News from DC + Anti-Corruption

Anti-Corruption

 Effective midnight, January 1, 2015, the new Court-appointed Independent Monitor, Glen McGorty, will assume the responsibilities previously held by the Review Officer.  New contact information is below.

 
The toll free Hotline number, 877-712-4896, will continue.

Glen G. McGorty
Independent Monitor

Crowell & Moring LLP

590 Madison Avenue, 20th Floor
New York, NY 10022
212-895-4246 (direct)
212-223-4000 (main)
monitor-mcgorty@crowell.com

Call 1-212-366-7561 to report evidence of corruption to the court-appointed Independent Monitor, Glen McGorty. You may also write to him by addressing correspondence to “Independent Monitor, Glen McGorty, Crowell & Moring LLP, 590 Madison Avenue, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10022” or by sending an email to monitor-mcgorty@crowell.com

The Independent Monitor has an open door policy and any member can call or send an email to schedule a confidential appointment to meet with him and his staff at 395 Hudson Street or other suitable location. Callers can choose to remain anonymous or give their name. All information will be considered confidential.

 Members should be utilizing this program when they see or suspect violations of:

  • UBC Constitution
  • NYC By-Laws
  • Out of Work List Rules
  • Contract Wages and Benefits

 Call the Hotline if you see or suspect:

  • Shop Stewards not being dispatched off the District Council Out-of-Work List
  • Carpenters being asked to work for Cash or No Benefits
  • Non-union members doing carpenter’s work on your job site
  • Carpenters not being put on the weekly shop steward report
  • Corruption of any kind

 Please Call 24 Hours a Day: 1-877-712-4896

Anti Harassment

New York City District Council Anti-Harassment Program

 ANTI-HARASSMENT POLICY

Promote Harassment Free Worksites * Build a stronger Union

 Call Toll Free 212.366.7452 for questions and complaints

New York City District Council of Carpenters Anti-Harassment Committee

Written comments to Judge Berman should be mailed or delivered to:

Hon. Richard M. Berman
United States District Judge
Daniel Patrick Moynihan
United States Courthouse
500 Pearl Street
New York, NY 10007-1312

 

Unite Against Anti-Union Practices

What is a SCAB?

  • A person who crosses a picket line.
  • A union member who works for cash.
  • A union member who works for anything less than the collective bargaining agreement calls for. This perpetuates fraud of our collective bargaining agreement.

What is a Double Breasted Company?

A Union Contractor who also operates a 2nd NON-UNION company to avoid paying the wages and benefits they agreed to in signing a collective bargaining agreement. This is fraud.

Double Breasting is a violation of our agreement and damages the stability of your pension and other funds.
It also creates fewer jobs for honest hardworking union carpenters.
If you have information on a Double Breasted Contractor please contact a Business Representative or Organizer.
CALL 212-366-3311 (all calls confidential).

What is a Prevailing Wage Fraud?

When carpenters or any worker performing the work of a carpenter does not receive the wages and benefits as specified by law on a public works job.
If you are not receiving the proper wages and benefits on a Prevailing Wage job, you are being robbed. Call the Area Standards department at 212-366-3342 and we will assist you to recover money owed to you.
For more information, visit the New York City Office of Comptroller at http://www.comptroller.nyc.gov and the New York State Office of Comptroller at http://www.osc.state.ny.us/

 

35 Things Your Employer CANNOT DO

It is unlawful for your employer, supervisor or foreman to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees seeking to organize or join a union.

