The Real Union News

October 25, 2008

Disposable worker dies and 13 year old injured working on Value Palace hotel in IN.

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“It’s also possible no one will be held accountable.”

Who? A couple of misclassified workers for a company named Carpetbaggers, working under the General Contractor Millstone. Jose Delgado, Sr., 31, of the 2000 block of Breaburn East Drive, Indianapolis, and his son, Jose Delgado, Jr., 13, who lives at the same address
What? One dies and his son, a 13 year old severely injured while working with him while improperly using a fork lift as an elevator
Where? A new hotel in Indiana, the Value Palace, which unfortunately has no standard on who they work with, some value, people die cutting corners. The Value Place hotel is located at the southwest corner of I-65 and County Line Road in Johnson County.
When? Last week, Oct 16th.
Why? Because they can get away with it.

From 13 in Indiana: – A forklift accident two weeks ago claimed the life of a Greenwood construction worker. His teenage son was also on the site, and was also injured. Now OSHA officials may be looking into more violations.

As the new Value Place hotel takes shape in Greenwood, so too are state officials making progress on their investigation into an accident on the site two weeks ago.

Three tile workers were coming off the fourth floor into an aerial basket when, according to police reports, two of the workers, 31-year-old Jose Delgado, Sr. and his son, slid off the forks and the forklift fell to the ground. Delgado later died from his injuries. His son, at first reported to be only 15 years old, was also hurt.

“A construction site like this is not a place for a child like that to be working,” said OSHA deputy commissioner Jeff Carter.

Carter says this week investigators learned the boy wasn’t 15 after all. “We believe he’s younger than that now. We believe he could be as young as 13,” he said.

By law, that’s too young to be on the job site. Investigators are also looking at the forklift used by the workers.

One thing OSHA investigators will have to determine is whether the workers were using the forklift incorrectly, or if that machinery is used in a similar fashion on this or other job sites.

The basket on the forklift is what OSHA investigators consider “homemade.” Officials want to know if the workers were trained to use it.

“That basket we have questions about. It does not meet the standards,” said Carter.

The contractor supervisor on site told police the day of the accident, “Any subcontractor may use the on-site forklift, but must sign a contract stating they must get the necessary training.” He went on to say, “Millstone [the general contractor] does not allow people in the basket.”

But two weeks after the fatal accident, Eyewitness News saw two workers in what appears the be the same forklift.

“The company will probably be cited,” Carter said.

Citations are likely. But who the state holds accountable for one worker’s death is still unclear.

The driver of the forklift, Antonio Torres, told police he didn’t have a key to drive it and that he used a pocket knife to start the engine.

OSHA officials say citations may be directed at Torres, who is an independent contractor, Carpetbaggers, the company who hired him, and Millstone, the general contractor on the construction site. It’s also possible no one will be held accountable.

The investigation is expected to take another two weeks.

So how does this happen?

let’s ask Chris the Carpenter from Indiana, in a story entitled “Joe the Plumber-meet Chris the Carpenter!!“:

Now the quarter of a million mark wouldn’t really be that hard to meet. I can’t speak with any first hand knowledge, but being on the inside looking out, I can say with much certainty that there are people in our line of work that do much better than we do. And I think $250,000.00 is quite obtainable. See, as a union contractor we are obligated to pay the union benefits and wages that our contract states but if we were a non-union contractor we could get by a lot cheaper. Now I know there are some stand up non-union contractors that pay a good wage to their employees, offer health care and a 401k etc. But those guys know, as well as I do, that there are those out there that take advantage of people and don’t do things on the up and up. I know because I see them on a regular basis on jobs throughout central Indiana.

I’m talking about the elephant in the room in the construction industry. It works like this. A guy secures a contract to do a job, say, roofing, masonry, landscaping, drywall, whatever. He then purchases the material and he finds a labor broker. This is usually a legal immigrant that can speak English and knows a lot of other immigrants that need jobs, are usually illegal and have little or no English skills. They will work very hard and they are very reliable. AND, they work very cheap. Now the contractor knows what the labor rate runs and he can charge just a little less than we do or what the legit non-union guy does. He then sub-contracts to the labor broker who then sub-contracts to the illegal immigrants. This is all done on a piece meal basis. In other words, a set amount is paid for the installation of the product, i.e.; 15 cent/square foot of drywall or 45 cents per concrete block. This way, the price is set and the contractor and the labor broker can’t lose. It’s up to the actual worker to bust his butt to make any money because he only gets paid for the set amount of material in the job. And it’s pennies on the dollar compared to the wages my guys get or the good non-union contractor employees get. The contractor then gives the illegals a 1099 form instead of paying the taxes, workman’s comp., insurance, not to mention providing a safe environment and the workers don’t worry about it because they won’t file taxes anyway. They work very, very cheap because the broker knows they won’t say anything if they want to keep their job because there is a whole line of people ready to take their place.

Just recently, a small hotel was being built just West of Indianapolis and the floor covering was contracted this way or something similar. On a Saturday, workers were stocking material using a forklift that was supplied by the General Contractor. The workers tied a box to the forks and was using it as a man lift to get material to the second floor. (Totally against OSHA regulations) The box broke loose and two workers in the box fell to the ground. It was a father and son. Illegal immigrants from Mexico. The boy was 14 years old. Both died. This is not an isolated incident. If these workers were fortunate enough to live and only receive serious injuries, this story would never be told because they would be whisked away and 2 more put in their place. There has been no follow up story to the contractors on this project, and I’m sure that somebody got in trouble. But those lives are lost forever. And the work will be done in this manner over and over again because nothing is being done about it.

I hope you all understand that I’m not putting the blame on the illegal immigrants. I understand their plight. If I had to feed my family and I could make money to do that in Mexico, I would be there in a heartbeat. The blame is to be placed on the employers that take advantage of these people so they can line their own pockets. I’m not trying to solve the immigration problem right now. I’m trying to show Joe the Plumber that it’s not as glamorous as it looks. So go ahead Joe, buy that company. Run a legitimate business. Put in the hours to make it work. Build yourself up to make that $250-300,00.00. Believe me, if I get to $300k, I’ll pay the 4-5% extra taxes and never blink. But how much are you going to be paying the people that got you to that level? You gotta pay them a decent living wage too. You’ll never do any of it without good employees. So you gotta spread the wealth with your employees first or you’ll never make it as an employer.

So, go for it Joe!! See ya on the jobsite, huh?

Chris the carpenter Central Indiana

Picture and some info from:
The Indy Channel,


August 15, 2008

More blatant discrimination against construction workers comes to light, this time prevailing wage violations across America

Kinda, sorta follow up to “Blatant discrimination! Another disposable worker death in New York’s underground sweatshop construction industry” from Jan. 2007
ow do you under bid the union contractors?

By using a work force that does not understand the law of the land. This construction company forced it’s largely Cantonese workers to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no overtime pay, no breaks and massive safety violations, on jobs that were publicly funded. That’s right, if you live in Oakland, California, there’s a good chance that the school you send your kids to was built with the help of the criminal activity of a few at the top, who profited on the backs of their workers, while screwing the contracting firms who obey the laws, the public who didn’t get what they paid for and the workers who worked in pre-1900 conditions.

