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Stimulus Dollars at Work - Painters now at work on the Brooklyn Bridge

Warren L. Mart, General Secretary Treasurer of the New York State Council of MachinistsBy Bendix Anderson
October 1, 2010

Federal Stimulus dollars are now putting union members to work on the Brooklyn Bridge, according to George Galis, general Secretary and Treasurer of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT).

"The project is proof that federal, state, and local government can work together and create jobs," said Galis.

Galis spoke at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City just after sunrise September 23. He was joined by elected officials, union leaders, and dozens of construction workers preparing to start their shifts working on the Brooklyn Bridge rehabilitation project now underway.

LIUNA Local 79 Marches - Union Shows Strength in African American Day Parade

By Bendix Anderson
September 30, 2010

HARLEM, N.Y. -- Music poured out of Local 79's float as union members joined hundreds of other unions and community groups to march in the African American Day Parade September 19th.

Local 79's float had its own DJ mixing tracks and some of the loudest speakers on Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. "Can I hear you, Local 79?" called out lead organizer and community activist Anthony Reed over the float's microphone.

Over the last three years, Local 79 has been a regular part of the annual celebration. The union sponsors a float in the parade to show its respect to Harlem and the African-American community, and also to show that Local 79 includes many African-American faces. More than 70 percent of Local 79's members are minorities, and 30 percent of the members are African-American.

Comptroller Liu Speaks to LIUNA Local 79

By Liam Cusack
September 23, 2010
 
John Liu, Comptroller for the City of New York received a standing ovation when he spoke to the general membership meeting of Local 79 on Wednesday evening September 15, 2010. Telling members of the LIUNA Local 79 that his most important job as Comptroller is to ensure that workers are treated and paid fairly. Liu pointed out that in the past year the Comptroller’s office has barred four companies from doing business in New York City for cheating workers out of salaries.
 
“We need to send a strong signal that if you’re going to cheat workers you are going to get caught and you’re going to be punished,” said Comptroller Liu.

World Trade Center Rebuilding Back on Track

By Bendix Anderson
September 15, 2010

After years of struggle and delay, the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan is back on track.

“For the first time since 9/11, we have certainty about what is being built, how much it will cost, when it will be completed, and a concrete plan to get us there. And we are seeing real, tangible progress,” said Chris Ward, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, speaking at a Wednesday morning address to the Association for a Better New York,

More than 2,000 workers now swarm over the World Trade Center site. One World Trade Center has risen 36 stories high with a second tower, 4 World Trade Center, following close behind.

Jobs in Jeopardy as Port Authority Faces Budget Shortfall

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey now employs thousands of construction workers through its capital plan – providing much needed employment in tough economic times. But the jobs might not last. The Authority confronts a shrinking budget as it struggles to meet the growing transportation needs of the region and rebuild its aging infrastructure. Union activists call for new investments in the region’s infrastructure that can keep the Port Authority’s capital plan on track and keep union workers on the job.

“We have a national and regional crisis with our infrastructure. We are looking more and more like a Third World nation,” said Robert Ledwith, business manager for Local 46 of the Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Ironworkers speaking at a June 25th meeting of the Business and Labor Coalition of New York. Hundreds of his members are now working on Port Authority projects.

It’s been a pretty good year for the Port Authority so far. The Authority’s capital plan has created 58,000 jobs in 2010 alone, with $3.1 billion in new investment. Almost half of that work – 46 percent – is in lower Manhattan at the site of the World Trade Center. Tower One, formerly called the Freedom Tower, continues to rise and the World Trade Center Memorial is now scheduled to be completed in time for the 10-year anniversary of September 11th next year, according to Chris Ward, Executive Director of the Port Authority.

Governor Poised to Sign Bill Helping Third Water Tunnel Construction

Third Water Tunnel Valve Chamber

By Maggie Astor  

The State Assembly voted Wednesday in favor of new bidding rules that will hasten the construction of a third water tunnel in Manhattan; the State Senate voted similarly last month.

The bill, officially called S8361, authorizes the city to sell property without the usual competitive bidding process if the property cannot be individually developed due to zoning rules. According to State Senate materials, this would only be allowed “in the limited circumstances where the property cannot be independently developed due to its size, shape, configuration, topography or applicable zoning or a combination of such factors.” The rationale is that since these properties “are not appropriate for sale through the public auction or competitive bidding processes that would be required under existing law,” it would be a waste of time and resources for the city to hold a public auction before selling directly.

