Sunday, April 29, 2012

MEMORANDUM: Job Steward Alliance

Recent events in the New York City District Council contract negotiations have many members concerned about the future of their union and the negotiations that will affect their families.

Over the last few years our members have been watching drastic changes to benefits, working conditions and the diminishing quality of life of the New York City Carpenter.

With the economy taking the worst hit in our lifetimes, many corrupt unscrupulous developers have seen this a time to hit unions hard while we are down on one knee. Carpenters under a trusteeship from some who see New York as a cash cow, contractors see no one tending the store and a Federal Consent decree placing guard rails has set the environment over the last few years.

For the first time in the Carpenters union history, the current Delegate body unanimously voted the right to the base membership to ratify their contract. This extraordinary opportunity to have a voice in contract negotiations had lackluster results and took many by surprise. All members intrinsically feel they want to be part of this process and trust the Delegate body once again bestows this essential task to them. With proper notification and education scenarios, we feel the participation will be greater.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Crane firm cleared in fatal collapse case

James Lomma and two of his companies were acquitted of manslaughter and other charges. One of their construction cranes broke and killed two people in 2008.

By Amanda Fung

The owner of a construction crane company was cleared of all charges related to a 2008 fatal crane collapse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Daniel Conviser acquitted James Lomma and his two firms, New York Crane and Equipment Corp. and JF Lomma Inc., of manslaughter and other charges Thursday. The crane collapse at East 91st Street and First Avenue led to the death of two construction workers on the site.

Prosecutors had argued that the crane fell because Mr. Lomma hired a cheap and unknown Chinese company to repair the crane at the site. Mr. Lomma's attorneys said Mr. Lomma and his firm responsibly repaired the crane and therefore did not cause what they called the tragic accident. If Mr. Lomma had been found guilty in the non-jury trial, he would've faced five to 15 years in prison.

“Any time there is a crane accident and people are killed, it is a tragedy, but the district attorney spent 10 weeks trying to say that Jimmy Lomma was criminally responsible for what happened, and the proof showed that to be wrong,” said Paul Shechtman, a partner at Zuckerman Spaeder who represented Mr. Lomma and his companies in the case. “I am very happy that Mr. Lomma has been vindicated.”

Prosecutors said that Mr. Lomma did not follow city inspectors' requirements for the repairs.

“Although we are disappointed with the judge's verdict, each case we have brought in this area has put increased scrutiny on the construction industry as a whole, and has had a cascading effect on safety practices,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., in a statement. “Construction companies must do everything in their power to protect the safety of workers and the thousands of New Yorkers who live near or walk by a construction site every day.”

This fatal crane accident was the second to occur in 2008. In the first case, prosecutors charged a crane rigger with manslaughter. In that case, the rigger was also acquitted two years ago. With the latest decision, observers note that a guilty verdict in these cases would have been difficult.

“It should be hard to indict criminal negligence,” said Mr. Shechtman. “It is meant to be a high standard and carries jail sentences, something would be wrong if it was an easy charge to prove.”

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Contract Update: Should I Sign Council Authorization Cards?

In a letter (below) to the membership dated April 19, EST Bilello would like members to sign an authorization card that will authorize the District Council to represent members, for the purpose to "strengthen the negotiating position of the officers and Executive Committee that are currently engaged in negotiations with contractors associations" for wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.

Since I have received numerous questions from the membership about signing these cards, I sent the following questions to the District Council for an answer.

1. The contract that was voted on by the membership was it an 8(f) or a 9(a) contract?

2. If 9(a), why was the contract presented to the membership without the membership signing authorization cards?

3. A 9(a) contract appears to be more restrictive on the contractor, was full mobility negotiated in exchange to sign a 9(a) contract?

4. The UBC has negotiated a 90-day wage freeze, a $2.13 wage give back and full mobility, all in opposition of the will of the membership. Given this track record members may be reluctant to sign an authorization cards. What assurances can you give the membership that the Council will bargain in good faith, in the best interest of the membership?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

America’s most powerful Mafia family active in unions: indictment

Feds say Salvester Zarzana, former head of Carptenters Local 926, is a Genovese family soldier, court papers show 

Salvester Zarzana, a former president of Carpenters Local 926, was identified by the feds as a soldier in the Genovese family in an indictment unsealed by Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.

By John Marzulli AND Greg B. Smith

The FBI busted 11 reputed gangsters and union bosses Wednesday, charging that the most powerful mafia family in America continues to infiltrate unions around the city.

Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch unsealed an indictment naming 11 individuals in a variety of schemes tied to the Genovese crime family.

One of those arrested was Salvester Zarzana, a former president of Carpenters Local 926 who was identified by the feds as a soldier in the Genovese family.

Zarzana has been connected to a group of disgraced union officials who are organizing an off-shoot union that authorities believe is moving to take over the biggest construction union in the city, the District Council of Carpenters.