I thought the abuses of Chinese workers here in the United States sorta ended after the railroads were built, yes for those of you not well versed in, from the “end of slavery” years of 1864 to 1867, on just one leg of the transcontinental railroad construction it is estimated that 1200-1300 Chinese workers died in that three year span. For more information on the atrocities against Chinese workers on the railroads there’s a book written by William F. Chew, who is the grandson of two of the railroad workers. His book is called “Nameless Builders of the Transcontinental Railroad“. Mr. Chew isn’t just a bump on a log, he’s a pretty smart fella, in his 45 year career as an aerospace engineer he created components that were critical for spacecraft travel.

So now back to our story, here in New York the homelands might be different but the story is the same, get workers new to the country and cheat the workers and the public out of their legally bound responsibility. Capitalism at it’s finest. Screw everyone to get ahead.

Just two weeks ago it came to light that a local scumbag General Contractor pocketed $550,000 of public money which was supposed to go to his employees, according to The New York Times article from July 31st. entitled “Officials of Building Firm Accused of Cheating Workers and City “:

The officials, Yuly Aronson, owner of the May Construction Company, and Anthony Branca, the company’s accountant, ran their scheme from April 2005 through November 2006 during work on two dozen city buildings and courthouses, according to Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.

They were charged in Manhattan Criminal Court with falsifying payroll filings to receive roughly $2 million from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services for employee wages and withholdings, of which Mr. Aronson, 46, and Mr. Branca, 50, ended up pocketing about $550,000 that was supposed to go toward the salaries of 84 workers, the attorney general said.

Here’s the how to screw your work force part:

May Construction lured many of its employees with an advertisement in the Polish-language newspaper Nowy Dziennik, according to the attorney general’s office. Most of the company’s workers were secured through those advertisements and were each paid the minimum of the prevailing wage, even though the jobs they were doing required they be paid higher wages, the attorney general’s office said.

The good news, if convicted, according to New York State’s Attorney General Andrew Cuomo:

“Contractors on public works projects should be warned: Obey the law and pay the prevailing wage, or face the consequences,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement.

Mr. Aronson and Mr. Branca face several charges including grand larceny. If convicted, they could spend up to 15 years in prison.

So that’s the story of how Polish immigrants are getting screwed on prevailing wage violations here in New York, let’s get back to what transpired in Oakland, California, it took a Cantonese speaking organizer working with the International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers (IBEW Local 595) to bring the violations to light and that’s a good thing. Here’s some snips from the East Bay Business Times, from the August 12th. story entitled “Former employees sue Oakland contractor NBC General“:

NBC General Contractors Corp., an Oakland construction company that is working on several publicly funded projects in the city’s downtown, has been hit with a lawsuit filed by former employees seeking millions of dollars for prevailing-wage, overtime, meal break and safety violations.

Sounds like your average non-union construction company nowadays, sometimes it’s Chinese, sometimes it’s Guatemalan’s, Mexican’s, whoever they can screw and threaten the best. The less they are allowed to speak up, the less they know about US labor law, the more they can be screwed, but enough of my ranting, the story continues:

NBC General became the subject of the organization’s scrutiny because some contractors perceived its bids on projects were often lower than others and that prompted questions about whether its books truly reflected hours worked, said the partnership’s Alameda County compliance officer, Andreas Cluver. The union group wasn’t able to investigate efficiently, however, until it made contact with a Cantonese-speaking organizer who understood the language and culture of many of the NBC General workers.

That’s the way to do it fellas, IBEW did exactly what needs to be done, just because the workers did not speak English, did not mean they were stupid, they just needed someone to explain to them their rights. How bad were these workers treated, heres more:

The suit filed July 17 in Alameda Superior Court seeks to represent a group of what is probably about 150 workers who worked on NBC General projects for a period of four years, from July 2004 to the present, said plaintiff attorney Sharon Seidenstein. A judge would have to grant class-action status.

“The company is working on prevailing-wage jobs and they are not paying the prevailing wage,” said Seidenstein. “They are also working them extremely long hours; for instance, during the summer the workers are alleged to be working 12-hour days, seven-day weeks, with no overtime.”

Also named in the complaint is J.H. Fitzmaurice Inc., the Emeryville-based firm that is the general contractor for the Fox Courts housing project.

It is unclear how much plaintiffs will recoup if they prevail, although Seidenstein said it could be “millions.”

Cluver stated that he had calculated about $6.6 million in underpayments to workers, based solely on his calculations and not taking into account any penalties a court might issue.

Monica Mui Ung, president and CEO of Oakland-based NBC General, and J.H. Fitzmaurice, did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment on Tuesday.

I just hope the owners of these companies in NY and CA see the inside of jail, they really deserve it. One can only wonder how badly they treat workers on non-prevailing wage jobs, but you can see that in my first article entitled “Blatant discrimination! Another disposable worker death in New York’s underground sweatshop construction industry

Immigration: the wedge issue of the labor movement

This country is delving deeper into the 3rd. world as anyone is allowed to enter here illegally without penalty, and until recently one of the only times ICE, our Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, has raided a work place it was in the middle of a union organizing drive. Here’s just a few facts to ponder.

In Iowa, ICE raided AgriProcessors, the countries largest Kosher meat packing plant and found almost 400 illegal alien workers, reports of weapons and get this, a Crystal Meth lab! There were over 60 underage workers at the plant, the youngest of which was 13 years old.

In California, a pregnant Mexican teenager died on a California vineyard, she wasn’t allowed to have water! 5 more immigrant farmworkers in California have died in the fields since.

In New York, undocumented immigrant construction workers were threatened with guns if they decided to join a union. On other sites workers are told to say that if hurt at work, they are to report the injury as happening on the soccer field. On a nearby house getting remodeled I asked the owner of a construction company why he only gave his Guatemalan workers doing siding one plank for each teir of the 32 foot high scaffold, he told me they were like monkeys, they would be OK. I could go on about New York, about how when Fresh Direct, the internet supermarket was raided by ICE right in the middle of a NLRB wait period for a unionization vote. But lets get to the legal issues that are encouraging more illegal immigration, the laws against working rights and the laws that are helping to fracture labor protections. Here’s two I reported on recently. Oh yeah, by the way they are both in Right to work states.

Kansas, a state in this United States, has passed a bill through it’s Senate that will exclude punishment for the employers of undocumented workers, but would fine a union who lets the worker into it’s ranks. You got that? They do not blame the employers and they want to stop anyone from helping the workers.

Utah, there is now a law which will exclude an injured worker from getting Workmans Compensation who has committed any crime, BUT the law does not hold the company responsible for hiring the illegal immigrant, nor will their premimum go up. Now theres a couple of great places to open up business.

To Be Continued, what I’ve been up to lately

I can continue with this but I really need some rest, you may have noticed I have been writing scarcely recently at Joe’s Union Review, there’s just so much to write about and so little time lately, I too have a full time job and I’m teaching an apprentice in my trade, it’s an honor and a privilege to help her in her career, I was a little concerned that I might not have been ready to train someone, but I’m doing my best, she is my union brother (talk about a weird line) and it’s important.

