Never too Big to Organize

LIUNA Local 199 took on huge multinational bank, JPMorgan Chase (and won)

With a market value of some $460 Billion, JPMorgan Chase is a huge corporation to say the least. The multinational investment bank and financial service holding company has offices all over the world, but the decisions they make and actions they take affect local families, businesses, and communities. This is why Delaware-based Local 199 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA)–along with its affiliated funds–decided to take on the corporate giant. Big companies can put a big hurt on the little guy, and sometimes the little guy has to fight back.

Yes then No

JP Morgan Chase has big expansion plans for its Chase Bank. New brick-and-mortar retail branches are being built throughout Northern Delaware. Local 199 Business Manager James Maravelias was aware of that fact which is why he approached representatives to JPMorgan Chase about hiring union contractors and skilled union labor to build their proposed branches.

“To me, hiring union contractors and workers is a good business decision,” explained Maravelias.  “A company like JPMorgan Chase would benefit from productivity, dependability, and quality construction.  They seemed to agree with me when they promised to hire a union masonry contractor for one of its new branches in Wilmington, Delaware. When time came to actually do the hiring, however, the bank was silent on their promise. As a result, we decided we’d remind them, and the community, that breaking one’s word is no way to operate.”

Taking it to the Streets

With so many branches in the immediate area, LIUNA Local 199 had ample opportunity to let the public know of JPMorgan Chase’s underhanded practices.  Working with the Laborers Eastern Region Organizing Fund (LEROF), Local 199 members joined organizers at information lines near Chase Bank customers.  While many people were sympathetic to the union message, the actions did not lead to a positive outcome, so the union decided to shift strategies and bring the message to JPMorgan Chase’s corporate headquarters in New York City. With huge corporations like this, you sometimes need to bring your message to the top, and that would be JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Diamond. 

The Delaware and New Jersey LECET Funds joined LEROF researchers on a deep dive of JPMorgan Chase’s business practices. With pages upon pages worth of information at-hand, the union laid out a pattern of questionable business practices—from averaging more than $1.7 billion in fines each year, to settling lawsuits on racial discrimination and discriminatory lending practices, to having a lower tax rate than the average America (despite reporting almost $120 billion in net revenues last year).   As the union spelled out in flyers, signs, and conversations, going back on the promise to hire local contractors and local workers in Delaware was another example of poor corporate behavior.

Yes Again

In an organization as large as JPMorgan Chase, you don’t always find out what message or method helped change their mind but change their minds they did.  The Wilmington. Delaware branch that was supposed to be built using union contractors would be built union again. 

For LIUNA Local 199, the focus now moves from information lines and activism to delivering quality craftsmanship.  “We will always fight and scrap to win work,” explained Maravelias, “but longer term, we want to build mutually beneficial relationships with project owners like JPMorgan Chase. We want them to know that when you work with LIUNA, you work with a union that wants its partners to succeed and will do what it takes to make that happen.” 

Remembering Their Sacrifices

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today is Workers Memorial Day, a day for us to honor the dead and injured and recommit ourselves to advocating for safe workplaces for all.

The facts in America are alarming: on average more than 100 workers lose their lives from a work-related injury each week. That is one death every 99 minutes.  We should never accept even one injury or illness on the job let alone one every 99 minutes. We all must do better.

Brothers and Sisters, you know as well as I do–workplace deaths are largely preventable with proper planning, training, and worker protections. Let’s never forget that point and practice it each and every day. Afterall, as a union, we set the standards for occupational safety and health.
I thank you for your commitment to working safe and wish you and your family the very best. 

Sincerely and Fraternally,

Raymond M. Pocino
LIUNA Vice President and
Eastern Regional Manager

For stronger worker protections, Gov. Murphy and Commissioner Angelo deserve our thanks

By Raymond M. Pocino
International Vice President and Eastern Regional Manager
Laborers’ International Union of North America

Good government is good for New Jersey and the Three Sons Restoration case is a classic example of how creating, monitoring, and enforcing wage, hour, and labor laws is an effective way to support workers, save taxpayers money, and create an environment where honest businesses and not habitual cheaters are hired for public work.

Three Sons Restoration, LLC was a contractor of nefarious reputation. For years LIUNA heard rumors of the company exploiting their workforce. We heard it enough times that our union assigned organizers to investigate the claims. Over the course of many months, we met with Three Sons employees and listened to their stories. We visited worksites and pulled payroll records. It was clear that Three Sons was breaking several laws and we knew it. Of course, knowing something to be true and being able to do something about it are two different things. This is where good government and the leadership of Governor Phil Murphy and Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo were so critical.

