and our members – is not abused in the future. We are committed to holding anyone accountable who engages in these abusive and corrupt actions.”

“The leadership of the New York City District Council of Carpenters is rebuilding our Union to be stronger than ever by ensuring openness, transparency and accountability throughout the organization.”

(John's Note: "We don't anticipate that we'll be able to collect but a small fraction of that."-- Benefit Fund Counsel, Raymond McGuire April 6, 2001 (referring to the restitution order against Forde))

Monday, May 2, 2011

Painters' Deal Could Ease Construction Feud

A new contract between a union and an industry group could pave the way for other deals as builders try to cut labor costs.

By Daniel Massey

A union representing 4,000 painters in the New York area reached a four-year contract agreement late last week with an industry association that could set a precedent for some 30 other building trades contracts set to expire by the end of June.

The deal, between DC9 International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and the Association of Master Painters and Decorators of New York, was ratified Thursday by union members just before their previous contract expired Saturday.

While workers and employers both gave ground, representatives from each side said it was a deal they could live with. As recently as last Wednesday afternoon, painters were talking of a potential strike, but the contract, overwhelmingly ratified Thursday night, could set a pattern for the other construction contracts that still need to be worked out.

Carpenters union goes on strike

Carpenters Dave Coyer of Uncasville, left, Mike Mileski of Jewett City and Chris Davis of Lisbon picket Monday outside the Intermodel Transportation Center construction site in downtown Norwich.


Norwich, Conn. —Three carpenters union locals went on strike Monday, including at sites in Norwich, seeking greater health care benefits, according to picketers.

Members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America were walking picket lines at a transportation center being built on Norwich’s waterfront as well as at Norwich Free Academy, where a $7.7 million atrium is being constructed. The groups on strike are New London-based Local 24, Hartford-based Local 43, and Fairfield-based Local 210.

A one-year contract recently expired and carpenters are hoping to sign a three-year pact that boosts health benefits, said Ted Szarzynski, a Lisbon resident who is Local 24’s shop steward.

The union is negotiating with an association of contractors, picketers said Monday.

“We took a one-year contract last time because the economy was so bad,” Szarzynski said. “This time we’d like a greater commitment.”

The $22 million transit project is not being delayed because of the walkout, said Bob Mills, executive director of Norwich Community Development Corp., which is overseeing construction. Crews were at work Monday morning although strikers said some steel workers and crane personnel were “honoring” the strike.

“They (the carpenters) are not very active on the site right now,” Mills said. “We expect no delay.”

Carpenters are hoping the strike ends soon.

“Nobody can afford this,” Mike Mileski of Jewett City said while walking the line in front of the transit center.

No Wage Cuts

Local 45 Carpenter Demian Schroeder and Local 157 Bob Makowski protesting BTEA call for a 20% Wage Cut.
If anyone is available to attend a demonstration against the BTEA tomorrow morning, or is interested in future organizing efforts of this nature, please contact Demian by e-mail at rally524@yahoo.com

New York's Ground Zero: Crowds, Chaos and Some Closure

By: Kayla Webley

There was perhaps no place more fitting to go than the place where it all began. As President Obama wrapped up his remarks, confirming the death of public enemy No.1, Osama bin Laden, a few people started to gather at New York's Ground Zero. They kept coming. By the time a man shimmied up a light post around midnight and sprayed bottles of champagne over the crowd, several hundred people had gathered.

The word for the night was 'closure.' It sprung from almost every persons' lips who came to the hallowed ground of the World Trade Center to mark an end of sorts to our nation's most painful open wound. While capturing bin Laden won't likely change much of the operations of al-Qaeda, tonight that didn't matter. What mattered was the people who gathered to celebrate the conquering of the person who killed many of this city's loved ones.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Construction Labor Costs in New York City: A Moment of Opportunity

Today Regional Plan Association issued a report analyzing the structure and costs of unionized construction in New York. Open shops (union and nonunion) have grown from just 15 percent of the market in the 1970s to about 40 percent now--and are 20-30 percent less expensive than union shops. The report, researched and written by Julia Vitullo-Martin and Hope Cohen of RPA's Center for Urban Innovation, recommends elimination of wasteful work rules and practices that add more than 20 percent to the cost of union labor. The report finds that a 10 percent differential between union and nonunion construction is tolerable to union developers and contractors, while the existing 20-30 percent differential is not.

New Study: Arcane Union Work Rules, Inefficient Practices, and Featherbedding Impose 20-30% Excess Costs, Leading To Dramatic Increase in Nonunion Work on NYC Construction Sites

For Immediate Release: Sunday, May 1, 2011
For More Information, Contact: Hope Cohen: hcohen@rpa.org or (646) 727-0191

New Study: Arcane Union Work Rules, Inefficient Practices, and Featherbedding Impose 20-30% Excess Costs, Leading To Dramatic Increase in Nonunion Work on NYC Construction Sites

New York, NY - Regional Plan Association (RPA) today issued a major report analyzing hidden costs of union construction in New York City, making it increasingly non-competitive. As a result, "open shops" (mix of union and nonunion labor) are 20-30% less expensive than full-union shops and are growing rapidly, from just 15% of the market in the 1970s to about 40% now, jeopardizing the unionized construction industry in New York City.

The 52-page report, "Construction Labor Costs in New York City: A Moment of Opportunity," a first-ever, in-depth analysis of the structure and costs of a notably secretive industry, found the far higher costs of union construction are primarily due to featherbedding, legacy work rules and inefficient practices - some of which date back over one-hundred years - rather than significantly higher wages and benefits.

Emails to the Editor

My name is Pete Weber and I am a Local #322 union carpenter from Minnesota that is contacting you to thank you for your excellent blog. On behalf of my union #322 brothers and sisters I would like to tell you that your blog is an inspiration and a [much needed] breath of fresh air.

My daughter is in the process of creating a blog for our union as well and has been pulling ideas from yours. She, I, and everyone here in the midwest thank you for the ideas your blog has given to us. You should be very proud of the involvement of members that is so apparent in the forums. It seems that the people of New York are skilled at contributing to an online "social networking" endeavor such as this, and we at Local #322 are hoping that the people here catch onto blog involvement as well. #322 is hoping that this blog will serve as a place for union brothers and sisters to communicate ideas and thoughts freely that will assure the longterm viability of the labor movement.

Your union brothers and sisters in Minnesota [and the midwest] sincerely thank you for this conduit of information!

Long live the labor movement, long live the unions!

-Peter Raymond Weber.