Something you may want to check out in case you don’t read Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, you may have missed the news of the meeting they had with their workers that threatened that if Obama were to be elected President, that there would be almost nothing standing in the way of the Employee Free Choice Act getting passed, which would of course pave the way for those damned unions to corrupt the wonderful working environment that their workers currently enjoy by giving them a fighting chance to seek collective bargaining representation. Was it illegal what they did? Was Wal-Mart being a good employer and informing their workers about the candidates or did they threaten them as to how they should vote?

Here’s a little fact that slipped through the media unreported, Wal-Mart was recently sued by none other than the US Dept. Of Justice, why would you ask? They refused to rehire a returning veteran in their Florida store. That’s right, Wal-Mart, that great American franchise said a big F you to someone who went out and risked their life for them. They of course settled for $12,000 out of court.

Wal-Mart is most likely a big contributor to the organizations against The Employee Free Choice Act, but I’ll have more on that soon. As American Right’s At Work puts it:

What Wal-Mart is doing for November’s political elections is what it, and hundreds of other anti-union companies, do all the time when workers say they want a union: intimidating them to go against their own self-interests.

The most ironic part of this news is that Wal-Mart’s political ally, the Chamber of Commerce, sees itself as “David” versus the supposed “Goliath” of unions in the fight for the Employee Free Choice Act.

“This is a David-and-Goliath confrontation, but we believe we’ll have enough stones in the sling to knock this out,” said Mr. Steven Law, chief legal officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Maybe, if David first set up a front group to defame Goliath with a $30 million television advertising campaign before he loaded up his slingshot.

I’ll write some more on this soon, but for now,

Peace, have a great weekend


July 27, 2008

It was massive, several thousand CWA and IBEW members rallied outside Verizon headquarters, one main objective, stop subcontracting their work

Filed under: cwa, IBEW, negotiations, New York, Rally, sweatshop construction, verizon — theunionnews @ 12:19 am

UPDATE to-> CWA plans massive Verizon worker rally in New York, IBEW sending members, as contract negotiations continue with Aug.2nd deadline (7/22/08):

I would have been there in support, but I was attending a rally for New York’s 13th Congressional district seat candidate Michael McMahon, who is running for the spot vacated by Vito Fossella. McMahon is a staunch labor supporter, from a NYS AFL-CIO press release (7/1/08):

Upon receiving the New York State AFL-CIO’s endorsement, Michael McMahon stated, “I am honored to have the support of the AFL-CIO. As Councilman, I worked every day to improve the lives of the working men and women in my district. As Congressman, I will continue to fight for working families by creating good paying jobs, lowering taxes on the middle class and ensuring that Brooklyn and Staten Island receive our fair share of education, healthcare and transportation funding.”

Saturdays Verizon rally in NYC
A Sea of CWA red

From The New York Times article “Unions Rally, Vowing Strike at Verizon” by By Javier C. Hernandez (7/27/08):

The unions representing 65,000 Verizon workers on Saturday resounded a pledge to strike if demands for higher wages, caps on health care payments and limits on outsourcing jobs are not honored.

Joe’s Union Review staunchly supports the workers stance against outsourcing, on many occasions Verizon has had low standards on who they use as subcontractors. The Times continues

With one week to go before a contract expires, several thousand telephone workers affiliated with the Communications Workers of America and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers gathered at Verizon headquarters in Lower Manhattan.

img174/7215/27rallylarge1xm2.jpgThey chastised Verizon executives for proposing sharp increases in health care payments and reductions in coverage for retirees. Some held signs reading “Hands Off Our Benefits,” vowing to take to the picket line on Aug. 3 if the two sides did not reach a settlement.

Joe Connolly, president of Local 1101 of the C.W.A., said that the union was pushing for a 5 percent annual wage increase, larger pensions and expanded medical benefits. “Right now, employees have to make a choice: Are they going to eat or get benefits?” Mr. Connolly said.

In light of the slow pace of negotiations, a strike was likely, he said. “There’s been nothing resolved on any level at this point.”

A major point of contention between the unions and Verizon is the outsourcing and subcontracting of jobs. Union members have said that work like telephone technical support and laying new wires should go to union laborers. But Verizon has said that awarding some jobs to outside firms gives the company the flexibility to create, for instance, a new call center on the spot, or to quickly find laborers for a one-time construction job.

Verizon’s use of undocumented workers via subcontractors seems to be wide spread

Flexibility, sure, just pick them up from the corners of 65th. Street in Brooklyn.

Verizon is a scum corporation that puts profits over people every single step of the way. In February I wrote of one such Verizon subcontractor who was breaking every labor law on the books and found themselves fined and a possible jail term in the article “Claiming ignorance, Verizon tolerated illegal alien work force through a subcontractor

“One worker told agents B&B paid him $100 per day for a 12-hour shift minus $60 a week for housing and utilities, according to records. Some said they were put up in a house off Oceana Boulevard in Virginia Beach.”

Just last month a group of undocumented day laborers was protesting against Verizon in the same exact location over unpaid wages from a Verizon subcontractor. ABC news picked up the story on June 24th. in the article entitled “Day Laborers Rally Against Verizon for Unpaid Work

“We’re here today to demand that Verizon pay us,” said Nerbin Rodriguez.

Rodriquez, an immigrant from El Salvador, says a Verizon sub-contractor owes him for two months of work, all 10-hour days. “We have the right to recover our money for the work that we’ve performed,” he said.

“Verizon needs to tell the subcontractors to quit cheating the people out of their money in this way,” said Carlos Ortiz..

“We certainly don’t agree that anyone should do a hard day’s work and not get paid for it,” said Sandra Arnette with Verizon.

Verizon says they promise to investigate but says it’s the responsibility of the contractor or sub-contractor and not Verizon to pay the workers.

When ABC 7 reporter Andrea McCarren tried to ask one of the day laborers protesting if they were in the country illegally or if the subcontractors were hiring illegally, she was interrupted by a CASA de Maryland lawyer. They said McCarren couldn’t ask the question.

“We would hope that people are hiring workers that are documented, that can actually do the work and they’re not doing it illegally,” said Arnette.

Some of the laborers allege they haven’t been paid for jobs completed as far back as three years ago. Some workers at the demonstration actually won judgments in federal court against Verizon sub-contractors, totaling more than $200,000.

Oh yeah, did I mention that I’m in Brooklyn and according to a former shop steward friend of mine at Verizon, in NYC, the company hasn’t hired a single street mechanic for the last 6 years, guess they want to take advantage of all the day laborers they can muster up to install FIOS around the area. Yeah I’m still waiting.

Verizon, screwing the public and workers every chance it can.

July 26, 2008

Bad builders in Arizona sue to stop labor backed legislation which would give consumers a warranty on their shotty product’s, what are they afraid of?

