Renovation of Jewish seminary in Morningside Heights spurs protest over use of non-union labor

By Ginger Adams Otis of the NY Daily News When is it ethical for a Jewish institution to use non-union labor? It’s up for debate. A renovation of the storied Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan has sparked a heated Rabbinical discourse among students, faculty and alums — all using the Talmud as their guide. The catalyst was JTS’s decision to make Gilbane Building Co. its general contractor for the massive project in Morningside Heights.   Formerly an all-union shop, Gilbane now uses an “open-shop” model — meaning any company can bid on the parts of the renovation project up for grabs. That set off a predictably angry response from various unions hoping to scoop up the Gilbane contracts — and also an impassioned reaction from JTS students and grads, who question the ethics of the decision. “The whole issue of the rights of workers within the Jewish tradition goes to the time of the Talmud. The Conservative movement, which the JTS is a ... Read the rest of entry »

Mayor and building trades near deal on safety reforms amid increase in construction accidents

By Sally Goldenberg  06/05/2017 05:13 AM EDT Mayor Bill de Blasio and construction union leaders, who have recently begun patching up their contentious relationship, are nearing a deal to dramatically increase worker training requirements in response to a recent uptick in injuries and deaths, according to multiple sources briefed on the potential agreement. The proposal calls for all workers to be trained between 54 and 71 hours, with an extra 30-hour requirement for supervisors, according to a memo obtained by POLITICO. Certain workers would have to undergo even more "task specific training" totaling up to 242 hours, the three-page document shows. The city's buildings department and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration would enforce most of the regulations. Certain jobs would need training far in excess of current rules. Those working in "confined spaces" would be subject to between two and 16 hours of training — there is no current federal hourly requirement, according ... Read the rest of entry »

ABC Comments on Burdensome EPA Regulations

On May 15, ABC submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on costly and burdensome EPA regulations and policies.  In the comment letter, ABC expressed concern that major federal projects have been unnecessarily delayed or abandoned, resulting in jobs being deferred or never created because of a dysfunctional permitting system. ABC supports a streamlined process for developers to obtain environmental permits and approvals for their projects in a timely and efficient manner, which would help foster job creation and economic growth.  Further, ABC discussed the 2015 final rule on Definition of “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS) Under the Clean Water Act Final Rule, which radically changed the level of authority the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have over water and land uses across the country. ABC has been a vocal opponent of the WOTUS rule, which has led to uncertainty among ABC members and the construction industry at large. On Feb. 28, Preside ... Read the rest of entry »

Nonunion group calls on state to investigate why Verrazano Bridge worker wasn’t wearing a safety harness

A nonunion construction group is calling on the state to investigate why a worker who fell from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge earlier this week wasn’t in a safety harness. The Associated Builders Contractors sent a letter to the state’s Department of Transportation urging the agency to investigate why the worker wasn’t “tied off” when he fell on Monday. The worker plunged 25 feet from the upper level of the bridge onto electrical conduits and fractured both of his legs, according to city fire officials. The electrical wiring stopped him from plunging to the road below. The letter emphasizes that the worker’s employer, Tutor Perini, is working on the project through a union-only project labor agreement. “Construction is one of the most dangerous occupations, and we must insist that all workers, contractors and owners are held to the same high standards of ensuring everyone that everyone goes home safely after a day of work,” ABC President Brian Sampson stat ... Read the rest of entry »

Bipartisan, ABC-supported Career and Technical Education Bill Introduced in Congress

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, was introduced in the Committee on Education and the Workforce by Reps. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) on May 4. The ABC-supported legislation would provide more access to valuable career and technical education (CTE) programs and ensure these programs are aligned with in-demand jobs, including construction.  ABC sent a letter to Reps. Thompson and Krishnamoorthi thanking them for introducing the bill, writing “it is essential that our nation improves access to high-quality CTE programs and that these programs are focused on high-demand industries like construction, are connected to local employers and deliver nationally portable, industry-recognized credentials.” ABC praised the legislation, which will “take vital steps toward opening up opportunities for students and giving them a competitive advantage in finding fulfilling and high paying careers in the construction ... Read the rest of entry »

OSHA Rescinds "Union Walk Around Rule”

On April 25, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a memorandum withdrawing a letter of interpretation that stated nonunion employees can authorize an individual “affiliated with a union or a community organization” to act as their representative during agency-sanctioned inspections and other enforcement situations.