The Daily News revealed Sunday the ongoing investigation of the upstart Amalgamated Carpenters & Joiners’ effort.

Zarzana is “closely associated” with Angelo Bisceglie, an attorney who’s heavily involved in the upstart Amalgamated union. The purported takeover is under investigation by a court-appointed review officer, Dennis Walsh.

Zarzana was kicked out as president of the Carpenters Local 926 over questions about his abuse of union credit card. He denied knowing anything about the Genovese crime family or the mafia in general in a sworn affidavit made last year.

One of those arrested Wednesday was Conrad Ianniello, identified as a capo or captain in the Genovese family. He’s accused of using his mob connections to shake down contractors and even demand payments from vendors at the San Gennaro street fair.

Town Hall Meeting May 3rd

There will be a Town Hall Meeting with Review Officer Dennis Walsh and EST Mike Bilello on Thursday, May 3rd at 4:30 pm. The meeting will take place in the Labor Technical College, 2nd Floor Common Room. Nominated candidates for the District Council Trustee position will be invited to speak during this meeting.

The following members have been nominated for the position of District Council Trustee:

  • Dennis Gimblet – L.U. 157
  • Glenn Hatcher – L.U. 157
  • Edward Herrero – L.U. 157
  • Mark McGuire – L.U. 157
  • John Moloney – L.U. 157

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Union trying to lure away members of New York's District Council of Carpenters

But many leaders of the breakaway Amalgamated Carpenters & Joiners were themselves kicked out of the District Council and its locals

By Greg B. Smith 

Clockwise from top right: Joseph Firth, Charles Harkin, John Harkin and  John Holt.

The breakaway Amalgamated Carpenters & Joiners union is trying to lure away members of the city’s biggest construction union, the District Council of Carpenters, but many of Amalgamated’s leaders were themselves kicked out of the District Council and its locals, charged with spending union funds on personal perks, records show.

The District Council — which has a long, sordid history of mob control and corruption — is now operating under a court order in which the union is monitored by review officer Dennis Walsh, who is investigating whether Amalgamated is simply a ruse to escape court oversight.

An attorney for Amalgamated, Angelo Bisceglie, called Walsh’s fears “total nonsense” and defended the upstart union. “There's a long history of corruption in that union. We're trying to get away from that,” he said. “Dennis Walsh can make all the allegations he wants, but we’re going to play by the letter of the law.”

Records show several of Amalgamated’s leaders had been drummed out of the District Council. Here’s the lineup:

Joseph Firth, Amalgamated’s president, was fired as president of carpenter’s Local 608 in 2010 amid charges that he’d rigged hiring lists to get cronies jobs at Ground Zero. He’s banned from holding office with the District Council or the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, for 10 years — a ban that wouldn’t apply to Amalgamated. Firth said his firing was “political,” adding, “I didn't do anything criminal or wrong or anything.”

Charles Harkin resigned as president of Local 1456 while under investigation for racking up unapproved expenses and ringing up $1,500 to $3,000 monthly dinners at Marinella in Manhattan. His case is before the union’s trial committee. The union’s lawyer said Harkin wasn’t involved in Amalgamated, but sources said he made calls behind the scenes on behalf of the group.

John Harkin showed up at a job site recently with Eric Gundersen to leaflet District Council workers. Harkin retired from the District Council a year ago, but is facing a union trial for spending union funds on lavish meals, limo services, trips to Florida and $20,000 in golf green fees. He, too, called the chargeds “political” and said he was following rules about expenses that the union used for years.

John Holt is listed in records as secretary of Amalgamated. His appointment as business agent for District Council was vetoed in September 2010 after Walsh found Holt had obstructed his investigation and gave false answers to questions.

The union’s lawyer, Bisceglie, noted, “We have probably 30 to 50 other people in good standing who've been very active in getting out the vote. You can't just focus on a few.”

Monday, April 16, 2012

Union president pays visits to jailed Genovese crime family associate

Joseph Firth of Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners visited 'friend' Joe Olivieri at N.J. federal prison 


A breakaway union that dubs itself the “clean” alternative to the corruption-plagued District Council of Carpenters apparently didn’t get the memo about avoiding ties to the mob.

Joseph Firth, who’s listed as president of the upstart Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners, confirmed to the Daily News he recently visited a federal prison in New Jersey to chat with Joe Olivieri, a Genovese crime family associate.

Olivieri, tagged by the feds as an underworld liaison to two of the city’s most powerful construction unions, is serving 18 months for perjury after his conviction in 2010. A jury found he lied about his Mafia connections.

Firth called Olivieri a “friend” on a form submitted in February to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, allowing officials to put the union president on a list of approved visitors. Reached by The News Friday, Firth admitted that he had recently visited Olivieri at the prison, but he wouldn’t say precisely when or how many times.

“I always thought he was a fair man,” Firth said, insisting that anything he knows about Olivieri’s mob ties “he read in the papers.”

“It’s a problem if it’s the truth, but I heard it was just hearsay,” he said.