Filed under: AFL-CIO, AZ, construction, SMWIA, sweatshop construction — theunionnews @ 1:17 pm

Directly from DailyKos (7/24/08):

Conservative Groups Sue to Stop Labor-Backed Consumer Initiative in Arizona
by PaulVA [Subscribe] Thu Jul 24, 2008 at 09:03:18 AM EST

In December 2007, the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association(SMWIA) filed paperwork with the Arizona Secretary of State to form the Arizona Homeowners’ Bill of Rights Committee. The goal was clear, to provide homeowners with improved rights to deal with construction defects and shady home sales practices that have been plaguing consumers across the country and in particular in the hot Arizona homebuilding market.

Last month, the committee presented petitions with more than 260,000 signatures to the state to allow Arizona voters to determine the outcome of this issue in the fall.

Tuesday, a small group of poweful GOP-backed homebuilders filed a lawsuit looking to stop homeowners from having any say about the construction defects in their homes.

Current Arizona law, passed in 2002 by a GOP dominated legislature, radically changed the rights of buyers in favor of builders and does not give buyers any reasonable degree of protection against deceptive sales practices and construction defects. The state GOP, back by the homebuilding industry. pressured the Arizona Legislature to pass this law as they have done in other states such as Texas and Florida. They claimed to be seeking relief from class-action suits filed against them.

What they got instead was a carte-blanche invitiation to run rampant over the Arizona residents who purchased their defective homes.

The Sheet Metal Workers joined forced with several consumer and community groups in an effort to help homebuyers with their construction defects, even including free inspections of their homes from a qualified union member. What was found was shocking and detailed in the website Poorly Built By Pulte Homes, the largest homebuilder in Arizona and in the nation.

It took over six months to complete the listed items on the walk-through, as well as the items that were discovered after we moved in. There were way too many problems with way too many service calls, which left me at their beck and call for over six months.

-An Anthem Parkside homeowner

This has been a horrible experience. Between all the problems, the non-responsive customer service, the poor “fixes”, we are very saddened that our “dream home” has become a nightmare. It is unfortunate that so many problems have occurred, but even more disappointing that we are left to deal with them, no recourse at all. We had thought about getting a lawyer, but just wouldn’t know where to start. The water damage to the house was because of negligence and was a problem that we noticed on our walk through.

The new initiative would serve as a big step in solving many of these problems by creating a Bill of Rights for Arizona homeowners, providing a 10-year warranty on new homes. In addition, homeowners would have the right to demand either the builder correct construction defects or compensate the homeowner. Homeowners also could participate in the selection of contractors to perform the repair work.

The initiative provides that homeowners can sue if the builder does not offer sufficient remedies and removes the threat of being liable for the builder’s attorney and expert fees while allowing the homeowner to recover these costs. Homeowners whom builders have subjected to emotional distress or great inconvenience can recover for these areas as well. The initiative also adds new protections in the home-buying process.

The rights of homeowners go hand in hand with the rights of the workers who are on the job building these homes. There are over 30,000 residential construction workers in Arizona. Unfortunately, working conditions and low standards in the residential construction industry are bringing standards down across the board for workers and consumers.

Safety, fair wages, and respect on the job are all missing from jobsites in the residential industry across the country. Last year, a group of workers were caught on video being sprayed down by a water truck as they peacefully demonstrated against the working conditions they faced at work.

To learn more about the SMWIA effort in Arizona, visit the Building Justice website. You can also take a survey and read some of the homeowner complaints at Poorly Build By Pulte.

This referendum is not just radioactive to the conservative groups who passed the carte blanche legislation restricting homeowner rights in Arizona – it is a threat to them everywhere. If this passes in Arizona (where it enjoys 80% support), it will be on the ballot elsewhere, including Texas where Bob Perry, the homebuilder who funded the Swiftboaters group, lobbied for and got legislation just like the one the Arizona homebuilders are using to trample over the state’s homebuyers.

Daily Kos

July 21, 2008

NY: Nonunion construction, workers win back wages for unpaid overtime, why are companies like this allowed to stay in business?

“New York’s construction workers are the backbone of this city’s economy, but these companies sought to stiff almost 300 Bronx construction workers out of the overtime pay they earned and deserve,” – Andrew Cuomo, NYS Attorney General

Unreal, they will do anything to do the job as cheap as humanly possible, from hiring undocumented workers to not paying overtime, could you imagine how they cut corners on the building materials? Using employees with little or no training and little or no workplace voice, they are killing our area standards. I could go on and on about the reasons to use union and/or quality construction companies, who play by the rules, but I must go to sleep sometime

Found this over at Gangbox, a big thanks to Steven Greenhouse at the New York Times for writing articles of substance for working class people, from “Construction Workers in Bronx Split $1.23 Million in Back Pay ” (7/22/08):

Two hundred and eighty-four construction workers in the Bronx will receive a total of $1.23 million in back pay as part of a settlement over unpaid overtime, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Monday.

Mr. Cuomo said the construction workers had not received time and a half for the overtime they had worked while renovating a dozen apartment buildings on the Grand Concourse, Gerard Avenue and elsewhere in the Bronx. He said the workers had received straight pay, regardless of how many hours they worked above 40 each week.

Mr. Cuomo’s office reached a settlement with two companies, J. Siebold Construction and Finkelstein-Morgan, which owns and manages real estate, without bringing a lawsuit against them.

“New York’s construction workers are the backbone of this city’s economy, but these companies sought to stiff almost 300 Bronx construction workers out of the overtime pay they earned and deserve,” Mr. Cuomo said.

“Today’s settlement will turn over $1.2 million to these workers and also send a serious message to employers across the state: Time-and-a-half pay for work over 40 hours a week is the law in New York State, and if an employer ignores that law, we will take action.”

The settlement is part of efforts by the attorney general and the State Labor Department to crack down on wage theft, which includes forcing employees to work off the clock, erasing hours they have worked and not paying time and a half for overtime.

The agreement calls for J. Siebold to pay $1.07 million in back wages and $160,000 in interest and penalties, while Finkelstein-Morgan serves as the guarantor of the payments. The violations occurred from October 2002 to August 2006, according to the attorney general’s office.

Under the settlement, the attorney general’s office will monitor the companies’ time and payroll practices to ensure their compliance until 2010.

Also under the settlement, the two companies are banned from retaliating in any way against employees who cooperated or were perceived as cooperating in the investigation.

Dennis A. Lalli, a lawyer for J. Siebold and Finkelstein-Morgan, said, “We cooperated fully with the agency, and I think the parties are in agreement that the final settlement was fair to all involved.”

Steven Finkelstein, a partner in Finkelstein-Morgan, said that his company owned the buildings and that J. Siebold was doing the renovations. Mr. Finkelstein said that because Mr. Cuomo came after both companies, “I had to be part of the settlement.” Of J. Siebold, he said, “They’re as embarrassed about this as we are.”

Wheres the jail time? That’s grand larceny in my book. If I stole $1.2 million, I’m damn sure I would wind up in jail. Embarrassed? They should have a date with a fellow inmate. Hell, I wrote a comment over at the Times, if it gets published it will state:

Wheres the jail time? If I were to steal $1.2 million from my contractor, you bet you butt I would be spending time in Riker’s, why the double standard for wealthy developers and construction companies who commit grand larceny?