Let’s cut to the end of this story and Three Sons Restoration. In 2019, the New Jersey Department of Labor issued work stoppage orders for wage violations at two construction sites managed by Three Sons. This was a first-of-its-kind action taken by the department after Governor Murphy expanded the department’s enforcement authorities only months before.

In 2021, Three Sons was assessed approximately $2.75 million in back wages, penalties, and fees following a NJDOL investigation into the contractor’s failure to pay its employees the state prevailing wage at six job sites. Approximately 90 employees will receive the back wages they earned but were denied by their employer.

LIUNA believes in protecting and advancing the rights of workers and thankfully so do Governor Murphy and Commissioner Angelo.  Especially in public construction where work is awarded to the lowest responsible bidder, cheating workers and falsifying documents becomes the “easy” way to gain a competitive advantage. It is easy, I should point out, until one is caught in the act by the State of New Jersey. Then, life for crooked contractors is anything but easy. This is as it should be, and thankfully, as it is today.

Raymond M. Pocino on the NJ Economic Recovery Act of 2020

In the middle of a global pandemic, there has never been a more urgent time to develop new and improved standards to recruit, retain, and support businesses here in New Jersey. Garden State residents will be pleased to know that this legislation incentivizes private investment and directs resources to help our main streets, our urban centers, our struggling communities, our working families, and businesses of all sizes.  

It is a fact that New Jersey is competing with other states, other countries, to retain and attract job-creating businesses. While we must compete with other states, we should not be at war with our own future by crafting policies that are too generous or lax in accountability and compliance. It may have been a long time coming, but the New Jersey Economic Recovery Act of 2020 recognizes this point and gets it right for New Jersey.  

I am grateful to Governor Murphy, Senate President Sweeney, and Assembly Speaker Coughlin for their roles in advancing legislation that is smart, targeted, transparent, and in the best interest of ALL New Jerseyans.

Raymond M. Pocino
Vice President – LIUNA
Eastern Region Manager

Labor Day

Labor Day Message from LIUNA VP and Eastern Regional Manager Pocino

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions of the American worker and that is a great thing.
Each and every day, we have unions like LIUNA to protect and advance the rights of workers–and that is far greater. We are better together, better united, better when we care for others and commit to the cause.

On this treasured national holiday, I celebrate my fellow union members—professionals on the job and dedicated and committed activists wherever and whenever they are needed.
Happy Labor Day to you and your family, and thank you for helping make LIUNA the very best it can be.

In solidarity,

Raymond M. Pocino
Vice President – LIUNA
Eastern Region Manager

Workers Memorial Day

Workers Memorial Day

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This Workers Memorial Day, we honor the dead and injured and recommit ourselves to protecting the men and women who go to work each day expecting to arrive home the same way they left. 

Each year in America, thousands of workers die and millions more are injured or take ill because of their work. We should never accept even one injury or illness on the job and must always strive to make our workplaces even safer for everyone.

As we all know, workplace deaths are largely preventable with proper planning, training, and PPE.  Safe jobs really do save lives and never was that as important as it is today. 

This Workers Memorial Day and everyday, I thank you for your commitment to health and safety.  

I hope you and your families are doing well and staying safe.

Sincerely and Fraternally,

Raymond M. Pocino
LIUNA Vice President and
Eastern Regional Manager

Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month has its earliest origins in the celebration of International Women’s Day, which was itself a focal point for the women’s rights movement of the 1900s. By the mid-1970s, celebrations had expanded to a week-long observance of women’s achievements in many parts of the country.

In 1981, recognizing the growing popularity of Women’s History Week, Rep. Barbara Mikulski and Sen. Orrin Hatch sponsored a joint resolution officially proclaiming the week of March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” Over the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designating a week in March as “Women’s History Week. Beginning in 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress designated the entire month of March as Women’s History Month.

In the spirit of honoring Women’s History, we wanted to shine the spotlight on four female activists whose contributions help shape the labor movement into what it is today. Our current successes are built on the shoulders of these extraordinary women.


Ai-Jen Poo began organizing domestic workers in 2000, and 19 years later, she is still actively organizing.

Once thought to be an impossible industry to organize, Poo proved otherwise, founding the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) in 2010. Now, 20,000 member-strong and growing, Poo fights to give domestic workers the same lawful rights as any other employee. This includes: fair wages; vacation time; and overtime pay. The NDWA also offers training and other support to its members and has even organized a campaign to combat the human trafficking of domestic workers. Given the often-isolated environment of domestic work, Poo has helped provide workers the community they frequently lacked and sorely needed. Together, these workers are raising awareness, offering hope, and reminding people that all workers deserve a just working environment.

