Building and Construction Trades Council Response to ABC’s Article on Governor Cuomo

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Response to: Is Cuomo the new Boss Tweed?

By: James Cahill

May 9, 2016

The Associated Builders & Contractors’ (ABC) recent op-ed By Brian Sampson, “Is Cuomo the new Boss Tweed?” makes some serious allegations against the Governor – in essence, accusing him of bid rigging as a favor to the unions. I hate to rain on Mr. Sampson’s parade, but the ABC should be well aware of the unions’ position on deceitful practices like bid-rigging, misclassification schemes, kickbacks, wage theft, and other forms of worker exploitation. After all, the Building Trades unions usually bring these situations to light on behalf of the non-union workforce the ABC speaks so highly of.

Mr. Sampson’s commentary was sparked by the Governor’s recent comments at a Building Trades conference in Washington D.C. where he praised the benefits of union labor. That the State of New York, and the Governor in particular, would speak out in favor of a policy that recognizes the value of an organized workforce has little to do with campaign contributions or bid-rigging. What we’re really talking about is the duty of every government official to carry out a principle deemed so important it’s included in our State Constitution:

Labor of human beings is not a commodity nor an article of commerce and shall never be so considered or construed. . . . Employees shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.” Article 1, Section 17

The legislative history makes clear that the policy of New York State was, and continues to be, to protect the fundamental principle that human rights are superior to property rights. That the Governor believes he has a responsibility to protect those rights should not be alarming for they are the bedrock of our State’s labor history.

The ABC is an association of CONTRACTORS – for-profit businesses – and it’s their job to protect these BUSINESSES, so it’s understandable that they would view Labor as a commodity and feel that any policy which protects a worker’s fundamental rights would be toxic to their business model. Of course, they can say they’re trying to protect the “tens of thousands of merit-shop construction workers” but we all know that they don’t represent the WORKER; they represent the CONTRACTOR. The ABC is not concerned about whether non-union workers have opportunities to work on state projects; they’re concerned about how much non-union CONTRACTORS can profit from these projects. So please, ABC, if you want to make outlandish claims against the Governor, at least have the courage to be clear about your interests. Don’t pretend to be a voice for workers because if you were, you’d be a UNION.

James Cahill is President of the NYS Building & Construction Trades Council which represents over 200,000 unionized construction workers across the State.

Link to Official Reply

Link to Original Crain’s Article