I was kinda glad when I was reading this, then I thought about if it were the other way around, now I think it’s a step in the right direction, a very, very small step.

While I appreciate what Mr.Cuomo has done, like I said, it’s just not enough, not for the workers, not for the people of New York. We need higher standards for those who build in our city, higher standards for people who work in our city. Every single day I see, a most likely undocumented worker, on a scaffold with no safety equipment, is our governing body blind? How is this allowed to happen? Is this the building of the cross country railroads all over over again? Have we slipped into the early 1900’s?

July 5, 2008

Using untrained immigrant workers that caused 4 deaths in a crane accident gets supervisor 2 years in jail and total fines of $41,000

Filed under: construction, immigration, IUOE, Justice, sweatshop construction — theunionnews @ 8:34 pm

Finally a good judgment, right to the point: If you use untrained immigrant workers, you go to jail.

You would think that it would be a score one for the ‘good guys’, and you would be right, the only bad part is that this story didn’t take place in the United states and it took 4 deaths and 3 injuries to bring this to light.

From the far away land of Qatar in the Persian Gulf region, “Jail sentence for supervisor” (7/6/08) – Gulf Times

A Doha court has sentenced a construction site supervisor to two years imprisonment for “negligence that led to an accident” which killed four workers and injured three others last year.

sweatshop construction practices in Qatar get prison sentenceThe Syrian and the company that employed him were also fined QR20,000 each. The company was made the second accused in the case.

The court ordered the Syrian, the company and the insurance firm to jointly pay QR150,000 as bloodmoney to the families of three of the victims. The family of the fourth victim had not put up any claim for bloodmoney during the trial and the court said that they can file a claim for it at a later stage in a civil court.

A witness told the court how a crane tilted and fell at a worksite near the West Bay on March 19, 2007, burying four workers and injuring three, two of them critically.
He said the workers were involved in a “complicated operation” at around 6pm when the accident occurred. An engineer representing the company,said the crane was imported from China and was being operated for the first time.

The court found the supervisor guilty of assigning the work to a batch of untrained workers, who were not qualified to do the job.

The judge, Mamon Hamour, said that the company committed a fatal mistake when it assigned such complicated work to an inexperienced supervisor, the first accused in the case.

The victims were identified as three Filipinos aged 20, 40 and 48 and an Indian (25).

Now theres one we can learn on, lets get that blood money and jail time here.

July 4, 2008

In Tennesee and in New England, Carpenters picket against 1099 Misclassification

Different ideals, different places, the song remains the same, local behemoth business using 1099 misclassification abuse to lower the standards of local living wages, while in New York they threaten their nonunion workforce with guns, threats and empty promises if they chose to be in a union, screwing workers is big business. Screwing the public by allowing us to subsidize their legal employer responsibility is a tragedy.

From “Rough Carpentry: Local Carpenters Union wages an ongoing battle with Proffitt & Sons” TN (7/2/08) – UBC LU 40

The community is Hardin Valley; Murphy and fellow union member Shane Monroe are stationed on Hardin Valley Road a short distance from the Pellissippi Parkway interchange in front of The Village, an in-progress mixed-use residential/commercial development that will be anchored by a major grocery chain. Murphy and Monroe are seated in fold-out chairs on either end of a 5 foot by 15 foot banner that says, in big red block letters, “Shame on Jake Pinkston.” Pinkston is head of Pinkston Construction, the Village contractor.

Murphy says the union is protesting Pinkston’s use of drywall contractors Proffitt & Sons, for not meeting “area labor standards.” The union’s hope is that passers-by will call Pinkston Construction and protest their employment of the subcontractor.

According to Carpenters Union Director of Organizing Robert Helton, the union isn’t seeking an agreement with Proffitt & Sons, but merely to see the contractor improve pay and benefits packages for workers.

“They’re lowering standards for all carpenters in the Knoxville area,” he says. “We’d like to see them change their practices.”

Helton charges that Proffitt & Sons doesn’t pay what the union considers a fair wage, doesn’t pay benefits to many of its workers, and is engaged in using an inordinate number of 1099 independent contractors, rather than using full-time employees who are entitled to worker’s compensation and unemployment benefits.

“By law, you can’t use that many independent contractors on your site,” he says. “Somebody has to be an employee.”

Helton says the union’s efforts have been ongoing since January; in addition to the Pinkston site, he says they have picketed five other sites in the area, including one for the University of Tennessee (the sign for which says “Shame on John Petersen”) and for Blount Memorial Hospital in Blount County.

Charlie from UBCNewsroom posted a story about whats happening in New England “N.E. Carpenters Union Hits AvalonBay’s CEO, Fliers Target Developer’s Hiring Practices” (6/30/08):

The New England carpenters union is taking aim at a national real estate investment trust and its $7 million-a-year chief executive, Hingham resident Bryce Blair, in an effort to expose what the union calls “the underground economy.”

While some people debate the impact of undocumented workers on construction sites, unions and government officials are going after the companies that they say pay their workers in cash and, in doing so, commit insurance and tax fraud.

Since May, members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters have been in Hingham handing out fliers with a photo of AvalonBay Communities’ CEO Blair.

Avalon Bay abuses its workers and steals your tax money “When you see Bryce Blair around town,” the flier states, “thank him for overbuilding the town, hurting the town by using contractors that practice tax and insurance fraud, and just being an unscrupulous guy.”

Carpenters Local 424 Business Manager Rick Braccia said the group has distributed 1,200 fliers in downtown Hingham and at the job site, Avalon at Hingham Shipyard.

“AvalonBay hides behind the fact that they tell their contractors they will not allow illegality, but the reality is, there is no oversight on the job by AvalonBay,” he said.

For example, in December 2006, OSHA reported that Shawnlee Construction, an AvalonBay subcontractor at its Newton and Danvers job sites, exposed employees to fall hazards.

In March 2007, Oscar I. Pintado, a 27-year-old carpenter from Ecuador, was killed when he fell at an AvalonBay project in Woburn. Union officials say he was being paid in cash and was working without workers compensation coverage.

In April, Eric Frumin of Change to Win, a partnership of seven unions, told a congressional committee on workplace safety that AvalonBay sites are unsafe.

The Virginia-based real estate investment trust, formed in 1993, manages 52,167 apartments. In Massachusetts, the company has 5,000 apartments. Most are in multifamily, wood-frame buildings.

In Hingham, AvalonBay is building apartments at the former shipyard.

After union carpenters built a clubhouse and one building on the site, carpenters union organizer Mario Mejia said he met workers from Mexico who were brought to Massachusetts from Virginia. Mejia said the workers are living in Devens and are being transported by their bosses in a van to work every day. They are paid $150 in cash each day, he said.

AvalonBay did not respond to a request for comment on Mejia’s statements.

Meanwhile, on the streets of Hingham, Braccia said public response has been “surprisingly in our favor.

“We do get people who think this is strictly a union issue, and think we aren’t getting the job, so we are angry,” he said.

