Government Subsidies

Dear Mr. McMahon and Mr. Spector,


Re: Government Subsidies,


My name is Joe Leone and I am the executive director of UNiCON, a Multi-Craft, Joint Labor-Management Association based in Rochester NY. I write to you today on behalf of the board of directors of UNiCON and to comment on a recent article in the March 6, 2017 Democrat & Chronicle, written by Joseph Spector and entitled “NY is most unionized state, by far”. First, please allow me to offer some background on UNiCON Rochester. Our affiliates are the 350 + employers and the 15,000 + workers of the unionized construction industry here in the Finger Lakes region of upstate NY. Our organization has been around for many years, we are well known and respected in our community and our membership is comprised of the Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council, their 15 labor unions and the hundreds of signatory contractors they work with, the American Council of Engineering companies (ACEC), Rochester Research Associates (a local project compliance firm) and others. We represent some of the largest and most successful construction contractors, and the labor unions they partner with, in the industry. These organizations work together, in harmony, to promote and advance the common interests of our industry and our communities and we share this background with you today to solidify the fact that we speak on behalf of more than just ‘the unions’ and to offer validity to the statement that we believe we are preeminent experts in our field.


In this article Mr. McMahon was quoted as stating the following:

E.J. McMahon, president of the fiscally conservative Empire Center, contended that the state's unions have "a huge and very costly impact on public policy."

He said public salaries and benefits are "basically the tail that wags the public-sector dog. The other half are employed largely in either construction or in health care, both of which are heavily dependent on government subsidies."


I write today to offer an opposing position to Mr. McMahon’s comment as follows:

This statement implies that our unions receive direct government subsidies and that we are “dependent” upon them, but we contend that nothing could be further from the truth. As it relates to the unionized construction industry in Upstate NY I ask what “subsidies” are you referring to? To the best of my knowledge neither the unions, their membership, nor our signatory contractors receive any direct government subsidies of any kind. Our unions are totally self-sustaining; we compete in a very difficult, free market environment where only the lowest possible bid wins. Unlike many public unions that may enjoy a certain level of monopoly, we hold no such luxury.  Every single contract awarded in construction is fought for, in what is typically an open and professional bid process by contractors, both union and non-union alike, who are all extreme competitors bidding against one another. Perhaps there are some subsidies available to other industries or to developers or contractors downstate or elsewhere, I do not know and cannot speak to that, but no such benefit exists here.


Despite the fact that every single job is competitively bid against a backdrop of overwhelming competition our contractors pay the highest wages in the industry, maintain the very best of safety and training programs and provide some of the best employee benefits possible. Our union members pay 100% of the costs associated with their own benefits, and pay all of their own obligations, fees and dues. There are absolutely NO entitlements in our world. Additionally, most trade unions have ‘funds’ the workers/members donate, out of their earnings, that are used to help the less fortunate, benefit the many charities across our great nation and advance the needs of their communities. We donate hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to workforce development and regional economic prosperity. Our unions consistently and regularly give back to their communities in many, many ways and we do all of this without subsidies or public assistance of any kind.


In fact, and contrary to your statement, many of the multi-employer plans we participate in are subject to fees and taxes that most others are not obligated to pay. We are also subject to government reporting, regulation and oversight that is extremely onerous and far outweighs that of our non-union competition. In short, our Upstate Building and Construction Trades Unions build much more than just roads, bridges and buildings, we build communities. And we do all of this WITHOUT government subsidies.


In the spirit of full disclosure we do acknowledge that some of our training programs are eligible to apply for the occasional grant. These grants are typically in the area of workforce development and this is about the closest we ever get to any outside assistance. Our training programs are the ‘gold standard’ in apprenticeship and workforce training; called JATC’s or Joint Apprentice and Training Committees these jointly administered (labor-management) programs invest millions of our own private dollars into training the best, most qualified workforce in the industry. As such, we may be eligible for various workforce related grants, if they are available to the public, if we apply and if the program qualifies. It should also be understood however that these grants are not union only grants, these programs, if and when they are made available, are typically available to all who apply.