THE EMPLOYER CANNOT:
1. Engage in open or undercover surveillance of employees’ union organizing activities, or give the impression that the employees are under surveillance (such as sending supervisors to spy on union meetings, watching the union hall, encouraging other employees to engage in surveillance).
2. Tell employees that the company will fire or punish them if they engage in union activity.
3. It is unlawful for your employer, supervisor or foreman to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees seeking to organize or join a union.
4. Grant employees wage increases, special concessions or benefits in order to keep the union out.
5. Bar employee-union representatives from soliciting employees’ memberships on or off the company property during non-working hours.
6. Ask employees about union matters, meetings, etc. (some employees may, of their own accord, walk up and tell of such matters. It is not an unfair labor practice to listen, but to ask questions to obtain additional information is illegal).
7. Ask employees what they think about the union or a union representative.
8. Ask employees how they intend to vote.
9. Threaten employees with reprisal for participating in union activities. For example, threaten to move the plant or close the business, curtail operations or reduce employee benefits.
10. Promise benefits if they reject the union.
11. Form a “company union,” dominate or give financial support or other assistance to a union.
12. Announce that the company will not deal with the union.
13. Threaten to close, in fact close, or move plant in order to avoid dealing with a union.
14. Ask employees whether or not they belong to a union, or have signed up for union representation.
15. Ask an employee, during the hiring interview, about his affiliation with a labor organization or how he feels about unions.
16. Make anti-union statements or act in a way that might show preference for a non-union worker.
17. Make distinctions between union and non-union employees when assigning overtime work or desirable work.
18. Purposely team up non-union workers and keep them apart from those supporting the union.
19. Transfer workers on the basis of union affiliation or activities.
20. Choose employees to be laid off in order to weaken the union’s strength or discourage membership in the union.
21. Discriminate against union people when disciplining employees.
22. By nature of work assignments, create conditions intended to get rid of an employee because of their union activity.
23. Fail to grant a scheduled benefit or wage increase because of union activity.
24. Deviate from company policy for the purpose of getting rid of a union supporter.
25. Take action that adversely affects an employee’s job or pay because of union activity.
26. Threaten workers or coerce them in an attempt to influence their vote.
27. Threaten a union member through a third party.
28. Promise employees a reward (and premium pay) will be discounted if the plant is unionized.
29. Tell employees overtime work (and premium pay) will be discounted if the plant is unionized.
30. Say unionization will force the company to lay off employees.
31. Say unionization will do away with vacations, or other benefits and privileges presently in effect.
32. Promise employees promotions, raises or other benefits if they get out of the union or refrain from joining the union.
33. Start a petition or circular against the union or encourage or take part in its circulation if started by employees.
34. Urge employees to try to induce others to oppose the union or keep out of it.
35. Visit the homes of the employees to urge them to reject the union.
Any of the acts listed above may constitute a violation of the National Relations Act, as amended. You have rights and protection under the National Labor Relations Act. If your employer does any of the things listed above, make a note of it, including names of those involved, time, place, etc. and report such incidents to your union.

 

Union Picket Policy

Loyal Union Members Respect Picket Lines
A loyal union member is extremely careful when confronted with a picket line situation.
When a picket line is established on a job where a member is working:
1. A member leaves. S/he does not talk – just leaves.
2. A member reads the picket sign as s/he leaves.
3. A member does not hang around near the job.
4. A member knows that once a picket line is established, the District Council Business Representative and other Union officials are legally gagged and handcuffed from giving advice pertaining to that job. They can only tell the member if the picket line is authorized.
5. S/he does not allow himself or herself to be drawn into conversation with anyone at the job site.

Loyal Union Members Know Their Rights

1. A member has the right not to work behind any picket line.

2. A member has the right to decide for her/himself whether to walk off a job being picketed.
3. A member understands that her/his trade may be under attack next.

It’s Your RIGHT To Have A Union!

The Right to Join a Union is Protected by the United States Government

YOUR RIGHTS

Section 7 of the National Labor Act guarantees employees the right to organize and bargain collectively with their employer.

YOUR PROTECTION

To enforce Section 7 rights, Federal Law makes certain employer conduct illegal. The following are unfair labor practices for an employer to engage in.
To interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in Section 7.
To form or control a labor organization as a “company union”.
To discriminate against any employee in hiring, firing or conditions of employment or to encourage or discourage membership.
To discriminate against an employee for filing unfair labor practice charges to giving testimony in an NLRB proceeding.
To refuse to bargain collectively with the union which represents the majority of his employees.

WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU

You and your fellow employees have the free choice and legal right to work as a team, and to help organize, join and support a union. This includes the legal right to sign a union card, solicit fellow employees to sign cads, attend union meetings, wear union insignia, talk union and distribute union literature. However, such union activities must not be exercised during working hours or in work areas. (For this purpose lunch time and break time are not considered working time.)
The employer breaks the law if he interferes with organizing activities by interrogation, surveillance of union meetings or any other methods. The employer can not threaten or penalize any employee in any manner because he supports the union, or promise or give him increased benefits or promotions to stop supporting the union.
If an employer improperly discharges, suspends or demotes an employee for union activity, the employee can obtain reinstatement without loss of seniority, and with back pay plus 6% interest.
An employer has a legal duty to bargain with the union as exclusive representative of all employees in the group, once the union is selected by a majority of employees.
The employees may rely upon the group strength and action of the union in dealing with the employer, and the employer is not allowed to negotiate with the employees individually once the union’s majority status is established. Moreover, the employer cannot unilaterally take any existing benefits; he must negotiate with the union on all benefits and employment conditions.
The National Labor Relations Board, and agency of the federal government, exists to protect your rights against these or any other violations of the law by employers.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Some employers have no respect for the law and try to rob their employees of their right to have a union by illegally interfering with their organizing activities. You can help prevent this from happening in your plant in the following manner.
If any company official or supervisor talks to you about the union and:
a. Asks any questions
b. Makes any promises
c. Makes any threats
This is what you should do:
1. Remember exactly what was said and write it down the very first chance you have. Put it in writing the same day that it happens. This is very important!
2. Make a note of what was said, who said it, where the conversation took place and who was present. Be sure to add the time of day and the date. Write down everything you can remember.
3. Give this information to your union representative as soon as possible.

How You Can Organize Your Company

Here is a list of things you can do to help yourself and the Carpenters Union
1. Call the Union (212) 366-3342 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (212) 366-3342 and submit the below form.
2. Sign a bargaining card with the Union.
3. Get your co-workers to do the same.
4. Form an organizing committee among your crew.
5. Keep a daily log of your hours, work performed and any changes in the amount of work you get and your bosses’ attitude towards your work performance.
6. Report your progress and strength on the job to the District Council Representative.
7. Let the District Council Representative do the negotiating.
8. Keep the District Council Representative informed of your job-site locations.
9. Volunteer to speak to other carpenters on other jobs about our organizing efforts.
10. Read about the labor movement.

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New York City and Vicinity District Council of Carpenters
Press Clips for Tuesday, June 19, 2012
1 DC Mention

Extras
June 18, 2012
Capital; State of Politics Blog
Posted by Liz Benjamin
DC Mentioned for endorsement of Hakeen Jeffries

Protests at Sam Chang hotel site lead to indictments for labor organizers
June 18, 2012
Publication: The Real Deal

Cuomo reaches labor deal for Tappan Zee
June 18, 2012
Crain’s New York
By Daniel Massey

Labor party: AFL backs Rangel
June 19, 2012
New York Post
By SALLY GOLDENBERG

Holding Doors or Fixing Pipes, Women Who Work as Building Employees Are Still Rare
June 18, 2012
Publication: New York Times
By ELIZABETH A. HARRIS

Extras
Jun 18th , 2012
Capital; State of Politics Blog
Posted by Liz Benjamin

Ex-Sen. Nick Spano was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for failing to pay $53,000 in income taxes.

The AFL-CIO endorsed Rep. Charlie Rangel in NY-13.

Following the lead of Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investment Service today kept the A1 bond rating for the state Thruway Authority, but dropped its outlook from stable to negative.

New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association and the Cuomo administration have reached a tentative contract agreement.

Sandra Lee tweets from the Talmud.

Mayor Bloomberg was overheard at a charity event saying he believes Mitt Romney would be better at running the country than President Obama, but he probably won’t issue a formal endorsement.

Sen. Chuck Schumer will be speaking about the NYC Charles Barron problem in the NY-8 Democratic primary “in the near future.”

Two of the High Court’s justices, Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dropped hints this weekend on the highly anticipated Affordable Care Act ruling. June 25 is one predicted date for the ruling, which some anticipated as earler as today.

The latest Bloomberg administration departure: Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, who has been there since the beginning.

Bloomberg and his anti-illegal gun group is an issue in the NY-27 GOP primary.

The District Council of Carpenters endorsed Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries in NY-8.

The building of a new Tappan Zee Bridge took a step forward today as the state and 14 major trade unions reached a deal for a project-labor agreement for the $5 billion construction project.

Rudy Giuliani imitated Obama getting a proverbial kick to the groin following Rep. Bob Turner’s win in Democrat-dominated NY-9 last year.

The New York Times will team up with Buzz Feed to cover the 2012 conventions.

Even the Chinese think Hillary Clinton might run for president in 2016.

Nassau Comptroller George Maragos isn’t taking a position on County Executive Edward Mangano’s effort to bypass his local Legislature and the Nassau Interim Finance Authority on certain borrowing.