“We tell them, ‘It doesn’t have to be union, but it does have to be legal.’ ”

More info at the sites below
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June 27, 2008

NY nonunion construction: With guns, threats and empty promises this modern day gangster keeps his workers from joining a union

Capoccia rose as a housing developer as he donated thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Mayor Giuliani, Governor Pataki, and President Bush. He recently told the newsletter The Real Deal that he launched his career by using a truck full of day laborers hired from a street corner.

//” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Word is that there are about 52 hotels in the works that will be built completely Nonunion in New York, when they are complete there will be no Hotel workers union either, heres a kinda/sorta follow up to NYC: Four Points by Sheraton Paying Poverty Wages / Using Taxpayers For Workers Healthcare

How does New Yorks biggest Non-Union contractor stop his employees from being union?

With guns and threats, this isn’t a new thing, but in todays main stream media, it’s hard to come by. We have focused on the contractors in the past and the illegalities in the nature of their business, these are the scum bags that are building high rise towers for the likes of Sheraton all over the city. They have immense Bush/Neo-Con/corp ties, and hire an almost entire undocumented workforce. Not only that, when the business opens up they treat their employees like shit too. I know, on previous I have been on the picket lines and when there was a union vote about a month after the employees signed cards to become union, I was there in support of these workers getting the rights to collective bargaining they deserve. Think about it, these workers who work in fear and have absolutely no voice signed the majority of the cards needed to be in a union and a month and a half later, from the amazingly accurate “High-Cost Condos, Low-Cost Labor—and Threats of Violence to Union Organizers“- Village Voice (6/24/08):

Workers there tried to vote in the carpenters union last year. In an affidavit to federal labor officials, a former supervisor at the hotel project described the response from Auringer’s project manager after he asked the boss about the union: “He said he had about six guns on the job, and he had people there who would do whatever needed to be done. He said that he could dig a hole and put me in it and make the records showing I worked for the company disappear.”

Other workers at the project told the National Labor Relations Board that managers promised them a $5-an-hour raise to vote against the union. Last November, the NLRB ordered Auringer to post a notice promising not to make such threats. A new vote was canceled after Auringer fired 10 pro-union employees on the election’s eve. An NLRB official said the matter is under investigation.

The article fails to mention, the private meetings that the employees had to sit through.

This is a good reason that America needs the Employee Free Choice Act. They sign the cards, they get into a union. No guns, no threats, no bullshit propaganda.

Today the corporate backed, immigration enforcement ignored, slave owners of multi national corporations get everything on a silver platter, while the working class people and those that actually want to embrace them and get them representation are almost totally ignored in the anti-union main stream media. Thank goodness for people like Tom Robbins, from the Village Voice and Steven Greenhouse at the Times for actually writing facts about workers here in New York.

Response to Bernie Carr at New York State Association for Affordable Housing

This mans comment to the story in the Voice must be responded to, if indeed he wrote them he is an utter asshole. When a poster wrote:

robbins said: crane accidents=union, corruption=union, middle class=union, …get the facts straight….nyc was built on the minortiy working class.. we have a right to work in this city too cause you white people in the unions will not let us in..please tell the union not too burn anymore vehicles and physically beat us up in the streets of nyc.. your nazi regime is not going to work in the costruction industry anymore…

Which is amazingly stupid to say in it’s own right, considering that in much of this article the unions are trying to actually get these workers into their ranks, please read the entire Voice story and see how these nonunion thugs operate, not to mention how many times union workers are attacked on the street on front of these jobsites when they are peacefully protesting, again I have been there to witness it. We then have this asshole agreeing with the above comment, thats all fine and dandy, because we expect ignorance written in comments on the internet, but after being in quite a few Central Trades and Labor(NYCCLC) meetings when building projects are spoken of and affordable housing and middle income housing is always mentioned as something worth fighting for the next comment threw me for a loop. It seems from the nickname he chose that he is none other than Executive Director of the obviously corporate backed(see picture and logos on the sign behind Mr.Carr) NYS Association For Affordable Housing: The last comment was absolutely right! NYC construction jobs should go to NYC residents, especially minority residents, not a bunch of corrupt union guys from the suburbs. No one spends more on lobbyists and campaign contributions than unions, that’s why they’re so powerful even though they haven’t represented the little guy for decades. makes me wonder, who owns this guy? He agrees with the obviously racist post of the guy before him, then goes on to attack union workers even more so, doesn’t he have a clue, did he read the story? the entire body of which is how the unions are trying to get these non-union workers into their ranks. How the non-union developer has even gone as far as having a thug follow Omar Lopez, the organizer for the Ironworkers Local 361, to his home while he was with his daughter and threaten him at his door.

Did he read that the threatened union ironworker is a native of El Salvador and a current Queens resident? From the same article as above:

The ironworkers decided to blow up a photo of Capoccia and mount it on a truck. They wrote beneath it: “Shame on Donald Capoccia—Don’t profit off immigrant worker poverty.” It also carried the developers’ office and cell-phone numbers. Then they drove the truck around the work site, City Hall, and Capoccia’s bank.

On Saturday evening, June 14, Lopez was in front of his Elmhurst home about to take his nine-year-old daughter to buy some ice cream when a menacing figure appeared. “The guy was about five-foot-nine; he’s carrying this big green umbrella and glaring at us. I had a bad feeling. I told my daughter we had to go back. She knew something was wrong. She ran right upstairs and told my wife to call 911, that Daddy was in trouble.”

Lopez ducked inside and peered through the window. The lurker walked past his door and disappeared. When he opened the door to look down the street, the man was standing on an adjacent stoop, staring. “I said, ‘Are you looking for me?’ He cupped his ear like he didn’t hear me. I said, ‘Are you fucking looking for me?’ Then he ran at me with the umbrella and reached under his jacket. I closed the door. He hit the door a bunch of times with the handle of the umbrella. He was shouting, ‘I find you and I got you now!’ He did that a few times and then went away.’ “

Mr.Carr, you attack union workers who live in this city and you attack our entire organizations from a glass house, you speak of lobbyist, just one look at that picture above and it all seems clear, all the banks who helped lend out mortgages that people now cannot afford.

You and your group have done nothing to help keep mid-range wage earners stay in this city, wheres my affordable housing?

Every time an apprentice recruitment is released for the union trades I try my best to post it on this site, there is no discrimination in the hiring practices, any New York City resident can apply.

I have often spoken of how people of all race who get what is known as a “good union job” choose to leave the city as the sentiment of a better life for your family is often thought of as not achievable in this city. Everyone I talk to about where to find an affordable place to live with my girl and her 2 children talks of upstate New York and New Jersey, most recently my Laborer friend, who is a native from the Bronx and a Puerto Rican(since you all like to talk shit about race) found a nice home Upstate. Oh, and 3 out of the 4 last work partners I had were not white, only 1 chose to remain in Brooklyn, only for the fact that his grandparents bought his house many years ago.

So a big fuck you Mr.Carr, for talking shit and rubbing shoulder of the enablers of mistreatment of immigrants, citizens and financial enslavers of the working class. You yourself are a lobbyist for the people and companies that help deny my fellow New Yorkers a fair days wages for a hard days work, just another stuffed white shirt sucking up corporate money disguised as a fighter for the people, say hello to that other divisional profiteer for hire, Al Sharpton for me.

