Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Hold Hands-On Masonry Expo At State Capitol

ALBANY, NY -The New York Regional Conference of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers(BAC) hosted a Masonry Exposition in Albany, New York on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. The Masonry Expo featuredhands-on demonstrationsof bricklaying and tile setting along with displays of stone, marble, concrete masonry unit block, plaster and rain screen. At the Masonry Expo, under the watchful eye of instructors and their apprentices, elected officials got a chance to lay bricks and set tile in order to experience some of the tasks masonry workers routinely perform. More daring participants were invited to strap into a safety harness and stand on a two-point suspended scaffold rig about 3 feet wide. The rig never leaves the floor, but it conveys the sensation of hanging off the side of a building hundreds of feet above the ground grinding mortar joints. In addition to demonstrating the versatility, functionality and complexity of the masonry trades to the public and elected officials, the BAC promoted legislation that would help stabilize wages and working conditions across NY's construction industry. A5498 / S2975redefines “public work” under NY's Labor Law Section 220, to close various loopholes such that prevailing wage and benefit requirements will follow and attach to all government subsidized construction. Wages and working conditions for construction workers are in decline and, in particular, safety conditions are deteriorating dramatically. NY experienced 246 construction fatalities for the 5 years between 2011 through 2015 with a steadily increasing number of deaths each year (approximately 75%- 80% of which in any given year were non-union workers). We are hopeful the legislature and the governor will act in 2017 to stop this race to the bottom.   More background information “UNION MASONRY - BUILDING A BETTER NEW YORK” NY's construction sector, a well-established pathway to the middle class, is under assault by low road contractors that reap enormous profits while paying workers subsistence wages with no training and no benefits. The most compelling evidence of this decline is the extraordinary number of construction fatalities across New York State - 246 fatalities for the 5 years between 2011 through 2015 with steady increases each year. Our state elected officials must act to bring this alarming trend to an end and to stop providing government subsidies for construction without requirements for prevailing wages and benefits.   Getting Your Hands Dirty Masonry crafts are as old as civilization itself and stem from a rare combination of artistic inspiration, precision and muscle. Like much construction work, masonry work has always been dangerous in both the catastrophic sense -- masonry work is frequently done at great heights with relatively heavy materials - and in the long term health of workers - from lower-back pain to silicosis. The BAC and its International Union (the IUBAC) have spent decades studying and assessing the most effective and safest techniques and protocols for executing masonry work that protects both the workers and the public. The IUBAC's NYS Certified Apprenticeship Training Programs run by the International Masonry Institute (or IMI, the IUBAC's joint labor-management training and technical program) are the gold standard of the industry. IMI apprentices and personnel will be on-hand from the IMI facilities in Long Island City, Albany, Pittsford, Liverpool, Newburgh, Buffalo and Whitney Point.   The Versatility, Sustainability and Aesthetics of Modern Masonry Many of the world's most beautiful, moving and enduring structures are built from masonry. Even our State Capital and Legislative Office Building are architectural gems constructed primarily from masonry products. At the Masonry Expo, IMI's architects and engineers will be on-hand to explain the many benefits of building with modern masonry products. Because modern masonry wall systems are nearly indestructible and resistant to both weather and fire, they reduce life cycle costs for buildings. The masonry wall is also energy efficient due to its mass and resultant temperature stability. In addition, the masonry craft has evolved with modern engineering to produce buildings that feature more height, light and space than ever before. Even concrete masonry units (CMU), formerly referred to as cinder blocks, now have increased strength that can exceed minimal required strengths that enables engineers multiple structural options when using masonry as the primary structural system in a building. When set in conjunction with rebar, the new CMU allows masonry buildings to be shaped and configured in a light and dynamic fashion while still retaining the traditional life cycle advantages and energy efficiency of masonry.   Making the Industry Safe: Apprentices and Masters Individual masonry workers have NO bargaining power in the construction market - if you want to work, it's take it, or leave it. However, in NY's unionized masonry sector, wages, benefits and working conditions are negotiated between union representatives (from one of the four BAC local unions around New York) and management and result in a collective bargaining agreement. The mechanism to recruit and train BAC Apprentices are a part of those agreements and in compliance with NYS DOL's regulations. Apprentices are taught over a 4 year program that combines classroom instruction under the guidance of master craftworkers with on-the-job training. A first year apprentice completes an initial 6 weeks of classroom training (paid for by the union membership) and then begins work in the field with a union contractor at 50 percent of the journeyworker rate. The program is designed to educate and enrich the lives of young craftworkers through the expertise and immense benefits that only the unionized construction industry can deliver.   How Our Elected Officials Can Take Action The construction labor market suffers from basic, structural flaws -- too many workers, too little training, too easily exploited by unscrupulous developers and contractors. The prevailing wage and benefit requirements of the NYS Constitution and the NY Labor Law Section 220 are supposed to act as a backstop across the public construction sector (and, indirectly, the private construction sector) by guaranteeing good middle class wages and benefits for construction workers on public projects. However, prevailing wages and benefits (which are usually based on a union negotiated wage package for a particular trade in the commercial market in each region of the state) have been under attack for decades. Today, prevailing wage and benefit requirements routinely don't apply to all kinds of government subsidized construction. The result is that our government frequently subsidizes projects with non-union contractors and developers that pay workers subsistence wages. Ultimately this degrades wages and working conditions across the industry. If we look at the large and increasing number of fatalities across New York (approximately 78% of which were non-union workers), it's clear that the chickens have come home to roost.   A5498 / S2975 would close those loopholes so that prevailing wage and benefit requirements follow and attach to all government subsidized construction. Given the 246 fatalities for the 5 years between 2011 through 2015 with steady increases each year, it seems reasonably clear that wages and working conditions for construction workers are in decline.   We strongly urge the legislature and the governor to stabilize wages and working conditions across the construction industry with A5948/S2975.