A deal has reportedly been reached to bump legislators’ base pay to $100,000 a year, but it won’t be passed until the week after Thanksgiving.

Protests at Sam Chang hotel site lead to indictments for labor organizers
June 18, 2012
Publication: The Real Deal

Two organizers for the construction laborers union were indicted on charges of inciting a riot and unlawful assembly, the New York Times reported. Robert James and Dennis Lee are accused of the crimes in connection with a protest outside a nonunion construction site at a hotel rising on 36th Street last September.

The indictment is the culmination of a six-year battle between unions and Cava Construction, which is owned by a Carmine Della Cava, reputed to be a member of the Genovese crime family.
The hotel is being built by Cava for hotel developer Sam Chang.

“It’s a brave new world when the district attorney’s office sides with a convicted member of organized crime against union workers exercising their First Amendment privilege,” J. Bruce Maffeo, a former federal prosecutor and attorney for James told the Times. “Bob James committed no crime, and this is not a fight from which he or union labor will walk away.”

Della Cava did not return the Times’ phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Cuomo reaches labor deal for Tappan Zee
Agreement with ironworkers paves the way for the governor’s signature capital project, a new bridge costing $6 billion.

June 18, 2012
Crain’s New York
By Daniel Massey

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The Cuomo administration has reached a deal with building trades unions that could save the state nearly half a billion dollars on its ambitious Tappan Zee Bridge project and guarantees that labor disruptions won’t mar the construction.

The project labor agreement, or PLA, was approved after twice failing to gain the favor of the unions .
Labor leaders had opposed a state plan to cut, bend and fabricate the reinforcing steel for the bridge in an offsite factory instead of having the Metallic Lathers and Reinforcing Ironworkers Local 46 do the work on or near the bridge. The union feared the original state plan would deprive its members of $40 million in wages and benefits.

“Replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge represents one of the largest public infrastructure projects in the nation, and the agreement reached today will allow thousands of New York’s working men and women to secure good jobs building a new, safer bridge,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement.

In addition to a no-strike pledge, the deal reached with 14 labor organizations includes $452 million in savings for the state, achieved via work-rule changes and other means. Local 46 gave the state the same 15% wage and benefit reduction it offered earlier this year in its private contracts.

Key provisions in the deal include a straight 40-hour work week, including flexible scheduling; more apprentices allowed on the job; and standardized holidays.

“I’m very happy the governor’s office worked with the union to get the best possible deal for the taxpayers,” said Terrence Moore, Local 46’s business manager.

Howard Milstein, chairman of the New York State Thruway Authority, which has jurisdiction over the project, said the deal was good for both taxpayers and workers. “It ensures that we will have reliable, local labor for the duration of the construction project,” he said.

Earlier this month, construction trades councils in Rockland and Westchester counties overwhelmingly voted down the PLA. But the Cuomo administration reversed course on moving work traditionally done by Local 46 upstate, paving the way for a deal.

It’s not clear why the state pushed for the off-site rebar work, but one possibility is that it would have created jobs upstate and helped the governor sell the $6 billion project in sections of New York that might otherwise be skeptical of such a large downstate expenditure.

The move could have also lowered costs. The wages could have been significantly lower if the off-site jobs did not pay prevailing wages.

Local 46, whose jurisdiction includes New York City, has been a perennial target of major construction managers, who argue that its contracts protect an outdated business model. Labor sources believe some of those contractors may have pressed the Cuomo administration to use the Tappan Zee to help establish a new standard.

But after the councils voted the PLA down in early June, the Cuomo administration faced the possibility that labor turmoil could have disrupted its signature economic development initiative. It still needs to figure out how to finance the project, but at least one potential headache has now been alleviated.

Labor party: AFL backs Rangel
June 19, 2012
New York Post
By SALLY GOLDENBERG

Rep. Charles Rangel yesterday picked up a key labor endorsement as he approached the homestretch in the fight of his political life.

The New York State AFL-CIO, a federation of more than 3,000 local unions, threw its weight behind the old Harlem war horse going into next Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

Rangel, seeking a 22nd term, faces strong challenges from state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who hopes to capture the Latino vote in the newly drawn district, and Clyde Williams, who has ties to President Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

Rangel (pictured), 82, lamented recent “attacks on labor” nationwide.