I apologize for the length width and depth of this reply but have done so in the hopes that you and your respective organizations are in pursuit of the truth and look to be accurate and factual. We cannot speak to the health care industry but do represent the unionized construction industry here in Rochester and if there is some form of subsidy that I am unaware of we would welcome your reply.


Respectfully, and on behalf of the 26 members of the UNiCON board of directors.



Joseph Leone

Executive Director,

UNiCON Rochester

180 Linden Oaks, Suite 150

Rochester, NY 14625
Office (585) 288-3440
Fax      (585) 288-5480
Cell     (585) 703-3600


Rochester City School Modernization Program Center of Political Mêlée

Tuesday, June 14, 2016
Joseph Leone (585) 288-3440

Rochester City School Modernization Program Center of Political Mêlée

Once again the Rochester School Modernization Program (RSMP) appears to be in danger of delay, or worse: confusion, misrepresentation and distortion. This $1.3 billion dollar, multi-year, multi-phase modernization program will, over time, renovate and update our aging city schools. This has been the highlighted topic these past 2 weeks as there have been no less than 8 news articles and several letters written about this program. Unfortunately, efforts to derail this program continue. The most recent delay has occurred in the NY State Assembly when a simple bill, Assembly #A9758, designed to provide relief from a “Maximum Cost Allowance” provision in the state building aid formula was blocked by Assemblyman David Gantt (NY #137).

It is important to note that this bill was suggested by the State Education department, supported by the Rochester City School Board, approved by the Joint Schools Modernization Board, sponsored by Majority Leader Joseph Morelle (Irondequoit) and co-sponsored by Assemblyman Harry Bronson (Rochester). It does not increase costs to the State or the taxpayer. In fact, if enacted, this bill will result in an overall cost savings to the project as it will increase project efficiency, provide a mechanism to complete the renovations to eight (8) elementary schools and will save years of inconvenience and disruption to the schools and the communities they serve. By all accounts everyone close to the project supports this bill.

Simply put, we are at a loss to understand why an elected official from this area – or any community leader for that matter – would block a bill that only improves this program, a program that brings $1.3 billion to our region and provides so much value to our youth, our educators, and our community? When assemblyman Gantt decided to block this measure he stated he did so because he has not had a chance to review this legislation, stating that “most of those schools are in my district, and nobody even talked to me about this. This is about the future of the kids who live in my district.” Mr. Gantt is correct, this is about the future of our kids. Below is the entire text of this legislation:

Section 1. Paragraph a of subdivision 6 of section 3602 of the education law is amended by adding a new subparagraph 6 to read as follows:
     3    (6)  Notwithstanding  any  other provision of law to the contrary, for the purpose of computation of building aid for reconstruction or modernizing of no more than eight projects pursuant to  chapter  five  hundred thirty-three  of  the  laws  of  two  thousand fourteen, multi-year cost allowances for each project shall be established and utilized two  times in  the  first  five-year  period. Subsequent multi-year cost allowances shall be established no sooner than ten years after establishment of the first maximum cost allowance authorized pursuant to this subparagraph.
    11    § 2. This act shall take effect immediately

The reasons, the necessity, and the many advantages of this relief are detailed in a 6 page letter written by the Rochester City School Districts Board of Education, dated June 6, 2016 and addressed to the local sponsors of the bill (Morelle and Bronson). A copy of this letter was also provided to; Assemblyman David Gantt, Senator Joseph Robach, Senator Rich Funke, Senator Michael Razenhofer, Mayor Lovely Warren and the Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board (RJSCB) Chairman Thomas Richards . It explains in great detail the reasons for this relief, it addresses several past concerns and what has been done to address those issues, the sense of urgency (for passage of this bill) and the significant problems that will arise if it does not pass the legislature in this session. The Rochester Board of Education, to their credit, has offered to take any one of, or all of, our legislative leaders on a tour of the facilities to show the significant progress accomplished in phase 1, the need for continued renovation work in future phases and to address any other concerns they may have. 