Building Trades Employer's Association Leadership Reception

At the Alfred G. Gerosa Leadership Dinner held on May 18th, the Building Trades Employer's Association (BTEA) honored four shining stars in New York City's building industry. The event, held at Cipriani 42nd Street, had over 500 attendees.

BTEA President & CEO Louis Coletti said that the impressive turnout "shows the support given to the organization, and means that we are hitting all of the key elements."

"The work of these four honorees is essential in sustaining this industry during rough economic times," Mr. Coletti said.

Bruce Ratner, Chairman and CEO of Forest City Ratner Companies (FCRC), received the Charles Eidlitz Leadership award. Mr. Ratner has led FCRC to prominence as one of the foremost urban real estate developers in the U.S.

The Charles Eidlitz Leadership Award was also presented to New York City Councilman, Honorable Erik Martin Dilan. Councilman Dilan, who represents the 37th District serving the communities of Bushwick, Cypress Hills, East New York, Ocean-Hill Brownsville and Wycoff Heights is chair of the Housing and Buildings Committee.

CITY-OWNED BUILDINGS NOW BENCHMARKED FOR ENERGY USE

By Neal Tepel
Benchmark Will Provide Baseline for Achieving Energy Reduction

New York City has completed the energy benchmarking of 2,790 City buildings. Every City-owned building over 10,000 square feet has been included in this initiative. Benchmarking is a requirement of the landmark Greener Greater Buildings Plan, passed by the City Council last year. Under the Greener, Greater Buildings Plan laws, privately-owned buildings over 50,000 square feet are also required to be benchmarked by May 1, 2011.  The benchmarking will help achieve the city goal of reducing carbon emissions from City government operations by 30 percent by 2017.

Albany Must Act to Create Trade and Construction Jobs

By Vince Tabone, President- Northeast Queens Community Action Center, Inc. (www.neqcan.org)
 
Recently, I stood with members of the construction and trade unions in the shadow of Ground Zero and called upon the Port Authority, State, City and Larry Silverstein to stop stalling and start building.  We sorely need the construction jobs and the permanent jobs that will follow.
 
To many in the trade and construction unions, the stagnation in construction has created a real hardship. With a jobless economic recovery, what can we do on a state and local level to get the shovels and backhoes moving again, the steel, brick and mortar laid?
 
One thing the State legislature can do is reinstate 421-a negotiable certificates that give 10-year tax abatements to owners and developers of residential apartments, basing the tax deduction on the full assessed value of the property -- as the state law was originally written, as opposed to the narrower limit that was imposed three years ago.
 
The 2007 state law capping the amount that could be deducted at an assessed valuation of $65,000 could not have come at a worse time.  Certificates thereafter sold for prices about half of the certificates that were not capped.

Family Histories Strengthen Ironworkers

By Bendix Anderson

For Elizabeth Corrigan, just coming to work every morning is like a family reunion.

“Pretty much every male relative I have is an iron worker,” she says. “My mother used to sit right here, at this desk, for 15 years.”

Corrigan works as an administrative assistant in the offices of Local 40 of the Ironworkers Union, and like many union members, she has a tight web of family connections to the union, from her desk outside of the union president’s office where her mother sat before her, to the portrait that hangs in Local 40’s lobby.

Painted from a photo that appeared in New York Daily News, the painting shows Corrigan's great-grandfather, Patrick “Paddy” Corbett, and her grandfather, Ray Corbett, in hard hats high above New York City, working on the aerial of the Empire State Building in 1952.

Local 40 seems to be full of family connections like these, from old Irish families that have been a part of the union for generations to new immigrants who are now joining their cousins and brothers already in the union today.

UNIONS WORK TOGETHER AT AUTO SHOW

By Bendix Anderson

Last week, the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center swarmed with workers setting up the New York Auto Show, the center’s biggest trade show of the year, opening to the public Friday, April 2.

Tradesmen worked on top of each other. Carpenters unpacked and pounded together displays the size of mansions while electricians strung fat cables to power 40-foot video screens and teamsters moved crates many times larger than the fork lifts they drove.

