Friday, March 13, 2015

OK, building industry workers are often local. That doesn't mean good news for blacks, or that Atlantic Yards has made much of a difference.

Blacks missing out on construction jobs wrote Crain's blogger Greg David Wednesday, in a post that raised more questions than it answered:
Workers in New York City's construction industry overwhelmingly live in the city (75%), and their relatively high wages bolster the middle class (71% live in households with incomes of at least $50,000), according to a report issued this week by the New York Building Congress. Even better, the report found, 84% were able to secure employment in the industry without a college degree.
The bottom line is that this sector allows city residents with limited advanced education to earn good money—exactly what New York needs.
I'm not so sure about that. The New York Building Congress report, headlined THREE-QUARTERS OF NEW YORK CITY BUILDING INDUSTRY WORKERS LIVE IN THE FIVE BOROUGHS: 56 Percent of NYC-Dwelling Workers Live and Work in the Same Borough, stated:
Approximately 26 percent of all building industry workers lived in households with incomes greater than $125,000 in 2013. Forty-five percent of workers reported household earnings between $50,000 and $125,000. Twenty percent reported earnings between $25,000 and $49,999, and 9 percent reported household earnings of less than $25,000 annually.
A household with two adults each earning $25,000 fits into that 71% that David cited, and that's hardly middle-class by New York standards; they would be eligible for public housing.

Fewer blacks, less health insurance = weakening unions

David notes that African-Americans, "who represent 25% of city residents, compose only 13% of the construction workforce." Hispanics are overrepresented. Also, only half construction workers had health insurance, a decline of 3 percentage points from 2012.

Writes David, "There may be a lot wrong with the construction unions and their onerous work rules that inflate costs, but this is a stain on the alternative." It's not the only stain. Some percentage of nonunion jobs are extremely hazardous.

The lesson--unspecified in the New York Building Congress report--is that there are fewer union jobs, a statistic that remains unquantified.

In fact, the report actually addressed the broader category of "building industry workers," which includes off-the-books laborers as well as white-collar positions:
According to the survey, which is based on personal responses and incorporates both union and non-union labor as well as participation by “off the books” workers, construction and other blue-collar operations accounted for 79 percent of the industry workforce. The remainder of the workforce, as defined by the Census Bureau, consisted of sales and service occupations as well as white-collar jobs, such as architects, engineers, and management.
The Atlantic Yards angle

The lagging pace for black workers also conjures up the extravagant promises and hopes regarding Atlantic Yards, specifically a new path to union construction jobs through BUILD, Brooklyn United for Innovative Local Development, now defunct and subject to a bitter lawsuit by some who entered a coveted training program but didn't get those union jobs.

And there are some jobs at the FC Modular plant in the Brooklyn Navy Yard--note the information session next Wednesday, in the graphic above right--but only for those with at least one year of construction trade experience. That doesn't change the paradigm the way BUILD promised.

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