Firth and several other former members of the District Council of Carpenters broke away to form the Amalgamated union, claiming they want to offer a blemish-free option to its 20,000 members.

The District Council is currently being monitored by a court-appointed review officer, whose mission is to clean up the historically dirty union.

The last District Council president, Michael Forde, is now serving 11 years in prison after pleading guilty to a stunning list of corruption charges; he met frequently with Olivieri.

Despite Amalgamated’s claims, The News reported Sunday that several organizers of the splinter group were actually kicked out of the District Council and its locals for using union funds for personal perks.

And one Amalgamated member, Eric Gundersen, who has been acting as the outfit’s spokesman, has a criminal past, including time served for severely beating an off-duty transit officer.

Further, the court-appointed review officer keeping tabs on the District Council is investigating whether Amalgamated appears to be a ruse to escape federal oversight.

Firth admits he’s known Olivieri for “seven to eight years” through the union, and said he met with the convicted felon in prison to discuss “a couple of companies I might want to go speak with, to see if they’re on the up and up.”

He said he was searching for new contracts.

“I know he has a lot of information,” Firth added of Olivieri.

During Olivieri’s 2010 trial, an official from another union, Operating Engineers Local 14, recalled how he once balked at a request to promote a low-level union official favored by the mob.

In response, he said Olivieri told him: “If you don’t, you’re going to be in a world of hurt.” Firth contended he never had any Godfather-like moments with his pal.

“When I dealt with him, there was never any strong-arming or cheating that I saw,” he said. “I mean that and I would say that in court.”

Union rebel's violent life

In 1994 he was part of a teenaged gang that nearly beat to death an off-duty NYPD sergeant named Louis Cosentino who’d dared to tell them to shut up as they partied loudly in the pre-dawn hours

 Eric Gundersen (left) has a history of violence.
Eric Gundersen (left) has a history of violence.


ERIC GUNDERSEN is the earnest face of a new union that’s trying to usurp the biggest construction union in the city — the 25,000-member District Council of Carpenters.

Eric Gundersen in his youth.
Representing the upstart Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners, Gundersen gives quotes to the press and provides sworn testimony to the National Labor Relations Board.

What he doesn’t reveal is his remarkably violent past.

In 1994 he was part of a teenaged gang that nearly beat to death an off-duty NYPD sergeant named Louis Cosentino who’d dared to tell them to shut up as they partied loudly in the pre-dawn hours. Gundersen and seven fellow thugs kicked out all of Cosentino’s teeth and broke nearly every bone in his face. The News’ front page blared, “Punks beat cop so badly YOU CAN’T TELL IT’S HIM.”

“I don’t think a guy like that should represent a union,” an appalled Cosentino, who still lives in Brooklyn, told the News last week. “Your image should be above board and your word should be good. You shouldn’t be an antagonistic person.”

A News investigation has found the thuggishness Gundersen displayed in the attack on Cosentino remained a constant during the years he’s served as a union member.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Seeking Council Representatives

The New York City and Vicinity District Council of Carpenters is searching for active members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters who are interested in the position of COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVE within the New York City and Vicinity District Council of Carpenters. We are seeking aggressive, dedicated Union members that are committed to building the ranks of our membership and protecting our work throughout our geographical jurisdiction.

Last Day for Voting in the 2012 JDR Industry Blogger Awards!

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If you haven't voted yet, and want this blog to continue, I need you to click the link and VOTE NOW and help put us into first place as the Best Construction Business Blogger!

Winners will be announced on April 18, 2012.  Please help and vote for us TODAY!



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Labor leaders to visit Bloomies

The show of strength comes as the retailer negotiates a new union contract with employees. 

By Adrianne Pasquarelli

Look out, shoppers. Bloomingdale's might be a little more crowded than usual on Wednesday. As the retailer negotiates a new union contract, five city and state labor leaders will conduct a walk-through at Bloomingdale's East 59th Street flagship on Wednesday afternoon.

 Those involved include Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union; Richard Whalen, regional director and vice president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union; and Local 3 President Cassandra Berrocal. They'll visit the store, take pictures and speak with employees about current working conditions.

“New York's labor leaders are coming together to show that a fair contract for Bloomingdale's isn't just a priority for RWDSU Local 3 members and the UFCW, but also for organized labor throughout the entire city and state,” said Mr. Applebaum, in a statement.

The 2,000 workers, who are already union members employed at the 59th Street store of Macy's Inc.-owned Bloomingdales, are negotiating for a new contract, according to a union spokeswoman.

A Macy's spokesman did not immediately return calls requesting comment.

The union's proposed four-year contract includes a general wage increase, profit sharing, negotiable commission rates, an increase in hiring rates and an increase in night premium pay. It also asks for improved benefits and an extension of the store workers' security plan. Bloomingdale's is proposing a seven-year contract which includes ending contributions to the security plan, as well as grandfathered provisions for late nights and certain severance provisions.