Poo’s numerous accolades include recognition as a 2014 MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellow, a 2013 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and being named to TIME magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World; Newsweek’s 150 Fearless Women list; and’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.


To merely associate Coretta Scott King with her husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,. is to ignore the hard work and accomplishments of Scott King over her many decades of activism.  As she described back in 1976, “I am not a ceremonial symbol – I am an activist. I didn’t just emerge after Martin died – I was always there and involved.”

That involvement, in many ways, was shaped by the hardships and injustice she faced.  As a child during the Great Depression, she picked cotton to pay for her education. Though her family was of modest means, it didn’t stop white supremacists from burning down her childhood home.  Scott King was an instrumental part of the Poor People’s Campaign and used her influence to organize protests and apply pressure on those with power, pushing for change, especially as it relates to economic justice.

As co-founder of the National Committee for Full Employment/Full Employment Action Council (NCFE/FEAC), part of her activism was based on leading the legislative fight to guarantee jobs for all Americans. Just four days after her husband’s murder on April 4, 1968, Scott King returned to Memphis to support the city’s striking sanitation workers. She reminded the 50,000 marchers in attendance about the journey already traveled, from desegregation to voting rights, and the building of political power. She then spoke of journey ahead, stating: “And now we are at the point where we must have economic power.”


Jessie de la Cruz became a farmworker before most other kids even started school. At just five years old, she labored in the Southern Californian fields, pruning vines and picking fruits and vegetables. She witnessed firsthand the harsh conditions and mistreatment of the largely immigrant fieldworkers, which led her to join the United Farm Workers (UFW) Union in 1965 and, at Cesar Chavez’s request, to become its first woman recruiter.

Given the cultural limitations imposed on women, de la Cruz confessed that labor organizing wasn’t always easy for her. Yet over four decades, she succeeded in helping expand the movement and raise standards for farmworkers.  In 1968, de la Cruz ran the first UFW hiring hall, which was conveniently built next to her home. In addition to collecting dues, dispatching workers, and organizing union actions, the bilingual de la Cruz helped translate documents and assisted Spanish-speaking members with appointments and filling out legal documents. She eventually taught English to members, giving them the tools to help themselves.  Never one to rest, de la Cruz continued to speak for working people and the poor until her death in 2013, at the age of 93.


Hers is a name known to most Unionists, but her many contributions in support of working people may be less well known.

Mary Harris “Mother” Jones was born in Ireland, emigrated to Canada during the Great Famine, moved to Memphis to start a family, lost her husband and four children to disease, moved to Chicago to start a dressmaking business, and lost her home, shop and possessions in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

During the rebuilding of the city after the fire, Jones joined the Knights of Labor (KOL), and following the collapse of the KOL after the events of the Haymarket Riot of 1886, she joined the United Mine Workers (UMW), rising to prominence as a fiery orator and fearless organizer during the first two decades of the 20th century.

So how did Jones get her nickname? In June 1897, after addressing the railway union convention, rank and file members began calling her “mother.” Jones leaned into the nickname, claiming she was older than she was, wearing outdated black dresses and referring to the male union members as “her boys.”

In the decades that followed, Jones was described as the Mother to Millions of Working Men and Women. She traveled the country in support of workers, giving speeches, coordinating actions, and organizing workers. Be it textiles, mining, manufacturing, or steelwork, Mother Jones was on the front lines. She led strikes, battled corporate interests, and was banned from more towns than any other union organizer of her time. When she was denounced on the floor of the US Senate as “the grandmother of all agitators,” she smiled and replied “I hope to live long enough to be the great-grandmother of all agitators.”

One particular action of note: to attract attention to the cause of abolishing child labor, in 1903, she led a children’s march of 100 children from the textile mills of Philadelphia to New York City “to show the New York millionaires our grievances.” A staggering one in every six children between the ages of five and ten were engaged in “gainful occupations” in the United States at that time.

We Did It! LIUNA Apprenticeships Permanently Exempted From IRAPS

Brothers and Sisters:

Industry Regulated Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs) were a real threat to the very existence of our Union. A lesser form of apprenticeship like IRAPs would have lowered both industry standards and the union wages and benefits we have worked so hard for.

Last summer, we asked you to fight back and make your voices heard and more than 7,000 of you in the Eastern Region answered the call.