It’s essentially a giant construction site, but many construction projects allow their workers time to do their jobs one-at-a-time. “Trades are used to working alone. Here we do it all at once,” says William Hare, labor manager for Javits.

Workers had just nine days to set up the auto show, compared to the full month taken to set up show at its first stop in Detroit. To make their deadline, workers swarmed through Javits 24 hours-a-day during the set up. There’s lots of overtime for the workers — many pull 14-hour shifts. “George’s” coffee shop and cafeteria near the loading docks is also open 24-hours.

Unions Celebrate Groundbreaking at Atlantic Yards

By: Bendix Anderson

More than a thousand union leaders, celebrities, politicians, and press gathered Thursday, March 11, to break ground at Atlantic Yards, a 6.5-million-square-foot development now under construction in downtown Brooklyn.

One after another, the dignitaries took the stage inside a canvas tent on the development site to praise the project.  Embattled New York Gov. David Patterson promised "job creation the likes of which Brooklyn has never seen!"
 
Close to a decade after it was first announced, the first phase of Atlantic Yards, including an arena and five high-rise buildings, finally seems to be underway, now that developer Forest City Ratner Companies has beaten 34 lawsuits from local groups who challenged Ratner’s right to build on the 22-acre site.
 
802A LIUNA Local 731 Business Manager Joseph D'Amato (left) and LIUNA Local 79  Business Manager John Delgado observe ribbon cutting ceremonyJobs, Jobs, Jobs
For union activists, the project comes down to jobs for its members.  Atlantic Yards will continuously employ well over a thousand building trades workers for a period of construction that will last 10 to 15 years.  At its peak, the project may employ 2,500 construction workers at once, says Brian Wangerman, business agent for Steamfitter Local 638 of the United Association AFL-CIO.
 
Construction workers certainly need the jobs.  The unemployment rate among union building trades workers is now about 40 percent, says Wangerman.  That’s up from an unemployment rate near zero just two years ago.

Workers Demand Progress at World Trade Center

Thousands of construction workers gathered March 9th by the open pit that still marks the site World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. The workers came with the banners of their labor unions and their voices rose in protest to demand work start quickly on all of the office towers planned for the site. 

“Build it now!” they called, joined by more than a dozen Congressmen, local politicians, and labor leaders.  It’s currently unclear when work will start on two of the three towers planned for the site as development partners fight over the construction schedule and how to pay for it.

More than 10,000 construction jobs are at stake, according to union leaders.  In January, an arbitration panel gave the World Trade Center partners until this March 12 to either reach an agreement or submit to whatever the panel decides — though its unclear how long the panel would take to make its decision.  “We are pleading with our partners: sit down together in a room, lock the doors, and don’t come out until you have a solution,” said Louis Coletti, president of the Building Trades Employers’ Association.

Safety First

Elevator Union Trains To a High Level
By: Bendix Anderson

Constructing elevators is a dangerous job — workers need a lot of training to do the work safely.  “You have electrical hazards, you have mechanical hazards, height, chemicals, confined spaces… the list goes on and on,” says Dennis O’Niel, who runs the apprenticeship programs for Local One of the International Union of Elevator Constructors (IUEC).  At Local One, workers undergo a four-year apprenticeship program. The classes meet once a week for four hours, about 40 weeks out of the year. That’s 144 hours of required class time a year.  The first seven weeks of class all put safety first, with class titles like “Introduction to Safety,” “Safety During Construction,” and “Safety during Maintenance.”  The instructors are veteran workers with years of experience constructing and maintaining elevators, says O’Niel.

Union Santas Bring Holiday Cheer

3 kids with SantaBuilding Trades union men set up shop on Columbus Avenue during Christmas Week, bringing a message of good cheer to kids and talking to their parents
about how unionized workplaces bring fairness and economic opportunity to their communities. John Wund played Santa in full regalia, while Santos Rodriguez and Sal Savarese functioned as his eleves, snapping free polaroids for kids and families to take home. Bob James stuffed kids' pockets with candy canes and chocolate coins, as he handed pro-union literature to parents. Ray Kitson gave children IBEW coloring books, promoting "the right choice" ---
union-represented workers.