This letter also addressed the district’s efforts to secure this relief and their discussions with various State officials, and it states “The tone of all these discussions has been generally positive, and we have heard no challenges to the rationale described above. In good faith, with full transparency to State officials and our community partners, we have developed our Phase 2 project plan with the assumption that MCA relief would be granted.”
It is our sincere hope that as we enter the last week of this legislative session that assemblyman Gantt will do the right thing and join the rest of our community leadership in support of this legislation and our community.

About UNiCON: Unions and Business United in Construction represents over 250 contractors and thousands of building and construction tradesmen and women within the nine county Finger Lakes region. UNiCON has a long history of working towards economic development and social improvement in the area, generating opportunity for the local economy while promoting the economic advantages and competitiveness of our local, unionized construction industry.

Regional Highway and Bridge Update

Regional Highway and Bridge Update

In a June 1st Democrat and Chronical article entitled “These are the 10 worst-rated bridges in Monroe County” columnist Meaghan M. McDermott appropriately displays the poor and worsening condition of 10 of our area bridges. But it is also worth noting that much of our remaining infrastructure is also in significant disrepair. There is no question that inadequate funding has fostered an inability to address these concerns and over recent years the situation has grown to substantial proportions. Monroe County, as well as the entirety of New York State, is suffering from a lack of transportation funding. Too many of our roads and bridges are rated as poor, structurally deficient, and obsolete. Every year, the conditions get worse while the funding had remained insufficient at best. 

But, to the credit of our law makers, on both sides of the aisle and in a bi-partisan manner, we have recently witnessed a much focused effort to address these issues, and an historic amount of federal and state funding is finally making its way through the system. Much credit must also be given to the men and women who work at the Genesee Transportation Council, the NYS Department of Transportation, and the independent contractors they employ. They continue to maintain our highway and transportation systems with a very high degree of competency and with very limited resources; they have done, and continue to do, an outstanding job.
For example, of the 10 bridges identified in the June 1st article it is important to note that 7 of them are currently under replacement, repair or are scheduled and funded for future work. They are as follows:

•    Route I-490 over Marsh Road: This Bridge is currently under Construction.
•    Ontario Street over Irondequoit Creek: Funded in the next *TIP (Transportation Improvement Program) with Construction scheduled to begin in 2020
•    Route 390 NB over Trolley Blvd: Funded in the next TIP with Construction in 2018
•    Inner Loop over Browns Raceway: This Bridge is currently under Construction
•    Lyell Avenue over Route 390: Funding has been secured in the current federal fiscal year
•    Route 390 SB over Trolley Blvd: Funded in the next TIP with Construction in 2018
•    Broad Street over Genesee River: This Bridge is currently under Construction

This leaves us with three of our worst 10 bridges still in a state of disrepair and without any immediate plans for repair. Those bridges are:

•    I-490 EB over CSX Tracks: Status TBD
•    Route 250 over Thomas Creek: Status TBD
•    Scottsville-Chili Road over Black Creek: Status TBD

There is a continued need to increase resources for our roads and bridges, and the task of stretching what limited resources we do receive is a feat in itself. Various groups such as Unions and Business United for Construction (UNiCON), Builders Exchange of Rochester, Construction Industry Association of Rochester, the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority, American Council of Engineering Society, The Transportation Investment Advocacy Center ™ (TIAC), Associated General Contractors of New York State and others continue to come together to advocate for transportation funds for our region and we remain grateful for all their efforts.


Joseph P. Leone
Executive Director
UNiCON Rochester


* The Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) is a 4-year financial program that describes the schedule for obligating federal funds to state and local projects.  The TIP contains funding information for all modes of transportation including highways and bridges as well as transit capital and operating costs. The 2017-2020 TIP was adopted by the Genesee Transportation Council at its June 9, 2016 meeting.

Rochester Construction Industry Raises $53K for Sunshine Campus

The Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council, the Builders Exchange of Rochester, and the Construction Industry Association of Rochestercame together to raise $53,000 for the Rochester Rotary’s Sunshine Campus. The check was presented to the Sunshine Campus yesterday, May 31st. These efforts go a long way in continuing the Sunshine Campus’s mission to serve young people with disabilities and allow them to experience the joys of summer camping.

