Tuesday, August 11, 2009

(Indicted and non-indicted) Carpenters Union leaders: We work with people who work with us

Someone asked me if any of the indicted officials associated with the District Council of Carpenters have led advocacy for Atlantic Yards, and the answer is no.

(Here's the FBI press release, stating that the officials took about $1 million from contractors to defraud the union by paying union members cash, without benefits; by employing non-union workers; and avoiding payment to union benefit funds. "[T]oday's Indictment shows continuing corruption at the highest ranks of the union's leadership even after years of dedicated efforts under the federal Consent Decree to rid the union of wrongdoing," said Lev L. Dassin, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.)

However, there's a curious consistency of outlook. Consider that Executive Secretary-Treasurer Michael Forde, indicted for racketeering and bribery (on top of a $274,000 a year salary), has a basic philosophy, according to the Daily News: "We are going to work with the people who will work with us." (That includes Republicans and Democrats.)

The same holds true with Atlantic Yards. Forest City Ratner plays such hardball with unions that it actually stopped construction of the Beekman Tower in Lower Manhattan midway to extract concessions. But the unions want to build Atlantic Yards.

It's understandable; there is a lot of non-union construction in the city. And the unions have a legitimate interest in safe and fairly-compensated construction. But does the end justify the means?

At the informational meeting



The video above, shot by Jonathan Barkey, at the July 22 Atlantic Yards informational meeting hosted by Community Boards 2, 6, & 8, is an excerpt from a longer video that includes an orchestrated disruption.

"Leave that guy alone; we like him," bellows Local 926 President Sal Zarzana, defending a pro-project heckler, who's intervening even as a Forest City Ratner official speaks. "If you guys go against him, we go against you." (Zarzana happens to be standing next to FCR VP Scott Cantone, who's wearing a jacket.)

Soon the camera switches to Carpenters organizer Anthony Pugliese, who yells, "Tell [Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn spokesman Daniel] Goldstein to get a real job."

Does he yell the same thing at boss Forde? 

"It's been a long night," says moderator Craig Hammerman, District Manager of Community Board 6 at the end of a segment. "I have a feeling we're nearly there."

It was not to be. The next thing to happen was an orchestrated disruption by a group of men chanting, "Go home."

And, for the record, union members as a group were far more disruptive at the May 29 state Senate oversight hearing.

Update: the Carpenters have removed Forde.

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