Reports & Media

Labor Reacts to TIAA-CREF's New Stance On Development

By Joe Maniscalco | Laborpress | May 9, 2013 | Read Original

"Organized labor groups in the city are applauding the second-largest pension fund in the country and its decision to no longer work with irresponsible contractors this week — even as the battle over the Queens construction 'sweatshop' which served as the lightning rod for the ongoing controversy continues...

"After mounting pressure from organized labor, TIAA-CREF recently announced that it had sold its interest in the 47th Avenue project to the fund's development partner — O'Connor Capital Partners — and was instituting a new Responsible Contractors Policy...

"Labor activist and Corporate Campaign, Inc. Director Ray Rogers has been heavily involved in helping the NYCDCC spearhead its efforts against the building site, and was directly involved in negotiations with TIAA-CREF General Counsel Jonathan Feigelson prior to the fund's announcement about its new Responsible Contractor Policy.

"During those sometimes contentious talks, Feigelson reportedly raised the possibility of bringing in union carpenters to work on the Long Island City development — just not any affiliated to the NYCDCC.

"In that case, Rogers said that he wasn't aware of any contractors 'within the Greater New York City area that are going to meet the responsible contractor definition.'

"Be that as it may, Donnelly believes the chances of securing a responsible contractor to work the Long Island City site have improved.

" 'This should be a little bit easier as it appears that O'Connor Capital is the only problem to be addressed in that regard,' Donnelly said.

"Rogers welcomes TIAA-CREF's new Responsible Contractor Policy as a 'major victory' — but cautions that the group's contracts must be also be changed in order for the fund's new guidelines to have any real teeth.

"During his talks with TIAA-CREF, Rogers said that their general counsel often bemoaned a situation where despite all the money it had invested in the Long Island City project, the fund did not have the 'unilateral power' to hire and fire subcontractors.

" 'The question is, have they changed the language that gives them the power over any developer or contractor in any future projects that they are involved in?' Rogers said."

Carpenters Wield Mighty Hammer; TIAA-CREF Raises 'White

By Joe Maniscalco | Laborpress | April 4, 2013 | Read Original

"After months of relentless pressure from the New York City District Council of Carpenters and its allies, the world's second-largest pension fund has decided to sell its interests in a building 'sweatshop' located at 5-11 47th Avenue in Long Island City to its former development partner for almost $22 million...

" 'TIAA-CREF has essentially raised the white flag which signals a major victory over a financial powerhouse for the New York City District Council of Carpenters, Corporate Campaign and working people,' Corporate Campaign, Inc. Director Ray Rogers told LaborPress.

"The New York City District Council of Carpenters and its allies have been relentless in their opposition to TIAA-CREF's involvement, leafletting and protesting outside the pension fund's headquarters and affiliated sites for months. In February, demonstrators even confronted Ferguson personally in Atlanta, Georgia, where they were subsequently threatened with arrest...

"But while the carpenters and their supporters are rejoicing in TIAA-CREF's almost $22 million sale to O'Connor Capital Partners, they're not convinced that the deal, which also includes well over a half-million dollars in real estate fees, is the end of the story.

"According to Rogers, TIAA-CREF's general counsel assured him that the pension fund would both re-write its business code of conduct to insure that responsible contractors and developers are put on all future jobs, and make sure it now has greater control over the hiring and firing of contractors and subcontractors.

"So, before anyone breaks out the confettie, Rogers wants to make sure that TIAA-CREF actually puts those principals into practice...

"Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer called the recent discussions he had with the head of O'Connor Capital Partners 'One of the least pleasent meetings I've had.'

"With that in mind, the caprenters and their allies are determined to see that similar scenarios are not replayed elsewhere.

" 'There's a source of power where you need to focus your energy,' Rogers said. 'You've got to start looking behind the scenes at all the players that are sitting back there benefitting from all of this.'

"The Corporate Campaign, Inc. director calls the banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions that extend invaluable credit to building developers their 'food and water supply.'