“One thing is clear: The attack on labor is an attack on everything we believe as Americans,” he told a crowd from the steps of City Hall.

“Capitalism hasn’t got a darn thing to do with human beings and human rights and a fair salary, fair pay . . . That’s where the labor movement comes in . . . People just take so much for granted.”

Rangel, who has weathered a series of ethical woes, including public censure on the House floor two years ago for failing to pay taxes, went on to express his “disappointment . . . with people that just want the free ride after all the fighting has been done.”

Holding Doors or Fixing Pipes, Women Who Work as Building Employees Are Still Rare

June 18, 2012
Publication: New York Times
By ELIZABETH A. HARRIS

Monique Catus stood at the entrance of an elegant Art Deco apartment building on East 51st Street one day this spring, with a smile on her face and pristine white gloves on her hands. A little girl trotted by, she later recounted, looked up at her, and then looked at her mother. She was confused.

“He’s a girl!” she said, turning to her mother.

“No, she’s a girl,” her mother corrected.

“But!” the little girl said, “That’s the doorman!”

Doorwoman, actually. Doorperson, or door attendant, would be fine, too. None of these terms, however, are widely in use, because even though there are thousands of people in New York City who do the job, only a few hundred of them are women. And the pace of change has been glacial.

According to 32BJ, the largest building employee union in the city, about 12,800 of its members in the five boroughs are employed as doormen, porters and the like in residential buildings. How many are women? Only 302. Of the nearly 3,000 residential superintendents in the union, the number of women is 45.

“We all say ‘doormen’ for a reason: you really don’t see many women doing it,” said Amy Peterson, the president of Nontraditional Employment for Women, a nonprofit organization that trains women for jobs in male-dominated fields like construction and building maintenance. “But that’s not because employers don’t want to hire women, and it’s not because women aren’t ready.”

One reason, a spokeswoman for 32BJ suggested, is that the turnover in those jobs is quite low. Doorman, superintendent and porter positions are good union jobs (the minimum wage for a doorman in a typical apartment building is $20.77 an hour, before tips) with benefit plans and regular raises, and are not in danger of being shipped overseas. Often, such jobs are held by the same person for a few decades, or even passed down to the next generation.

“To get a doorman job, usually somebody has to die,” Ms. Catus said, with only a hint of exaggeration.

But there are women who have muscled in, who are out there doing those jobs and doing them well, their employers say.

At the Beatrice, a high-end rental building on West 29th Street, two women are employed. One of them, Orla DiTaranto, 31, has been working as a doorwoman (as she calls herself) since the building opened in 2010. Ms. DiTaranto says that while her co-workers are very supportive, disparaging comments about her sex and her job from the people who pass through can be a daily occurrence.

“Just don’t let anybody walk all over you, because they will if you let them,” Ms. DiTaranto said. And if they give you trouble, she added with a chuckle, “give them a little kick.”

When someone questions a doorwoman’s ability to do her job, many say, the focus is usually on security.

Stephanie Vega, who works at the M at Beekman on East 50th Street, said that a man looking for an apartment for his daughter once asked Ms. Vega what kind of security background she had.

“Were you in the Army?” he asked, Ms. Vega recounted. “No, I wasn’t in the Army, but that’s why we have a telephone,” she said. “We call 911 when something happens.”

Mary Signorella, a general manager at Cooper Square Realty who oversees the Southgate cooperative where Ms. Catus has been working, pointed out that building security generally has more to do with keeping a pair of eyes on the door than with hand-to-hand combat.

“No one I know is going to say, ‘Stop with your gun! You can’t get past me!’ ” Ms. Signorella said.

The Southgate, which is made up of four buildings on 52nd Street between First Avenue and the East River and an additional one on 51st Street, recently experienced a groundswell in the number of female employees, as six women were hired to fill in as porters or door staff members for the summer while regular workers are on vacation. All six were referred by Nontraditional Employment for Women, where a Southgate resident, Nicola Heryet, sits on the board.

The organization has been training women for jobs in male-dominated fields for more than 30 years, and construction jobs have long made up a large portion of its placements. But when the recession struck, construction projects dried up, Ms. Heryet explained, so the organization began to focus more on building services. This spring, it offered its first supplemental class in building operations to its graduates.