Oh, I’m sorry, looks like you only hang with white people.


Mr.Carr, since you agree with all the bullshit that robbins posted, why not in your high and mighty position take a stand against New Yorks sweatshop construction practices?

Till then, thanks for nothing!

A HUGE thanks to Michael, the UFT writer who pointed this article out.

May 31, 2008

Task Force on the Underground Economy and Misclassification at a Field Hearing Conducted by Senator John Kerry

Sara Stafford, a Saugus construction business owner shared her personal experience of being underbid by a contractor using misclassified workers and illegals.


On Mon., April 28, George Noel, Director of the Massachusetts Department of Labor [pdf] and Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Stark [pdf] gave testimony and a progress report on the state’s new Joint Enforcement Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification at a field hearing conducted by US Senator John Kerry in Chelsea.
“Cheaters and unscrupulous employers have created an underground economy as big as $1 trillion. Worse, workers right here in Massachusetts are being taken advantage of and not getting the benefits and protections they deserve,” said Kerry.

Participating in the hearing with Kerry was US Congressman John Tierney (D-Salem), co-author of the Taxpayer Responsibility, Accountability and Consistency (TRAC) Act, which seeks to discourage employers from misclassifying workers by allowing the IRS to collect the unpaid taxes from the employer. In addition, the bill would increase fines for misclassifications. Frank Callahan, President of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council [pdf] gave testimony in support of TRAC.

“This is a problem that is severe and is getting worse,” said Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the UBC’s New England Regional Council [pdf] who testified on the negative effects of misclassification. Erlich added that it was encouraging to finally see the problem getting greater public visibility.

Business owners also attended the hearing. Sara Stafford, a Saugus construction business owner shared her personal experience of being underbid by a contractor using misclassified workers and illegals. Scott Morrisey of Red Line Wall Systems, Inc. gave this overview [pdf].
Ask your US Representative to support H.R. 5804, the Taxpayer Responsibility, Accountability, and Consistency Act.

Charles Lazette is a contributer/Administrator of Union Review and a politically active member of UBC local 370 in upstate New York, he also runs his website UBCNewsroom, go check it out and keep up to date with the latest misclassification headlines in the US and other news that affects workers in the area


Crane collapse in New York, 2 dead, 2 critical

Filed under: accident, construction, NYDOB, sweatshop construction — Tags: , , , , — theunionnews @ 8:48 am

“You can be safe, you can do everything you can do, but construction is a very complex and dangerous business.”- Donald trump

My heart goes out to the families affected

This accident is completely different from the accident on March 15th., this crane was not being ‘jumped’, it was fully inspected and in service. There was no load on the crane, nothing fell and hit the crane. It just toppled at the “turn table” from the weight of the crane, boom and counterweights. This should not happen, ever.

Commenting to a reporter from the New York Times on Friday Louis J. Coletti, who is president of the Building Trades Employers’ Association, said “you’ve seen some new regulation put into place by the City, but today we’re talking about an incident where every regulation has been followed.”

Bloomberg (5/31/08) follows with:

Acting Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri said he ordered the suspensions even though the city hasn’t found any similarities between the cause of yesterday’s accident and a March 15 collapse that killed seven.

In addition, the city plans to spend $4 million to hire about 20 “highly specialized engineers” who will have the authority to change practices on “high-risk” jobs involving cranes, concrete pouring and excavation, LiMandri said.

“They will make recommendations as they see fit,” LiMandri told reporters a block from the Upper East Side site where a crane collapsed, killing two construction workers and seriously injuring a third. “Once that goes into effect, we will not wait for a report.”

The engineers are part of a $9.3 million program budgeted for the department that will pay for 63 new engineers and inspectors. The plan was adopted after the March 15 accident, at 303 East 51st St., the site of numerous prior complaints from neighbors.

In the past eight years, New York City has experienced an unprecedented construction boom, with $29 billion of building forecast for 2009, an 83 percent increase from $16.4 billion in 2000, according to the New York Building Congress, an association of developers, architects and vendors.

Donald Trump chimes in at ABC News for ’20/20′ interview (5/30/08) :

“I’m one of the biggest builders in the world, and I tell you I hate to walk under construction sites,” Trump said. “You can be safe, you can do everything you can do, but construction is a very complex and dangerous business.”

New York’s trendy SoHo district is the home of one of Trump’s current hotel construction sites, which received one of New York City’s 128 crane safety violations this year. “We built a series of many, many buildings from 72nd Street all the way down the Hudson River, and we never had a problem, and yet we did have one problem in SoHo,” Trump said. “I’ve got a great track record, one of the best, but it’s a dangerous business.”
“I’m doing buildings elsewhere, and many cranes are being shipped over to other parts of the world,” Trump said, noting that he is also working on a new building in Dubai. “So I’m not sure if New York City is getting the best cranes, but to have a crane topple the way it did in New York City is an amazing thing.”
“They are big, they are strong, they are powerful, they can lift tremendous payloads, and they are dangerous,” said Trump. “If a crane is an inch off, it gets dangerous. And you know you’re talking about a crane that can go up 60 stories.”

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This time the crane maintenance is being questioned, according to speculation by Gordon Gibb at Lawyers and Settlements:

The crane, one of dozens in New York City that have been pressed into service during the current building boom in the bustling metropolis, was erected April 20th and 21st. It has been reported that city inspectors shut the crane down on two separate occasions for safety reasons, however those problems were believed to have been unrelated to the accident yesterday.

Rather, the focus is turning to a metal plate that resides at the base of the turntable underneath the cab. On May 16th 2007—just over a year prior to the fateful accident yesterday—a worker discovered a crack in the metal plate of that same crane, which at the time was being used to put up a building at 46th Street in New York. Work was promptly halted until the turntable could be replaced.

Investigators are now trying to determine just what became of that broken turntable from last year. Could it have been repaired, and put back into service? That’s the million-dollar question being asked right now.

I had to wait until today to get this story out, I was a few blocks away when this happened, many of my co-workers went over to the site and the story was constantly changing, even when I got home. It gives you such a terrible feeling when you hear this type of news at work. You know it could be a good friend or a casual acquaintance. You know it could be you. I just couldn’t write about this yesterday.

Inspectors from DC, Hawaii and Boston have noticed and pledged reinspections of tower cranes. according to KGMB9, Hawaii:

“One of the things we decided when we got in this morning after we heard the news is let’s send our inspectors out and let’s inspect all the tower cranes,” said James Hardway, Hawaii Department of Labor.

“Hawaii is one of a handful of states that requires an extensive certification of operators,” said Hardway.

Construction cranes in Hawaii are usually rented from one company and set up by another. There are fewer than a dozen companies in the country that are capable of the job. The main company used in Hawaii is Northwest Tower Crane Service.

“There is an inherent risk. It’s listed as one of the riskiest jobs in the United States,” said Tammy Hardy, Northwest Tower Crane Service Inc.
As for what caused the New York crane to fall, there is plenty of speculation.