" 'If you can understand how to bring pressure to bear on them, you could clean up a lot of these construction sweatshop situations,' Rogers said."

Organized Labor Needs Powerful Themes and Fightback Strategies to Win the Tough Public Relations and Organizing Battles Ahead

New York City District Council of Carpenters:
Setting a Strong Example for Organized Labor

By Harry Kelber, Editor, The Labor Educator, March 6, 2013

As a recipient of monthly pension benefits through TIAA-CREF (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association — College Retirement Equities Fund), I've been moved to write Roger Ferguson, the CEO of TIAA-CREF, about his company's investments in "construction sweatshops."

Mike Bilello, a tough, former carpenter who heads the 25,000-member New York City & Vicinity District Council of Carpenters (NYCDCC), is shaking up the construction industry and financial community by going after TIAA-CREF over the issue of construction sweatshops — workers in construction sweatshops receive low pay, no healthcare or pension benefits, work in unsafe conditions, have no job security and face retaliation if they speak out against abusive treatment.

Under Bilello, the Council partnered with the renowned labor strategy firm, Corporate Campaign, Inc. headed by Ray Rogers, to develop the Campaign to Stop Construction Sweatshops. The goal of this innovative and ambitious effort is to secure justice for carpenters and other construction workers in the nation's construction capital.

The NYCDCC is fighting to require owners, developers, investors and general contractors on large construction projects to use responsible contractors and subcontractors — those with a documented history of providing area-standard wages and benefits, including health insurance and pensions; who participate in New York State Dept. of Labor certified apprenticeship programs, and who respect workers' rights to speak up against safety concerns and arbitrary, capricious or abusive treatment without fear of retaliation especially in the form of suspensions without pay, terminations and blacklisting.

TIAA-CREF has partnered with construction sweatshop contractors whose principals have been involved in criminal behavior and have ties to organized crime. Due to the Campaign, DeGraw Construction was kicked off a TIAA-CREF building site in Queens, NY because the owner of DeGraw was found to be a mob associate and soldier in the Gambino crime family and had pled guilty to racketeering conspiracy in February 2012 and is awaiting sentencing.

However, TIAA-CREF has continued to partner with other questionable contractors. Most recently, Anchorage Construction has been brought on to TIAA-CREF's sweatshop building project in Queens. On February 26, 2013, the State of New Jersey barred Anchorage from any public works projects until February 2016. Why has Anchorage been hit with this serious violation? For not meeting basic wage standards and therefore violating the Prevailing Wage Act.

Everyone concerned about the horrible and dangerous working conditions thousands of construction workers face every day should read the brochure, "TIAA-CREF: Construction Sweatshops, Tobacco and Killer Coke" and check out the website, "

As president of the AFL-CIO, I would back these kinds of campaigns so they would proliferate in industries where great injustices are being done to workers. Let's all get behind this Campaign. Visit the Take Action! section on the website. Simply type in your name and email address, add some comments if you like and send TIAA-CREF CEO Roger Ferguson a protest letter demanding answers to serious questions he and TIAA-CREF are trying to avoid.

TIAA-CREF Refusing to Change Its Ways on Construction Sweatshop

Financial giant partners with another construction sweatshop contractor

More than two months after TIAA-CREF General Counsel Jon Feigelson assured members of the New York City District Council of Carpenters that the highest standards would be met at a building project in Queens, little seems to have changed.

TIAA-CREF's continued support for irresponsible contractors and subcontractors is becoming of greater concern by the day. TIAA-CREF, the financial giant, is a major investor in the construction sweatshop at 5-11 47th Avenue in Long Island City.

Who's been brought in most recently on the project? None other than Anchorage Construction, based in Staten Island. Anchorage has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. On February 26, 2013, the State of New Jersey barred Anchorage from any public works projects until February 2016. Why has Anchorage been hit with this serious violation? For not meeting basic wage standards and therefore violating the Prevailing Wage Act. (see

Previously sub-contractor, DeGraw Construction was on this building project. Owner of DeGraw Construction? Anthony Scibelli, "mob associate" of members of the notorious Gambino crime family who pled guilty to racketeering conspiracy in February 2012.