On a recent Thursday evening, eight women sat in the class (held in a brightly lighted basement shop room lined with power tools) learning all about HVAC systems and mold. The students included a former hairdresser looking for the stability of a union job and the superintendent at a supportive housing facility for people living with AIDS, who wanted to learn more about how to run her building.

Slowly, more women are being hired to do such jobs, and the sight of a woman in these particular roles will become more commonplace. But there are a few who have already been at it for decades.

Theresa Salfi started helping out at a building on Sullivan Street 50 years ago, when her father became the super there, and she officially took over for him when he died. Today, she and her brother, Joey Maietta, still work there together. But it is Ms. Salfi who is in charge.

“I’m the super,” Ms. Salfi said. “He’s my handyman. He helps me.”

A version of this article appeared in print on June 19, 2012, on page A21 of the New York edition with the headline: At the Door or on the Roof, Women Are Still a Rarity In Building Service Jobs..New Endorsements Announced For 2012 Candidates Across The Empire State
June 19, 2012
New York Daily News
By James Arkin

Longtime Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez received the endorsement of MoveOn.org Political Action for her election bid in New York’s new 7th District.

More than 80 percent of those who took part in the endorsement vote supported Velazquez. MoveOn cited her commitment to working families, affordable housing and small businesses as the key issues behind the endorsement.

“For years, MoveOn members have leant critical support on the issues I’ve spent my career working on…” Velazquez said in response to the endorsement. “I look forward to working with MoveOn’s members in my district … in our continuing fight for a more progressive America.”

Hakeem Jeffries, running in New York’s 8th District, received the endorsement of the Carpenters Union. Jeffries has been a member of the State Assembly since 2007.

Michael Bilello, executive secretary-treasurer of the district Council of Carpenters, called Jeffries the “clear choice” for the Congressional race in the 8th District.

“His record in Albany fighting for fair wages and workers rights speaks for itself,” Bilello said. “We are confident that he will represent the interests of all working people in Congress.”

Julian Schreibman received the endorsement of senior Congressman Maurice Hinchey for the newly created 19th District, which now encompasses nearly 40 percent of Hincheys district.

Schreibman said he is a lifelong constituent of Hinchey, having lived in the district represented by Hinchey since the age of two. The candidate said he was “humbled and honored” by the endorsement from his own representative.

Hinchey said Schreibman will “be an effective representative for our area and a champion on the issues that impact our region’s communities, including ensuring educational opportunities, promoting economic development and agriculture, spurring job creation, protecting our environment, and revitalizing our state’s failing infrastructure.”

State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky took home two endorsements on the day – one from the Independence Party of New York State and leaders of the Working Families Party in Queens.

In its endorsement, the Indpendence Party championed Stavisky’s bipartisan efforts in the Senate on issues related to middle class workers in Queens.

Working Families Party Deputy Director Bill Lipton also cited her record of fighting for “the values of ordinary working class and middle class families in Queens.”

I am committed to putting progress ahead of politics so that we can get Queens working again for middle class families,” Stavisky said.

As Queens Looks to Fill a Congressional Seat, the Democratic Race Is Wide Open
June 19, 2012
New York Times
By David W. Chen

Assemblywoman Grace Meng appreciates the support of the Queens Democratic machine, and the overwhelming financial advantage she enjoys over her opponents. But she emphasizes that she is the only candidate who has won before without her party’s blessing.

Assemblyman Rory I. Lancman acknowledges that he can strike some as arrogant, even irritating. But he notes that none of his financial-reform legislation could have passed in Albany without bipartisan support.

And City Councilwoman Elizabeth S. Crowley knows that politicos whisper that she lacks the intellectual horsepower to keep pace in Congress. But she brushes off such talk as elitist, and proudly promotes her working-class support from police officers, firefighters and construction workers.

In some ways, the major candidates vying in the Democratic primary next Tuesday in the Sixth Congressional District, which covers a diverse swath of central and eastern Queens, are all trying to prove that they are not what their reputations suggest.

After all, the candidates concede there are not major differences in their views on core issues like the economy, transportation and immigration. And they also know they cannot match the three decades of incumbency or the high name recognition of the retiring legislator they hope to replace, Representative Gary L. Ackerman.

So in a newly configured district, and anticipating a low-turnout election, the candidates are desperate to define who they are — and who they are not.

