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Two days into Rhode Island Carpenters' statewide strike against commercial and heavy/highway builders, the Providence Journal Bulletin has published a story about the impasse.
The story includes quotes from both the union and a representative of the Associated General Contractors (AGC). The union statements (included below) emphasize the need to return to the bargaining table and resume the positive, cooperative relationship the union has had with signatory contractors. Unfortunately, the AGC maintained no such level of professionalism or respect.
Eric Anderson, executive director of the Rhode Island AGC characterized union carpenters as "kids" whose strike is "nutty" and "a power play on behalf of the carpenter's union to dominate the construction industry."
Mr. Anderson apparently doesn't think union carpenters are smart enough or considerate enough to make their own decisions, telling the paper that carpenters' wives and significant others would put pressure on members to accept whatever deal management offered: "eventually we'll get to that and people will start to become more reasonable. That's what we hope will happen soon."
Union carpenters understand that a strike is not a frivolous thing. The members of Rhode Island voted by a margin of more than 400-1 to reject the last offer and strike. They didn't do it because they wanted to lose their trucks or homes anymore than contractors want to drive their businesses into the ground by sitting idle.
As is the case in many local unions around the country, union carpenters in New England are facing new collective bargaining agreements that provide very little, if anything, in the way of wage increases. Rather, carpenters are focusing on protecting health and retirement benefits. It is an unfortunate function of the current economic times. But those benefits don't only protect members, they reduce the burden on all taxpayers by lowering demand on public assistance programs.
Carpenters are not "kids" interested in pushing aside our Brothers and Sisters in the Building Trades. At the same time, the AGC's "cookie cutter" approach to negotiating and its threats to start negotiations from scratch do nothing to protect and promote positive labor relations between the union and the AGC in the future.
Mr. Anderson suggested that contractors in Rhode Island might try to keep projects on schedule by brining carpenters down from Massachusetts. But union carpenters in Massachusetts have expressed strong solidarity with their Brothers and Sisters in Rhode Island, making it unlikely members would cross state lines and union strike lines.
Members in Rhode island are encouraged to visit the story at the Providence Journal and voice their opinion on their actions in the comments section after the story. All union carpenters--no matter where they live--can voice their support for our Brothers and Sisters in Rhode Island by submitting their own comments. Go to the story on the Providence Journal's website and leave a comment in the section following the story. Remember, the paper reserves the right to delete comments it finds objectionable and rude or immature attacks do not generate support for union members. Comments are moderated and may not show up immediately. Only submit them once.