The proceeds were gathered at the annual Construction for Sunshine Kids reception on April 14th. Rochester’s construction community has come together every year to not only raise money for the camp, but to work at the camp on maintenance, renovation, and construction projects.

Thank you to all our members who helped support this cause.

Click here to see Don Alhart and WHAM 13 News’ coverage of the check presentation:


EVENT: Regional Transportation & Infrastructure Forum

Community, Business & Labor Leaders

together with

Regional Elected Officials


Friday, March 4th, 2016

9:00 - 10:30 a.m.

T.Y. Lin, M&T Bank Corporate Place

255 East Avenue, Rochester, NY


As we enter the 2016 NYS Budget season this is an important time for our community to advocate for our infrastructure needs. The Governor's Budget proposal calls for $22 billion in Capital DOT Funding and $26.1 Billion in downstate MTA Capital funding. We applaud the Governor and the Legislature as this is a good start, however, as we review the details of these massive spending plans we must work with our elected officials to create a fair and equitable budget for this upcoming fiscal year.


Our region is in great need of infrastructure improvements. The Rochester & Genesee Valley region is ranked as the 5th worst mid-sized city IN THE NATION for our number of deficient bridges.  (Structurally deficient bridges are those that require significant maintenance, rehabilitation or replacement).


Please join us as we review our options and bring our community together to discuss the state of our infrastructure, and to unite in our call for action with our New York State delegation.

Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council wins the Upstate Revitalization Initiative

UNiCON is proud to announce that the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council has been awarded $500 million to help transform our community. Governor Cuomo announced $2.25 billion in awards throughout the state through Round V of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative and the Upstate Revitalization Initiative.

This funding empowers our community through affording for economic growth, increased job creation, improved quality of life, and enhanced educational opportunities. Rochester has suffered from economic decline and impoverishment, and this award offers a hope for the renewed strength and prosperity we have been striving for. Our community, businesses, and academic leaders are now charged with stewardship to make the most impact as laid out in the Upstate Revitalization Initiative plan.

There are many key construction components included within this award. Three main project areas are Eastman Business Park, STAMP, and Downtown Rochester. These are the highlights for construction projects as they seek to expand facilities to support business development. The Sibley Building, a 1.1 million square-foot historic facility downtown Rochester will see its second phase of renovations to create residential, commercial, and office spaces. Eastman Business Park will host various new facilities: a bio refinery for Sweetwater Energy; a nanomaterials commercialization center; 4,000 square feet of specialized laboratory space for BEST Test Commercialization Center (BTCC); a controlled environment agricultural facility for AquaTerRen; and an AIM Photonics Manufacturing Center. Another flagship project site is STAMP, which after attracting a photovoltaic solar manufacturing facility by 1366 Technologies, will continue to outfit their facility to attract four additional nanoscale manufacturing companies. In addition, the University of Rochester seeks to create 246 construction jobs in its construction of a state-of-the-art Laboratory for Laser Energetics.

It is an exciting time for the Finger Lakes Region as we look ahead toward development and seek to prosper our community through economic and community development. It is also a great win for the construction community as the market can better plan for projects in the five years to come through this award.

UNiCON Hosts NYS DOT Commissioner Matthew Driscoll

On Friday, November 13th, UNiCON co-hosted the DOT Forum, along with the Builders Exchange and CIAR. The event brought Matthew J Driscoll—the new Commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation— and Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Robach together with leaders in Rochester’s construction community. UNiCON Executive Director Joe Leone presented the needs of the Rochester construction market to the Commissioner and the Chairman, and underlined the importance of larger and more effective funding to address the needs of Rochester’s highways, roads, bridges, and infrastructure. Investing in infrastructure secures Rochester’s future in economic development, a point which was not missed at the forum.