“Probably shoddy oversight by the government regulators,” said Hardway.

Which Hawaii is working hard to never let happen here.

While they scramble, they neglect the need for more drastic changes

Whatever the case, there definitely needs to be some drastic overhauls, I call 311 reporting sites with major violations, I have seen stuff being raised over pedestrians heads on some sites, smaller sites, nonunion sites, without basic safety necessities, and have offered to send the pictures from my phone to the DOB and they do not have the technology? That is unacceptable!

Only through acts of God have more people not been killed in New York recently. I was watching a (safety shed) scaffold being erected in midtown New York with steel I-Beams being lifted directly over pedestrians and called and waited and no one showed within the hour I waited. Imminent death to the public and it continues every single day in New York. The entire reregulating of the DOB only adds buildings over 10 stories to their scope of hard lined oversight. Meanwhile you have undocumented workers throwing asbestos into the streets of NYC in full public view and nothing is done.

Michelle Malkin puts construction safety in a nutshell, from here story “Another deadly crane collapse

Top story right now on all the cable news stations: another deadly crane collapse in NYC that reportedly has claimed two lives. (Update: 1 dead, two seriously injured.) The NYPost has extensive coverage. NY’s Fox 5 is livestreaming. The accident is the second in 2 1/2 months in NY and comes on the heels of crane regulation revisions by the city just this week. Miami-Dade County is in the middle of heated debate and litigation over post-accident rules. Maryland, Washington, and Indiana are also drafting tighter regs.

It would be helpful for journalists to report what the background rates on crane-related deaths and injuries are. Also, the coverage should distinguish between types of accidents (human error, mechanical failure, etc.). Here’s one report on offshore crane safety that covers 1995-98. Here’s an ABC report with a little more info on stats and causes, among which they mention illegal alien labor and corporate short cuts:

At least 43 people died while working construction in New York in 2006, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, up 87 percent from the year before when 23 people died.

Across the United States, construction ranks as the most dangerous industry, representing about 20 percent of all work-related fatalities, according to federal statistics.

Deaths rose from 1,131 in 2003 to 1,226 in 2006. By comparison, 836 workers died in mining accidents last year, and 447 died in manufacturing. The government reports between six and seven construction deaths per 1,000 workers.

Nationwide, deaths from falling off scaffolding remained steady at about 88 per year…

…The rise in construction fatalities can be explained by a deadly mix of untrained immigrant workers, lax attention to safety regulations and profit-minded contractors who cut corners in all areas from labor to materials.

“There is a tremendous pressure, particularly in construction, to put pressure on workers to be productive and to take short cuts,” said Joel Shufro, executive director of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.

Fines for employers who violate regulations are low — averaging only about $1,600 an incident, according to Shufro. When a worker is killed, the maximum punishment is six months in jail.

“Fines for harassing a burro on federal land are greater,” he said. “But they do the best they can with limited resources.”

Bovis Lend Lease, the company that is handling the Trump project, released a statement to the Associated Press saying they would launch an investigation of the worker’s death.

“Our hearts go out to the family of the deceased concrete worker, and our prayers are with the injured workers,” said Mary Costello, company spokesman.

What is most startling in these accidents is the disproportionate number of immigrant deaths — and not only in New York, where illegal workers make up 86 percent of all fatalities.

While urban areas are facing a building boom, more rural areas are feeling the effects of a slowing economy, according to construction experts. Unions and employers say they face increased competition from those who hire cheap, illegal immigrants.

Here’s another round-up of links to recent crane regulation moves.

Competing with unregulated, bad contractors, using poorly crafted equipment

The constant pressures of competing with contractors who use undocumented workers is devastating the conditions on all construction sites, everyone is in a frenzy to get the lowest bid against these unscrupulous contractors and to keep themselves employed. Be it cutting corners or rushing to complete a job, the atmosphere is there. There also should be a push to use USA and other highly qualified countries materials and tools on the job sites. Shit, if the dog food ingredients and toys from China contain poison, why is it acceptable to use rigging equipment and steel from that region? A lot of Chinese equipment such as ‘shackles’ and wire slings do not even have a company name on them. It’s up to the rigger to refuse to use them. Thats a terrible burden to put on the worker, who will then be “labeled” a trouble maker and risk losing his job. It should be against the law to use them. Many times we have had “Jet” equipment, such as furniture dollies fail with under weighted loads. The rigging equipment needs to be stringently regulated, especially if it is being used overhead. The ‘sweatshop construction’ practice needs to be eliminated all together. According to a piece featured here at Joe’s Union Review from Al Jazeera news:

According to New York Construction Workers United, about 64 per cent of the city’s 250,000 construction workers are immigrants who do the vast majority of non-union work.

Basic security equipment like harnesses and – in Juan’s case – hard hats are often lacking from job sites.

Those who do receive safety equipment are often forced to pay for it themselves. Many are afraid to complain because they do not want to be blacklisted or risk being deported if they are illegal.

End the ‘sweatshop construction’ and the city and the United States will be a much safer place.

Currently we have a large percentage of contractors (aprox. 1/4 of all current construction in NY has employees that work off the books or are misclassified as independent contractors) here who pay their undocumented employees below the minimum wage and misclassifying them as independent contractors. Entitling them to let the “employee’ bear the burden of making sure his taxes are being payed, workers comp insurance is in place, supply their own safety equipment and working conditions.

Currently our Building and Construction Unions, local politicians from a bipartisan background and a host of other agencies, like the Brennan center for Justice and the Fiscal Policy Institute have been bringing to light the reckless behavior of these unscrupulous contractors, their safety violations, their shotty and dangerous work, their unskilled workers, the slave wages (according to the Brennan report some are forced to work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for $6-$12 an hour), the public safety concern, the nonpayment by employer of taxes for said employees(in fact 2 construction companies are facing jail time(NY Newsday reported one for $220,000 and another $394,788 in evading employee taxes), The Governor himself has declared an Executive order to end this misclassification of workers, this doesn’t even mention the tax burden these contractors push off onto the general public and those contractors who(according to Fiscal Policy Institute) cost workers lost wages and benefits and local, state and federal governments nearly $500 million in 2005.
When one of these 50,000+ workers gets sick and winds up in the hospital who do you think winds up paying for that? We do.Who winds up paying for their kids schooling, the upkeep of our infrastructure, our public employees wages? the list goes on. What is the cost to us for the lowest bid?

So I say if the Department Of Buildings, Bloomberg and any Governmental entity really wants to make anything better and safer here in New York they should not wait until the next crane travesty, they should not focus on the ‘giant accidents’, they should work from the bottom up. Remember these contractors who go into business never do it to get smaller. These are the huge contractors of the future and they seem to get a free pass on everything.

There is one reason to be working, to go home in one piece at the end of the day.

Unfortunately, 2 construction workers here in New York will not have that opportunity. From the crane operator who was going to get married in 2 weeks, to the immigrant from Kosovo who was working on the sewer lines in the street, to the carpenter who was working in the stairs who is still in serious condition, to the fourth victim who I haven’t read anything about, it is a terrible day indeed.

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