Bob James helped SantaProject Labor Agreements and Community Benefits Agreements insure quality work and safety standards at construction sites, and can also create a steady and uninterrupted workflow. Stories about non-union, "fly by night" companies that pay workers poverty-level wages and fold their tents abruptly in the middle of jobs are common in New York. Such companies are notorious for bringing in workers from outside communities where they build, and exploiting them. By contrast, a community benefits agreement entered into between a developer, community representatives, and a contractor which is a signatory to a union agreement, finds jobs for people who actually live within the community to be served by the project.

the right choiceBringing a union wage to workers who would otherwise be exploited is indeed a Christmas gift that lasts throughout the year. By helping these men and women learn a trade and earn living wages, unions contribute to the social fabric of life in New York City. By providing this information to community members, unions hope to get them to ask non-union companies two questions: Will you sign a community benefits agreement including union protections and wages for your workers? And if not, why not?

 

Mom Gets the Message

Mayor Signs $5.3B PLA's

PLA agreementNOVEMBER 24th -- Mayor Mike Bloomberg today announced the signing of long-awaited Project Labor Agreements (PLA's) worth $5.3 Billion in public projects over the next four years. The signing of the PLA's caps an eight-month negotiation process between the Trades and the City administration. These are the first-ever PLA's for City agencies. The PLA for the School Construction Authority builds on a previous PLA agreement. The announcement was made at the Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School at Spring and Broome Streets in Soho.

Calling the PLA deals "the economic downturn's silver lining," the Mayor said hard economic times have allowed the City to win $300 million in savings from labor unions by exacting concessions in work rules and overtime, including a waiver of Wicks Law provisions. (Hear audio of the Mayor here.) Building and Construction Trades Council President Gary LaBarbera, in response to a question, countered by noting that the PLA's put savings dollars back into the City's capital budget, where they will be used to fund an additional 1,800 unionized construction jobs. (Hear audio of Mr. LaBarbera here.)

The solid turnout of labor leaders at the event -- including top officials of the Mason Tenders, Ironworkers, Painters, Elevator Constructors, and others -- was a clear indication that they support the PLA's and believe their funding guarantees will be instrumental in helping many union members ride out the recession. The PLA's mean different things to different unions, with some -- like Mason Tenders Local 79 -- looking to see significant hiring. Others, like the Elevator Constructors, are expecting just a small boost.

Mason Tenders rank and fileBuilding Trades Employers' Association President Lou Coletti thanked the Mayor for stimulating jobs and said that his contractors would "compete very heavily" for the work, thus insuring greater savings for the City. (Hear audio of Mr. Coletti here.)

Overtime is capped at time-and-a-half for work performed from Monday through Saturday with no restriction on the ability of contractors to schedule overtime to meet deadlines. All trades have agreed to standardization of terms and flexibility of scheduling at job sites, including eight standard holidays, 8-hour day, 40-hour weeks, flexible start times, and coordinated lunch periods. Strikes are prohibited even if broader work stoppages exist outside the work sites.

The Mayor's office said the PLA's will fund 32,000 construction jobs over the four year life of the agreements. He was joined by Reverend Jacques A. DeGraff of the Minority Business Leadership Council, who noted that the PLA's have specific provisions to increase the numbers of minorities and women who can be placed on construction jobs. For contracts and subcontracts of less than $1 million, managed by non-union Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises, the contractor will be allowed to fill as many as half of the first eight jobs on a project with their own workforce. The PLA's commit unions to the goal of hiring 45% of apprentices from the ranks of minorities, women, returning veterans, and new high school graduates of theCity's public schools.

Here is a breakdown of the four Project Labor Agreements which were finalized today:

The first covers $942 million in projects for the general renovation and rehabilitation of existing City-owned buildings and structures.

Delgado and the MayorThe second and third, worth $1.9 billion, covers eleven large-scale, new construction projects, including a new Police Academy, a new branch library in Far Rockaway, and the City's new 911 dispatching center.

The fourth PLA, between the School Construction Authority (SCA) and the Building and Trades Construction Council, funds $2.5 billion or renovation and rehabilitation of schools.

The Mayor made it clear that other PLA's are in the works. including one which would cover an additional $509 million of work at wastewater treatment plants, housing properties owned by the City and at other sites.

Additional information