Project Eagle signs agreement with NY State - Photovoltaic manufacturing company secured at STAMP

Project Eagle has a new name and a new home, and Wednesday Governor Cuomo announced an agreement with 1366 Technologies, a manufacturer of technologies for the solar energy industry, to locate a new photovoltaic manufacturing facility at STAMP, the “Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park”, in Genesee County. 1366 Technologies of Bedford, Mass., a startup with VC funding and a DOE loan guarantee, opened a $6 million, 25- megawatt wafer fabrication facility in 2013. Today, the company announced plans to build a 250-megawatt commercial solar wafer manufacturing facility at the STAMP location in Genesee County.

The intention is to eventually scale that factory from the 250-megawatt production to 3-gigawatts of cell capacity, producing hundreds of millions of wafers per year. This move will make 1366 Technologies the "anchor tenant" in STAMP and, with SolarCity's gigawatt-scale solar factory just 20 miles away, western New York is now positioned to be the leading solar cell producer in the country.

It has taken a while for 1366 to get to this point. Frank van Mierlo, the CEO of 1366, said in a statement, "We’ve taken a very deliberate route to high-volume production. In the process, we’ve built a stable, capital-efficient business during the most challenging of times.” … "The facility in Bedford, Massachusetts was our proving ground and New York brings us to commercial scale."

Boasting a phased development, the first phase will require the construction of a 130,000 square foot facility to occupy in excess of 120 acres in the park. It is projected to initially create 600 direct jobs and numerous indirect jobs as this and other companies locate to STAMP. This initiative also brings $705 million in private investment into the newly developed manufacturing park. Because STAMP is currently an undeveloped site many more construction jobs are anticipated as it will be necessary to bring Water, Electric, Sewer and a variety of other utilities to the area. At 120 acres this Flagship build will occupy roughly 10% of the available area within the park, leaving much room for growth and expansion.

At Wednesday’s event NYS Assembly leader Joseph Morelle remarked “As one of our region’s top economic development priorities we have worked tirelessly to bring STAMP from concept to reality”. This clearly signifies a huge step forward in realizing all of the economic, social, and educational benefits that STAMP can bring to the Greater Rochester / Finger Lakes region. It is an exciting time for our region, as this and other developments on the site will create numerous construction opportunities – for both the future manufacturing facilities as well as the supporting facilities of residential and commercial space needed to support this micro-city – as STAMP continues to fill its 1,250 acres of space.

Economic Development is a team sport and UNICON has been an involved partner in advocating and supporting this project, and STAMP, and we are thrilled to see this come to fruition.

UNiCON Supports the the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative plan

As an organization representing both business and labor united in economic development, UNICON Rochester strongly supports the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council’s Upstate Revitalization Initiative plan.  The plan, United for Success: Finger Lakes Forward, makes a strong case that Rochester and the Finger Lakes region is ready for the kind of transformational investment that will grow jobs, increase regional wealth, and reduce poverty.   


At UNICON, we are dedicated to building a stronger community through economic development, and we support the URI plan because it does just that for the Finger Lakes Region.   The plan builds on the strengths and competitive advantages of our region to grow jobs. The strategies and investments outlined in this plan, with their focus on workforce development and key enablers of the economy, mean that our businesses will have the trained, local workforce necessary to grow our economy and sustain its growth.


We are excited about the opportunities that the future holds for our region, and we see the Finger Lakes economy moving forward with the help of this plan. In closing we would like to reaffirm our position that we solidly stand behind the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council’s URI plan.  Thank you for your consideration of our support for this outstanding economic development initiative.

Rochester Wins AIM Photonics Institute

Vice President Biden came to Rochester July 27th to announce that the Nationwide Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) has chosen Rochester for the Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IP-IMI), making Rochester the AIM Photonics Capital of the world. This includes over $600M in federal and private funds secured to develop the institute. It was a lengthy competition, and UNiCON would like to give special congratulations to everyone who has been involved.


Rochester is uniquely suited to become the AIM Photonics hub, as our world-class universities Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester are widely recognized as global centers for leadership and innovation in these sectors. Rochester is also one of the oldest and largest optics hubs, with a long history of advancement in the field. As this project continues to unfold over the next five years, UNiCON is at the forefront in continuing to advocate heavily for its local development of educational and manufacturing facilities to support the Institute.

