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Trump’s lobbyist attacks Union Building Trades

Exposing the lies and deceit of the morally shallow Brad Gertsman, an enemy to working people.

Kris LaGrange's picture
Feb 23, 2016

A little over a week ago, UCOMM Blog covered NYS AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento’s response to an anti-union letter from lobbyist Brad Gertsman blaming the NYC Building Trades Council for the failure of Albany to renew the 421-a tax abatement. 421-a is a state program that gives a tax abatement to developers who set aside a certain percentage of their residential units for affordable housing. Now Gertsman and his team of high paid anti-worker lobbyists are attacking the men and women of the Building Trades once again with a website that is aimed at advocating for the right to work in an equitable and fair environment, free from unfair regulation, political favoritism and special interests who are desperate to maintain their ever slipping market share within the NYC construction industry. 

This opening statement sounds good. We all want to work on an even playing field. Expect that this campaign is backed by big money interests that have historically bought politicians and played political favorites.  Some of Gertsman’s clients include big developers like Donald Trump, Tully Construction - a firm with ties to the mob, and the Building NYC coalition, who are affiliated with the corner cutting unskilled Associated Building Contractors (ABC)  This new campaign is right out of the ABC playbook.  They make accusations to drive jobs away from unions and to their lower paid, less skilled and unsafe contractors.  ABC is opposed to prevailing wage, project labor agreements (PLA’s) and supports the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  You can find out more about them here.

Through this new campaign, Gertsman is trying to portray union construction trades as old, white and no safer then non-union workers.  Here are some of the facts that they try to twist.  First the campaign, Building NYC states that 65% of construction deaths in NYC from 2008 through 2014 occurred at non-union sites.  I am not sure how you spin this but the high paid lobbyist sure tried to.  They say “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.”  Somehow being responsible for 65% of the deaths in an industry make the non-union developers care more about safety.  They also don’t account for the increasing trend of deaths at non-union sites.  In 2015, 87% of the deaths on construction sites were non-union.  Building NYC uses a 7-year period to mask the recent explosion in non-union construction deaths. 

Another big “fact” that they go after the unions on is the cost of union labor and how that prevents affordable housing from being built.  Here is the simple fact, building union may cost more money, but the added cost is needed to ensure that the buildings are built the right way rhe first time and are built safely.  The higher wages and benefits also increase the market wage for all workers, union and non, providing a pathway to the middle class.  With higher wages, less subsidized, affordable housing is needed.  

WPIX 11 talked to some workers at a non-union construction site about the difference between union and non-union earlier this year.  Here are some things that the workers said.  "From hard hats to gloves, to welding masks," she told PIX11 News, "I had to buy all of it on my own. I suffered an injury to my eye, welding. I'm not a welder by trade, I was made [by my bosses] to weld." Another worker said "Most of the workers, my coworkers," said iron worker Carrol Turner, "are undocumented." He said that they won't complain for fear of deportation."  According to WPIX, workers at the non-union site get paid as little as $12/hr, just $2.50 more than fast food workers in NYC.

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