As if homebuilders don’t have enough trouble trying to stay solvent in this market, labor activists led by the 10 million member Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) are trying to organize more home construction workers. Presently LIUNA represents commericial construction workers, folks who build things like office buildings, highways and bridges. The union plans to march outside the Los Angeles offices of KB Home on Dec. 9.
LIUNA says KB uses a big construction contractor, BMHC, that skimps on safety, won’t provide workers with portable toilets or drinking water and cheats workers by paying them for only part of the hours they work. Fourteen construction workers have sued San Francisco-based BMHC alledging that they were underpaid for overtime. The company has denied the charges.
You might think this is the worst time to provoke such a fight. Aren’t many workers just happy to have jobs given the severity of the housing downcycle? Dawn Page, a spokesperson for the union, says it is exactly these tough times that are prompting builders to cut corners. At least that’s what she claims.
BusinessWeek editors Chris Palmeri, Prashant Gopal and Peter Coy chronicle the highs and lows of the housing and mortgage markets on their Hot Property blog. In print and online, the Hot Property team first wrote about the potential downside of lenders pushing riskier, "option ARM" mortgages and the rise in mortgage fraud back in 2005—well ahead of many other media outlets. In 2008, Hot Property bloggers finished #1 in a ranking of the world's top 100 "most powerful property people" by the British real estate website Global edge. Hot Property was named among the 25 most influential real estate blogs of 2007 by Inman News.