New Association Formed to Protect Tens of Thousands of Minority Workers
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 22, 2015
Press contact – Brad Gerstman, Esq. (516) 880-8170
One of New York’s most successful and expanding areas of construction in NYC is under attack-and the tens of thousands of workers who form the foundation of this success, are being threatened by this unprincipled assault. BuildingNYC is here to make sure that this success is not only protected, but that it expands so more immigrant and minority New Yorkers get a chance to participate with good paying jobs on a ladder to successful middle class participation in the American Dream.
Much of the building and construction industry is under siege in NYC by forces that cling to old patterns of behavior that undermine the great potential that exists to significantly increase the number of jobs available for those NYC communities where unemployment is running far ahead of the national average.
Over the past decade, scores of new construction firms either entered the market, or have rethought their business model to enhance productivity and efficiency; and by doing so they have provided employment for thousands of New Yorkers, especially the new immigrants, who have been ignored in the past by stakeholders wedded to an outmoded methodology of doing business.
This vibrant construction sector has been responsible for an upsurge in affordable housing development that has begun to address what the City sees as the most crucial public policy issue that we face in New York. This could not have happened under the old and discredited business model, whose proponents are now understandably lashing out in fear and anger as their market share continues to evaporate.
BuildingNYC is an association that represents those workers doing the majority of the building in NYC today, especially affordable housing. Comprised of a diverse workforce from across all sectors of the NYC construction industry, we seek to protect and advocate for the right to work in a safe, fair and equitable environment that promotes continued job growth and economic success.
As Brad Gerstman, attorney and spokesperson for BuildingNYC points out;
“The old inefficient and corrupt ways of construction in NYC are fading fast, and those who have lived off the fat of the land are desperate to protect their eroding privileges-at the expense of minority and immigrant workers, and the hopes of New Yorkers for more affordable housing. BNYC is here to make sure that tens of thousands of upwardly striving workers are not threatened by despicable slander and political cronyism.”
BuildingNYC has been formed to insure that the hopes and dreams of countless New Yorkers from all over the city will not be deterred by a scurrilous campaign conducted by forces that have been proven to be hidebound and unproductive-unable to compete in a level playing field and now looking to use politics to prevent their continued free fall. We are prepared to meet fire with fire-and we will demonstrate that the slanderous charges being leveled are grotesque distortions of the truth.
According to the Building Congress, there were 225,000 construction workers in NYC in 2010, and five years later the number probably exceeds 250,000. Over 60% of this work force is minority-and, importantly, “Non-United States citizens accounted for 39 percent of the total construction industry workforce and 45 percent of all construction trades workers. In addition, 56 percent of all respondents said they speak a language other than English in their homes.” (https://www.buildingcongress.com/outlook/122111.html)
If, as has been estimated, close to 50% of the new construction is being done by firms who have bucked the Old Guard regime, than we are looking at one of the most important private sector labor markets in NYC for not only minority workers, but for recently arrived immigrants as well. Those opposing our companies are standing in the way of the ability of hard working New Yorkers to gain a foothold on the ladder of achievement-on the way to a middle class life. (http://www.wsj.com/articles/growth-of-nonunion-construction-tests-new-york-city-labor-leaderthe-weekend-profile-gary-labarbera-1434154002)
Given the overwhelming success of our members and their workers, we are not surprised that our critics are lashing out with false and defamatory rhetoric. What we will not do, however, is stand by and allow this defamation to continue unchallenged. There is simply too much at stake.
Affordable Housing and the Old Guard
BuildingNYC has been established not only to protect the businesses and the workers they employ. Our new and vibrant construction sector has been responsible for an upsurge in affordable housing development that have begun to address what the city sees as the most crucial public policy issue that we face in New York. This upsurge could not have happened under the old and discredited business model, whose proponents are now understandably lashing out in fear and anger as their market share evaporates.
