About Our Mission

Who are you?

Union-Built Matters is a collection of individuals concerned about the vanishing middle class in New York City. We desire to remain anonymous.

 

Why focus on construction?

The same cultural and economic developments that have adversely affected the middle class in America can also be seen at work within the city’s construction industry, which numbers nearly 150,000 hard-working people.

  • As with society at large, the construction working class is deeply and harmfully affected by the decisions of a very small and wealthy class of individuals who hold enormous power.

  • The ill-effects of their choices have been exacerbated by New York City’s current construction boom. At a time when there should be enough revenue in the system to lift all involved, it is only the moneyed businesspeople at the top who are getting wealthier, while the worker is struggling.

  • Far too many workers are dying. Yes, many construction workers die on job sites as a direct result of the decisions made and practices encouraged by some of these wealthy industry leaders.

 

What are these industry leaders doing that’s harming workers?

We emphasize that we are not speaking about all developers and contractors in New York. But there is a growing public record of malfeasance carried out by too many of them. These are some of the practices that are currently part of that public record.

  • Race-to-the-bottom bids: Developers seek to save money on construction, which is good business, not illegal. But this practice often drives bidding contractors to find ways to lower their estimates that put innocent people in danger.

  • Wage Theft: A simple way to save money is to short-change your workforce, many of whom are undocumented workers not eager to draw attention to their situation by filing suits against employers – and the employers know this.

  • Tax and Insurance Fraud: Paying workers off-the-books allows builders to dodge paying required taxes and insurance on that personnel. It also places a larger burden on honest tax-paying New Yorkers.

  • Skimping on Safety: Adhering to NYC’s Department of Building safety regulations can be costly. When inspectors are not looking, too many builders are skimping on those precautions — like not giving the proper amount of safety training to staff, not providing necessary safety gear, not putting up required safety installation devices, and demanding personnel to perform tasks they have not been trained to do. These are the decisions that get people killed.

  • Bad contractors have been cutting corners that put workers lives at risk for too long. They are more concerned with making money than making sure that their workers go home in one piece and not a body bag.

 

Why do you talk so much about unions?

There is no clearer example of both the problem of class disparity in our society and the solution for that problem, than can be found in the New York City construction unions.

  • It is no coincidence that while income disparity is increasing and the middle class is being squeezed, union influence is being dramatically weakened.

  • In America today, state and federal laws and anti-union propaganda have helped to drive union membership to its lowest point since the Gilded Age. As a result, working people have lost their most effective voice of representation at the bargaining table.

  • Income parity between the top 10% and the middle class was at its most equitable when union membership was at its height, from the 1950s through the 70s. A correction is needed.

 

All the ills brought on as a result of builders cutting costs to take more profit — the wage theft, the tax fraud, the safety violations — none of them see the light of day on a unionized work site.

  • Union members have representation on job sites, and a guaranteed process for their concerns to be addressed.

  • They are guaranteed a living wage and benefits.

  • They are required to keep up annual levels of training.

  • As a result of all of this, they are the very best in the construction business. Their work has stood the test of time in our city. It’s literally everywhere you look.

 

Unions cost more for builders to hire. But it makes no difference to the renter/buyer how much the builder spent to put up a building in New York. The renter/buyer still pays what the market will allow – which in NYC is top dollar. So those savings on construction don’t go to the renter/buyer, they go into the pockets of builders. Therefore, New Yorkers need to decide whether it’s worth demanding union-built.

What do you hope to accomplish?

We want New Yorkers to know the potential difference between a union-built building and a non-union built building, on every level, from quality to ethics.

  • And we want them to decide whether they believe they should look to live in a union-built building.

  • Every year The UAW releases a guide that lets consumers know which cars are union-made in America. Just as in buying how your car is built, you should know how your building is built.

  • We believe people have the right to know how their building is made and whether they are safe and protected or if they are putting themselves at risk.

 

We started Union-Built Matters because we want New Yorkers to be aware of what’s happening in their city, and what’s happening to their fellow New Yorkers. We believe they will care, as we do. And while we did see reports in the general media about NYC’s construction industry — about the establishment of the NYC Construction Fraud Task Force, about numerous deaths of workers at non-union work sites — that news always seemed disparate and therefore less impactful. With unionbuiltmatters.org we have attempted to consolidate these stories in one place, so visitors can better see the full size and impact of what’s happening in the business.

The site offers people the following actions:

  • To take a survey about your awareness of the construction industry issues in New York City

  • To share your own construction stories with us.

  • To write your councilman about these issues.

  • To take away a list of questions to ask realtors when seeking NYC real estate to make sure you get into a union-built building.

 

Where does your website content come from?

All of our content is derived from the following sources, which we cite within and at the bottom of every piece of content.

  • Reputable news media, including general news publishers, like the New York Times, local broadcasters like ABC-TV, and real estate industry pubs like The Real Deal.

  • Public information resources for industry content, like press releases from the New York Construction Fraud Task Force, the NYC Department of Buildings construction permits and violations database, and the OSHA construction industry violations, injuries and fatalities database.

  • We have crafted videos, the content of which is based entirely on information gleaned from the above resources.

  • All of this information is already available to the public and we have brought it together into a single online reference.

 

Who is funding you?

Our operation is small and efficient. We don’t need a lot to do what we’re doing. We choose to keep our supporters anonymous.

The Flat Iron Building — History.com

The Freedom Tower — New York Daily News

The Empire State Building — Curbed NY

The Chrysler Building — The New York Post

Union Built Matters Lockup for Site Logo

About Union-Built Matters and our mission.

All content on this site is sourced from third-parties, reputable news organizations, and publicly accessible databases, and the sources identified where necessary. The creators of this site cannot be held responsible for the provenance nor accuracy of that source information. If you seek a correction or clarification, contact us here.