Bruce N. Gyory, who teaches political science at the State University at Albany, said he was riveted by the contest, because he could not think of a Congressional primary for an open seat that was as wide open, or as perplexing, since Herman Badillo eked out a win over Peter F. Vallone Sr. in 1970.

“I don’t think polling will be particularly helpful here,” he said. “I don’t think speculation is helpful here. I don’t see any reasonable prognostication about who will win. This is one that will be fascinating until you see the machines opened up Tuesday night.”

Turnout, everyone agrees, will be crucial, with perhaps 32,000 out of 186,000 registered Democrats expected to vote.

Ms. Meng, a fluent Mandarin speaker who has garnered much attention from the Asian-American media, needs a strong showing from Chinese, Korean and South Asian voters. Mr. Lancman, whose campaign believes he has the strongest field operation, is counting on support from Jewish and union voters, while Ms. Crowley, whose mailers have been praised as top-notch even by rival campaigns, is expected to run particularly well among white voters.

The winner of the primary election will most likely face Daniel J. Halloran III, a Republican member of the City Council, in the November general election.

The primary battle began in March, when Mr. Ackerman unexpectedly announced that he would not seek re-election. The Queens Democratic Party, led by its powerful chairman, Representative Joseph Crowley, tapped Ms. Meng, 36, to run; the reconfigured district is about 40 percent Asian-American, and if elected, she would be the first Asian-American member of Congress from New York.

But after Mr. Lancman, 43, announced that he would also seek the nomination, he picked up early momentum, collecting crucial endorsements from the Working Families Party, many unions and former Mayor Edward I. Koch. He also performed strongly in candidate debates.

Then came Ms. Crowley, 34, a cousin of Mr. Crowley. Despite speculation that she was a stalking-horse, urged by her cousin to siphon votes from Mr. Lancman, she insisted that she had contemplated running for higher office even before Mr. Ackerman announced his retirement.

There is also a fourth Democrat on the ballot, Dr. Robert Mittman, a libertarian-leaning family doctor, who has not attracted prominent endorsements or financial support.

In an interview, the low-key Ms. Meng vowed that she would be an independent force in Washington who would focus primarily on transportation, infrastructure and economic issues.

“When I’m drafting or supporting legislation, no one is whispering in my ear except constituents,” she said. “I’ve never had political rabbis.”

Mr. Lancman has vowed to focus on foreign policy and Wall Street reform in Washington, and has highlighted his legislative accomplishments, like helping homeowners recover legal fees in foreclosure cases. The most aggressive of the candidates, he sent out a mailer this week criticizing Ms. Meng and Ms. Crowley as being weak on counterterrorism.

“We all know there are Type A personalities, and maybe I’m a Type AA personality,” he said. “I will always be a very aggressive and prepared counterbalance to any of the crazy right-wing stuff that Republicans want to put forward.”

Ms. Crowley said she wanted to be a voice on women’s health issues in Washington, and dreamed of extending the No. 7 train to La Guardia Airport. She scoffed at the notion that she was a “spoiler” candidate, saying that “I guarantee I’m known better in my own district” than her opponents are in theirs.

“If somebody tries to poke fun at me, I don’t get distracted,” she said. “I always try to stay on message.”

A version of this article appeared in print on June 20, 2012, on page A24 of the New York edition with the headline: As Queens Looks to Fill a Congressional Seat, the Democratic Race Is Wide Open.

Tropicana Suspends Workers in Protest
June 19, 2012
Publication: Wall Street Journal
Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY—The Tropicana Casino & Resort in Atlantic City is suspending workers who took part in a protest that blocked traffic Friday night near the casino’s entrance.

Tropicana president Tony Rodio said 21 workers were suspended indefinitely for engaging in illegal activity that interfered with the casino’s customers.

Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union conducted what it called a civil-disobedience campaign Friday, resulting in the arrest of 49 of its members after they sat down in the roadway and stopped traffic. The union was protesting the lack of a new contract and the casino’s termination of its employee pension plan in favor of cash payments to workers.

Mr. Rodio said the casino is trying to determine whether the workers should be fired or not.

“The employees that blocked the entrance and engaged in illegal activity have been suspended indefinitely,” Mr. Rodio told the Associated Press on Tuesday. “We would take the same action if it happened again.

“This is conduct that got them arrested by the police,” he said. “This isn’t a free speech issue; they broke the law and interfered with our business and our customers. Frankly, I can’t see how they didn’t think there would be repercussions from that.”