2015 Rochester Community Coalition Priorities

There’s good news for labor in our region: the Rochester Community Coalition has announced its 2015 Priorities for State Investment, and the list includes many projects with construction opportunities. The Community Coalition is a group of leaders representing business, government, education, labor and nonprofits convened by the Rochester Business Alliance in an effort to provide one unified voice for our region. Joe Leone of UNICON and Dave Young of the Rochester Building & Construction Trades Council represent labor for the Community Coalition.

Other representatives include RBA President Bob Duffy, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, U of R president Joel Seligman, RIT president William Destler, Leone, Young and other important leaders in the community. Each year, this Coalition delivers its agenda to our state legislative delegation and because the group is filled with influential people, its message is likely to be well-received by decision-makers. Together, Leone and Young advocated for projects that are not only crucial to the development of our community, but will also provide much-needed jobs to local construction workers.

Under its “Investing in Infrastructure” category, the Community Coalition highlights the NYS 390/490 Interchange project. The group says they support a $157 million investment for a redesign of the 390/490/Lyell Ave interchange to update this failing highway and increase traffic capacity and safety. NYSDOT data shows that the 200,000 vehicles that use this interchange every day is equivalent to the volume of traffic carried by the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges combined or 50% more traffic than the Tappan-Zee Bridge. Investing in this infrastructure is critically important to the future development of Eastman Business Park, Rochester Technology Park, and the STAMP project.

Other infrastructure projects on the agenda were chosen with the intent of building on Rochester’s strengths and boosting our tourism industry. These include a remodel / addition to the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center ($100 million), which has demonstrated a need for modernization and additional square footage; the Blue Cross Arena ($37.5 million), which was last renovated in 1998; the Broad Street Aqueduct ($25 million), which would convert the interior of this very unique aqueduct into a two-level retail space; Frontier Field Modernization ($13 million); and Seneca Park Zoo Tropical Exhibit ($38 million).

The Community Coalition highlighted a few other projects worth mentioning. Under their “Creating Jobs Through Innovation” category, they advocated for the Rochester Institute of Technology MAGIC Center, which would require new facilities; the University of Rochester Institute for Data Science; and the Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation. As the Community Coalition pointed out, Rochester stands as a global leader in the photonics, optics, and imaging sectors. These projects will only help to improve that standing and undoubtedly boost economic development in our region.

The Community Coalition also supported the efforts of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council by highlighting two of its major priorities: Eastman Business Park and Genesee County’s Science Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP). Together, Eastman Business Park and STAMP are projects that could change the face of our region, and they are crucial for our future economic development.

The initiatives outlined in the Community Coalition’s 2015 Agenda are among the most important in our community today. The growth of our region is dependent on the success of these initiatives and on the funding decisions made by our legislators and other state leaders. If our legislators are successful in funding some of the projects mentioned above, it will be a great boost to our economy and will provide jobs for many in the construction industry. 

Introducing Joe Leone

Executive Director Joe Leone

UNICON is proud to announce its new Executive Director: Joseph P. Leone, Jr. 

Joe has worked in the unionized construction trades for over thirty years and served in a leadership role for twenty. He has extensive continuing education training, and has been a member of the UNICON board since 2007.

Joe's Work Experience

In 1984, Joe began a 4-year Apprenticeship Program with the Sheet Metal Workers Local Union #46. Since then, he has acted as Training Director, Trade Instructor, Benefit Funds Manager, and beginning in 2007 took over as Business Manager.


As Business Manger, Leone's duties included the management and operation of a 650-member local building trades union. He works daily with business, community and political leaders to protect, grow and improve the economic opportunities available to members.


Leone is active in the community, and is a member of the American Welding Society, Refrigeration Service Engineer Society, Monroe Community College's HVAC Advisory Board, WIT Federal Credit Union Board of Directors, Boy/Cub Scouts of America, the Rochester Rotary Club, and several local youth charity organizations.