As the Regional Plan Association points out, affordable housing cannot be built under the antiquated business model of our opponents-and most of those hiring to build these units are new immigrants from the neighborhoods where the construction is going forward:
“But union wage rates and benefits have always been too expensive for other sectors of the construction industry, namely 1-, 2-, and 3-family homes, affordable housing, and most low- or mid-rise buildings in the four boroughs other than Manhattan.” (http://www.rpa.org/pdf/20110501-RPA-Construction-Costs.pdf)
Safety: But not from Defamation
Unable to point to their competitive success, the Old Guard is flailing around for issues to attack their more productive opponents. In doing so, they have latched on to the issue of safety and have managed, using bad faith arguments, false figures, and an inaccurate broad brush, to demonize all of the companies that do not adhere to their unsuccessful business model.
Recently our opponents, using emotional street displays aimed to mobilize the fears of New Yorkers, have claimed that our industry sector is disproportionately responsible for a series of tragic construction-related deaths over the past year. Yet, if we examine fatalities over the past seven years, we find a radically different result:
“During this time period, the average labor participation rate at New York State construction sites was 73% non-union and 27% union. However, the number of fatalities shows that the fatality rate at union construction sites was higher than the union participation rate.” (http://www.nysafah.org/cmsBuilder/uploads/nysafah-safety-analysis-5-11-2015.pdf)
- (a) There were 93 construction site fatalities in New York City between 2008 and 2014; 60 fatalities or 65% occurred at non-union sites while 33 or 35% occurred at union sites.
- (b) The percentage of fatalities of union workers was often higher than the union labor participation rates between 2008 and 2014. If union jobs were safer, the percentage of fatal incidents would be lower than the participation rate.
As the NYSAFAH report goes on to point out:
“This analysis demonstrates that there is no evidence to suggest that non-union construction sites are less safe than union sites, rather the opposite. The reason is that both union and non-union developers are committed to worker safety and that all construction sites are subject to the same New York City, State, and Federal safety standards.”
And what our opponents fail to point out, because it doesn’t fit their false narrative, is that there has also been an epidemic of pedestrian fatalities in Manhattan where most of construction’s Old Guard still holds way. Unsurprisingly, these accidents have come from that sector:
“Some of New York’s largest unionized contractors appear in the city’s accident database, including one Tishman Construction Co., listed as the contractor in eight construction accidents involving pedestrians, including two in 2013. In one, a pedestrian was hit by falling masonry debris on Park Avenue. In another, a pedestrian was struck in the head by a falling fence in Harlem.” (http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-york-city-pedestrians-face-a-threat-from-above-1429696801)
Our firms are also being attacked on the issue of work quality. But the Regional Plan Association makes the following telling point-one made over 4 years ago:
“All segments of the industry agree—at least in private—that the union advantage in quality and speed of construction has diminished with every new project that is built nonunion. This may be the most important—and enduring—construction trend of our time.” (http://www.rpa.org/pdf/20110501-RPA-Construction-Costs.pdf)
In the continued pursuit of even more quality workmanship, BuildingNYC will be developing a robust workforce training program to enable our employees to improve their skills and rise rapidly on the employment ladder. We will vigorously oppose any training program that seeks to funnel workers into one area of our industry. NYC does not need any more medieval guilds.
We at BuildingNYC yield to no one in our adherence to, and support of, the most stringent safety standards that the law mandates-and we support new legislation that enacts fair measures that apply to all companies doing business in NYC. What we do not support-and will fight vigorously-are laws that will scapegoat our firms and unfairly penalize the thousands of workers we employ.
Where we are going
BuildingNYC is not going to be a passive participant in the upcoming fight over the future direction of the construction industry. We will vigorously challenge defamation, and strenuously oppose laws that unfairly single out our members. Our elected officials need to understand that our continued success means the success of their constituents and the promotion of what is clearly in the public interest: good well paying jobs, safety in building, and the dramatic increase in affordable housing that our own workers and the city as a whole badly needs.