The 21 employees represented all the Tropicana workers who were arrested at the protest. The workers were charged with refusing to obey a police order, and blocking a roadway, and were released on summonses to appear in municipal court.

The casino was evaluating internal disciplinary cases on Tuesday, and Mr. Rodio said it is possible the workers could be fired.

“Consider any other business, if you had a disgruntled employee who laid down and blocked the front entrance of your business and wouldn’t get up for an hour until he was arrested, how eager would you be to have that employee come back to work for you?” Mr. Rodio asked.

The union says its members were exercising their free-speech rights on their off hours, and shouldn’t have been suspended. Francine Stevenson marked her 17th anniversary with the Tropicana on Tuesday by getting a suspension notice. The grandmother of two girls, including one who just graduated high school and is off to college, is now jobless.

The dispute centers on a protracted contract stalemate between the union and the Tropicana, which is one of only two of Atlantic City’s 12 casinos without a current contract with Local 54.

“I feel very angry and upset about what has happened,” she said. “We finished our shifts, clocked out, walked outside and did our union activity. We didn’t destroy anything; we were totally peaceful. We weren’t even on their property.”

She vowed to continue to fight the casino’s termination of its employee pension plan.

“My father is 81 years old, and he had to go back to work driving a truck because he has no pension,” she said. “It is just not right what companies are doing to their workers. That’s why I feel so strongly about this.”

Bob McDevitt, president of Local 54, said the Tropicana broke the law first by refusing to bargain in good faith, and by unilaterally declaring an impasse in contract talks and terminating its pension plan.

“Tony Rodio is behaving like a bully, trying to intimidate the workers,” Mr. McDevitt said. “Tropicana has suspended 21 people who exercised their First Amendment right to protest Tropicana’s illegal refusal to bargain and to try to make life better for themselves, their families and their communities.

“These people, who collectively have over 250 years of service to the Tropicana, were prepared to take the legal consequences of participating in a civil disobedience,” he continued. “Tony Rodio is a local who has turned his back on his workers and his neighbors, and we hold him fully responsible for Tropicana’s shameful behavior.”

Mr. Rodio said that unless the union ends its campaign against the Tropicana, the casino will scrap its planned $100 million worth of capital investments into the property, $25 million of which is due to begin in September with room renovations and other work.

A version of this article appeared June 20, 2012, on page A18 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Tropicana Suspends Workers in Protest.

Hines, CIM, et al. find pot of gold

June 20, 2012
Crain’s New York
The Red Wrap, Real Estate Daily

Banks, bless their slow-beating hearts, still cannot find it within themselves to pony up cash for construction loans—especially for buildings that developers want to throw up without even a single tenant in the wings. With signs growing—in some people’s minds anyhow—of an uptick in demand for real estate, some developers are doing an end run around that obstacle. Instead of relying on debt, they are tapping into equity investors. Hines is doing it for its new 700,000-square-foot office tower overlooking Bryant Park and so too is CIM Group for its planned 1,400-foot condominium project on Park Avenue, according to The Wall Street Journal. To play the game this way, major compromises are needed on both sides. By signing on equity partners, developers have to give away some of the potential upside of their projects at the starting gate. Still, those investors have to be willing to bet that banks are wrong to still be so darn skittish, and that the rewards far outweigh the potential risks in building now.

In an interesting twist on this approach CIM has tapped individual investors for $300 million worth of equity, which those buyers have snapped up in $1 million handfuls. Interestingly, one of the bigger institutional players in the new equity game is the asset management arm of the bank that famously doesn’t like to take big risks, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Those looking for reasons to stick to their insistence on seeing the whites of tenants’ eyes before throwing money into real estate investments can draw inspiration from a wide variety of bets that have gone wrong around town in recent years. Most famously, there is SJP Properties’ huge tower at 7 Times Square that opened tenantless nearly two years ago and has only one big one today. And they there’s the losing hand played by one of the city’s sharper landlords, Silverstein Properties Inc. and its equity partner, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. They have just struck a deal to sell 575 Lexington Ave. for $360 million, The Journal said. That’s certainly a hefty sum. The problem is that it’s 13% less than they paid for the property before the market peaked in 2006, back when the buyers assumed rents would continue to rocket upwards and vacancies would drive towards the vanishing point. Mistakes do happen.

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