top of page

New York is a Union Town, Just Ask New Yorkers

Union Built Matters hit the streets to ask everyday New Yorker’s how they felt about construction unions. 


Billy the Builder asked New Yorkers their opinions on the state of construction in the city and what they thought of construction unions. They did not hold back.

New Yorker’s have a reputation for not taking any crap from anybody. This has proved true when it comes to non-union developers putting up shoddily constructed buildings in their neighborhoods. Union Built Matter’s own “Billy The Builder” hit the streets earlier this summer to ask residents how they felt about the Leaning Tower of Pizzarotti, a tilting, non-union tower in lower Manhattan. They had a few choice words to share: 


“Non-union companies, they don’t really care about the safety of the construction workers, or the building, or the people that are living and working in the building.”

This underscores the prevailing sentiment among New Yorkers: non-union companies prioritize profit margins over safety and quality. The concern isn't limited to the well-being of the workers; the quality and safety of the structures they build and the welfare of future residents are also at risk. A long line of frustrated non-union building residents can attest to this.


Juan Chonillo, left, was a 43-year-old father of five when he fell from the 29th floor of the Pizzarotti building during construction. The fall was apparently the result of an extremely careless maneuver conducted by the non-union company running the site.

“I prefer a union company who cares about the workers and cares about the safety of the people who live and work in the building.”

Who wouldn’t? New Yorker’s know construction unions value the safety of their workers and quality of the construction over the profits of fat cat developers. Residents see “union-built” as an assurance that safety standards and building quality are all upheld to the highest degree. When non-union contractors cut corners on safety to save a buck, workers get killed. New Yorkers don’t want to see this happen to their neighbors. 


“Unions protect the non-union workers as well, because it prevents an abuse of labor across all accounts.”

Unions play a key role in shaping industry standards and advocating for policies that benefit everyone. Even if a worker isn't part of a union, the presence of unions on a job site can indirectly protect them, ensuring that their rights aren't trampled on and instituting processes and procedures that make jobs safer and more efficient. This sentiment was proved out in a comprehensive study which found the mere presence of union workers on a job site increased efficiency by 8%.


Signs and marches around the city indicate New Yorkers' allegiance to unions. In the lower right is a display from the "City of Workers, City of Struggle" exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York on Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street.

“Definitely safety concerns, making sure people who are doing your work in your neighborhood are taken care of with fair pay. And making sure that their families are taken care of as well.”

New Yorker’s understand that the benefits unions provide impact more than just individual workers. There’s a ripple effect: when workers are paid fairly and work in safe conditions, families, and in turn, entire communities thrive. This is how unions built the middle class and gave us many of the benefits we take for granted today.


“[Non-union construction] is not thought out, or people didn’t give a f***”

This sums up the frustrations of an entire city tired of seeing their proud skyline tarnished by shoddily constructed, non-union buildings like the Leaning Tower of Pizzarotti. Who are outraged at seeing their neighbors die on non-union job sites where corners are cut on safety. And who are sick of having to pay through the nose for subpar real estate that leaves them with one headache after another, so the guys on top can pocket higher profit margins.


Mark Colangelo is a writer and blogger.

How are we doing?

Has the content on this site convinced you to seek union-built quality over non-union construction?

Check one

Get Our Monthly Newsletter

Stay up to date on what's happening in New York construction. Our news comes from major media publishers, real estate and construction trade insiders, and the people involved in the industry every day. And it's free.

Non-Union Stories Page Video Poster.jpg
bottom of page