I am pleased to share that it worked!

The US Department of Labor just announced a final standard on IRAPs and it permanently exempts the construction industry from IRAP eligibility. That means that LIUNA and the Building Trades will continue to set the standard for apprenticeship in construction and that non-union and fly-by-night operations lost this fight.



There will be more fights in our future as our enemies continue to attack ourrights to a fair wage, safe workplace, and to collectively bargain.  I want to thank you for your help and hope your LIUNA brothers and sisters can count on you in the future.

As General President Terry O’Sullivan reminds us: Feel the Power. Be the Power. Use the Power!

In Solidarity,

Raymond M. Pocino
Vice President, LIUNA
Eastern Regional Manager

RISE Champions: Member-Driven Union Advocates

Rise Champions: Member- Driven Union Advocates

As an organization, LIUNA prides itself on providing our members with the skills and training they need to be effective unionists in the twenty-first century. In the Eastern Region, an outgrowth of that dedication to training is our Regional Initiative for Strategic Education—or RISE—program.

Retired LEROF Organizer Rick Pullen discusses salting with RISE Champions

RISE provides a structured, tiered and hands-on education and training environment for rank-and-file members to learn about: union history; union organizing and political involvement; public speaking and persuasion; and job site organizing, all with the goal of providing members the tools that they need to advocate for themselves and their union in many of the situations construction craft laborers find themselves in on a daily basis.

With the introduction of a new, invite-only tier—RISE Champions—we are working to provide small groups of LIUNA Eastern Region members with additional hands-on training to help them put into practice the organizing skills they learned in the previous RISE tiers. From salting, to digital organizing, to house calling, to public persuasion, these champions are given real world examples of organizing efforts and work to produce positive results through research, homework and roleplaying exercises, with evaluation coming not from instructors but from the other champions with whom they are working.

RISE Champions show off a completed group project

RISE Champions have been integral in the success of our ongoing regional organizing efforts, from member-driven campaigns against open shop in New York City, to promoting water infrastructure investment in New Jersey, to exposing improper hazardous waste remediation in Delaware. And we continue to encourage champions to develop and utilize secondary skills and hobbies that may benefit their organizing efforts. For example, all of the photos featured in this article were taken by one of our RISE Champions, Dan Rubino.

RISE has always been about giving our membership the tools they need to elevate and coordinate their union organizing efforts. And with our second set of RISE Champions, you can expect to see and hear many more member-driven successes in the future.

Building Union, Unearthing History

Building Union, Unearthing History

It takes a skilled union laborer to build, demolish, maintain, and repair buildings and infrastructure. It also apparently takes a skilled union Laborer to find one the world’s oldest messages in a bottle.

Another day at the worksite for LIUNA Local 3’s Robert Kanaby, right?

Kanaby, a 13-year member, was working demolition at Montclair State University last February. Using a chipping hammer to take down a 6-foot brick wall, Kanaby heard the sound of broken glass which would lead him down a path no other Laborer in the history of LIUNA has probably ever experienced. He discovered a 112-year old message from two union bricklayers who were involved in the building of the stately College Hall on the MSU campus. The glass he heard shattered was the bottle the letter was stored in.

112-year-old letter from BMIU Local 3

JULY 3, 1907″

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Kanaby. The two workers created a secret compartment between the first and third layers of brick and placed a note in a beer bottle that allowed them to, as Kanaby said in a recent interview, “take ownership of a job done well by writing their names, what they did, and where they were from.” What they built as Union Masons 112 years ago, Kanaby and his fellow Laborers were now altering to make way for additional office and dining space.

Kanaby loves to talk about his union and his work. He enthusiastically rattles off all the training he has taken, describes with pride the camaraderie he feels with his fellow Laborers, and admits he may be annoying his wife Anna, daughter Bobbi Ann, and son RJ, by always pointing out projects he worked on.

The story of his historical find has been featured on NJ.comCNN, the New York Post, and dozens of other news outlets. Kanaby is enjoying the moment as well as the work he is now performing at the American Dream Meadowlands which, once completed, will be one of the world’s largest retail and entertainment complexes.

Will he be leaving any messages of his own?

“You never know,” laughed Kanaby. “Now that I am working retail construction, hiding a note behind sheetrock might not have the same effect.”

He did point out that the original message writers, the brick masons from Newark, would be surprised at construction today.  “All of the technology and changes… with lulls and forklifts it is certainly less physical, but it is still as satisfying a career as it was back then, I imagine.”