When will TIAA-CREF finally stand by their word and bring in responsible contractors who treat their workers fairly and take safety seriously?

It's time to End Construction Sweatshops!

To urge TIAA-CREF CEO Roger Ferguson to stop funding construction sweatshops, please visit:

Carpenters Hammer TIAA-CREF!

By Joe Maniscalco | February 12, 2013 | Laborpress | View Online

"Despite an aggressive campaign highlighting their involvement in a notorious construction site 'sweatshop' in Queens, the largest retirement fund in the country and the Obama administration insider who runs it, continue to ignore organized labor's call for action - and union reps think they know why. (Read More and Watch Video)

" 'TIAA-CREF has reached out to the Carpenters Union through Ray Rogers of the Corporate Campaign, and they said they would like to put a responsible contractor in there - but nobody that's associated with the carpenters union,' NYC District Council of Carpenters Representative Michael Donnelly told LaborPress. 'In my opinion, TIAA-CREF doesn't want to be told what to do. They're embarrassed now - as they should be - but they don't want to say that they were told what to do. Or that they lost, or that they were wrong...' "

" 'We have to stop the proliferation of these construction sweatshops where serious injury and economic injustice are commonplace,' Rogers said. 'This is the construction capital of this country, if we allow companies like TIAA-CREF and these big developers like O'Connor Capital Partners to get away with this kind of behavior, it really undermines the protections that the construction unions have fought so hard for over the years...' "

Roger Ferguson, TIAA-CREF president & CEO, was not happy to see Campaign to Stop Construction Sweatshop supporters handing out TIAA-CREF: Construction Sweatshops, Tobacco and Killer Coke protest fliers to those attending his presentation at Clark Atlanta University School of Business. The university's president was irate. The peaceful leafleters were threatened with arrest.

Roger Ferguson | TIAA-CREF Roger Ferguson | TIAA-CREF Roger Ferguson | TIAA-CREF Roger Ferguson | TIAA-CREF

Obama Appointee At The Center Of LIC Construction Battle

By Joe Maniscalco | Labor Press | February 5, 2013 | View Original

"An already troubled development project in Long Island City, Queens is being lambasted as a construction site 'sweatshop' in a controversy over how things get built in New York City that could also prove potentially embarrassing to the Obama administration...

"But now, the New York City District Council of Carpenters is launching an all-out campaign against the development because on-site contractors hired to carry out the job fail to pay area standards, wages and benefits to workers. The situation is particularly outrageous to labor because one of the chief partners on the project — which also includes O'Connor Capital Partners and McGowan Builders — Is TIAA-CREF, the largest retirement fund in the United States, and responsible for investing the pension funds of millions of unionized workers nationwide."

New York City District Council of Carpenters members
taking action in front of Columbia University in Manhattan.


Contract Killers
Government Agencies Award Taxpayer Dollars to Contractors That Disregard Worker Health and Safety

Public Citizen | March 29, 2012 | View Original

Taxpayer dollars should only reward companies that safeguard their employees from dangerous work conditions. Yet throughout the United States, government agencies at the state, local, and federal levels award contracts for bridge repair, sewer installation, school renovation, and other construction projects  to irresponsible companies that endanger their employees' lives. When government agencies fail to properly assess construction companies' health and safety performance, the results can be both deadly and expensive. This report highlights cases in which companies with demonstrated health and safety problems go on to win government contracts around the country, often with disastrous consequences.

Read the Report in .PDF

Read Public Citizen's Press Release in .PDF

TIAA-CREF Roger Ferguson Campaign to Stop Construction Sweatshops Campaign to Stop Construction Sweatshops Campaign to Stop Construction Sweatshops Campaign to Stop Construction Sweatshops Campaign to Stop Construction Sweatshops