The 2013 letter of interpretation was written by OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Fairfax in response to a union clarification request. The letter stated that employees at worksites without collective bargaining agreements can designate an individual affiliated with a union or community organization to be their “personal representative” in enforcement-related matters during a workplace inspection, on OSHA inspection walkarounds.

Since the 2013 letter of interpretation has been withdrawn, the policy reverts to the statutory language expressed in the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act.

A Wisconsin Lesson for Trump the Builder

‘Project labor agreements’ drive up costs on public-works projects. Ben Brubeck April 16, 2017 2:14 p.m. ET President Trump may be a famous builder, but he could learn something about infrastructure from Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Iowa’s Terry Branstad. On Monday, Gov. Walker is expected to sign a law prohibiting state agencies and local governments from mandating “project labor agreements” on public works. Gov. Branstad signed a similar measure last week. Mandated PLAs are a sop to unions that inflate construction costs and discourage competition. Mr. Trump should issue an executive order to follow suit nationwide. On election night he promised to “rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals.” He has floated a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. But much of that could be wasted if blue states and cities force projects to operate under PLAs. When a PLA is mandated, typically it means that contracted builders, whether union or not ... Read the rest of entry »

ABC National Chair Calls on Congress to End Government Mandated Project Labor Agreements

2017 ABC National Chair Chuck Goodrich’s op-ed calling on Congress to pass the Fair and Open Competition Act (H.R. 1552/S. 622) was published in The Hill on April 10. This ABC-priority legislation would allow America's entire construction workforce—including the 86 percent of the private construction workforce that has chosen not to join a labor union—to compete on a level playing field by ensuring that taxpayer-funded construction cannot be subjected to costly and discriminatory government-mandated project labor agreements (PLAs).  “Gaylor Electric’s 1,100 skilled employees and their families benefit from opportunities provided by fair and open competition on public works projects,” wrote Goodrich. “However, the government undermines our ability to fairly compete for contracts subject to government-mandated PLAs because it forces us to hire unfamiliar workers instead of the key ingredient that makes our company a safe and efficient industr ... Read the rest of entry »

A phony push for construction site safety

When unions can’t compete, they turn to city pols to get an edge, and that seems to be what’s driving a City Council bill adding a new mandate for construction workers. In the name of boosting safety, the bill would force workers to finish an apprenticeship program before working on buildings over nine stories tall. Yet unions run most of those programs — so the bill would cost some non-union workers their jobs, and generally steer more work to union shops. Good for the non-union — “merit shop” — firms for fighting back. As The Post’s Carl Campanile reported last week, the Associated Builders & Contractors’ New York chapter has pushed the city to probe a Staten Island crane accident that left union worker Antonio Veloso dead. The city says it is investigating the case. ABC wants equal scrutiny because it says the unions often point to violations — especially fatalities — at non-union job sites.“Union leaders are shameful ... Read the rest of entry »

City investigating crane accident that killed construction worker

The Buildings Department is investigating a March 10 crane accident on Staten Island that resulted in the death of a worker at a union construction site.

Antonio Veloso, a 54-year-old Portuguese immigrant and member of the Laborers International Union Local 1010, was killed at 356 Meredith Ave. after being struck by a load that had fallen off a crane.

The Empire State Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, which represents nonunion contractors, raised concerns to Buildings Department Commissioner Rick Chandler that there was less public outrage over the accident at a union job site.

A Buildings Department spokesman confirmed the probe.

This article first appeared in the NY Post

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