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Conn Carpenters, Operators step back from Building Trades Posted by on

On the heels of Connecticut Building Trades Council Ben Cozzi??s resignation, Carpenters Local Unions 24, 43 and 210 in Connecticut have taken a step back from their participation in the group. A joint letter from the New England Regional Council of Carpenters and Operating Engineers Local 478 to employer associations, users, and major CMs/GCs states that ??in the creation of future project labor agreements or other collective activities, no one is authorized to speak for or sign documents on behalf of either the New England Regional Council of Carpenters or the Operating Engineers, Local 478 other than our own two organizations.??

Cozzi, a member of the Operating Engineers, resigned his position as President of the Connecticut State and New Haven Building Trades Council this week after the National Building and Construction Trades Council passed a resolution prohibiting members of International unions not affiliated with the National Building Trades from holding offices with state, regional or local Building Trades. Though not members of the National Building Trades, the Operating Engineers and Carpenters have participated in state and local Building Trades Councils around the country as area conditions dictate.

An election for President of the Connecticut Building Trades is to be held this fall, in which Cozzi was expected to face a member of another union. There had been talk that a Cozzi victory would have spurred an election protest with the National Building Trades to have Cozzi disqualified because of his membership in an International union that does not participate in the National Building Trades. That, combined with the explicit motion by the National Building Trades spurred Cozzi??s resignation.

In a related development the Plumbers Union has also withdrawn from the Connecticut State Building Trades, citing the upcoming election and the events leading to Cozzi??s resignation.

TAGS: Connecticut

Wall Street Journal says immigration slowed sharply in recent years Posted by on

The Wall Street Journal published an article this week citing a Pew Research Center study that the number of illegal immigrants entering the United States had slowed dramatically in the last two years compared with the beginning of the decade.

??The influx of illegal immigrants plunged to an estimated 300,000 annually between March 2007 and 2009, from 850,000 a year between March 2000 and March 2005, according to new study released Wednesday by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group.??

The article contains a preliminary debate about the dramatic drop in immigrants, quickly dismissing increased border security as having any major impact. The leading factor cited, not surprisingly, is the economy.
The mortgage crisis and ensuing economic slump have slashed jobs in construction, tourism and other sectors that are the mainstay for low-skilled Latin Americans. Immigrants already in the U.S. are struggling, and word of their hardship is dissuading those back home from flocking to the U.S.

"People don't want to come now; they know the economy is bad," said Braulio Gonzalez from Guatemala, who has been scraping by as a day laborer outside Los Angeles.

TAGS: Media

Carpenters say their new center speaks to their community roles Posted by on

As published in the Dorchester Reporter
by Matthew DeLuca, Special to the Reporter

In the lobby on the third floor of the new Carpenters Center at 750 Dorchester Avenue are sleek black chairs and hardwood floors and the receptionist behind her desk hums along to the radio on this quiet August afternoon. Beside the long counter of the reception desk is a small metal sculpture of a carpenter wielding a hammer that make one think more of a dentist??s office or the Museum of Contemporary Art than Woody Guthrie and Eugene V. Debs.

This idea, that unionism has changed in recent years, is reiterated again and again through the new building, both in details of its structure and design and by the people who work there.

??We??re not just working for our own interests,?? said Vincent Scalisi, who with Chris Shannon manages business development for the NERCC. ??We are part of the fabric of the community. We??re coaching baseball teams, we??re the guys sitting next to you in church.??

Scalisi is from Hyde Park and Shannon lives in Canton, but both of them say they spend more time at the facility in Dorchester or on other union business in local neighborhoods than they do at home.
??I tell people I sleep in Canton but I live in the city,?? Shannon said.

The building on Dorchester Avenue houses the New England Regional Council of Carpenters (NERCC), Pile Drivers Local 56, Mill and Cabinet Local 51, Wood Frame Local 723, Floor Coverers Local 2168, and the Boston Carpenters Apprenticeship and Training Center. There is also a branch of First Trade Union Bank and a Carpenters Vision Center, where union members are eligible for new eyeglasses annually.

The floor of the building that Shannon and Scalisi work on is also occupied by offices for community outreach, which doesn??t always mean picket lines (though Scalisi does say that when he??s going somewhere to support a political cause, his family usually goes with him.) Alex Miklowski, a recent graduate of Emerson College, is part of the new way the NERCC is trying to get its message out. On her desk is a bank of computer screens and behind her on a coat rack is her pink hard hat. ??I was drawn to this position when I read a posting for it that said, ??to describe the working man.????

Shannon said that local strikes and walk outs typically receive little media coverage, so he and Scalisi decided they were going to produce their own videos and post them online. ??This whole way we??re trying to do marketing, I don??t know if anyone else in the country does this.??

Alex is editing a video that shows a confrontation between a two non-union workers, one who wants to stay on strike until they receive back pay and another who wants to go to his job. The argument gets heated, and Scalisi and Shannon say that many non-union workers, when they are given support by the NERCC, take quickly to the ideas of unionism.

Shannon said that the NERCC often tries to lend support to non-union workers who are not being paid, or are otherwise treated unfairly.

??We expose it,?? he said. ??In the United States, not getting paid for the work you??re doing is a big thing. We try to expose the injustice.?? Supporting these workers leads to an ??evening of the playing field,?? Shannon said, and benefits NERCC workers as well, 40 percent of whom are currently unemployed.

Part of the changing nature of unionism includes developing relationships with communities of immigrants, particularly from Vietnam and the Caribbean, who have entered the trades. For Scalisi, it is a matter of the union??s survival ?C either the union assimilates these new communities or the union will be left behind. For Shannon, it??s a matter of demographic shifts, as workers from Kerry are joined by workers from Port-au-Prince. They both say that, though some times there are communications difficulties, these new communities and the union get along very well.

??There is no standard affirmative action per se, but there is absolutely no prejudice,?? Scalisi said.
Craig Ransom, a native of Dorchester, does community organizing for the union. He also coaches local baseball and football teams.

??The advantage that I have is a lot of the workers look like me,?? Ransom, who is black, said. He also says that he can usually tell as soon as he meets someone interested in the union whether or not that person will be a successful carpenter.

Shannon and Scalisi agree. It is a matter of how one carries one??s self, the tools one brings to a job, how they conduct themselves on a job site. ??If you??re not diligent and sincere, you don??t get in,?? Ransom said. ??It has to do with background and family history. How you were raised is important.??
For Ransom, Shannon, and Scalisi, whose children have received college educations and do not plan on entering the union, recruitment is important.

??We want to find good workers for when the next big boom is,?? Scalisi said.

Preparing for that next boom, whenever and whatever it may be, has become an important part of the union??s work, Shannon said. The union is predicting that hospitals, biotech, and housing are what will keep their members swinging hammers in the near future, and they are contacting developers well before projects are begun to present what they see as the value of union labor.

??There are a lot of developments that could happen if money came into the market,?? Shannon said.
When that money does come, it will be the training that the union has invested in its laborers that will make them attractive to developers.

??Our guys are trained and they??re carpenters, this is what they do every day.??

Training takes place on the lower levels. Down one floor from Scalisi??s and Shannon??s office are classrooms equipped with computers and projectors. The walls of some of the rooms are designed to fold back, so that the union can also host larger gatherings.

Down the hall is a room where the union teaches welding, but which also stands for the union??s whole enterprise in their new home. The outside wall is a row of windows that look out on the Southeast Expressway, and Scalisi, who himself started as an underwater welder and pile driver, and who describes the exactitude of a good weld in artistic terms, said that he hopes when classes are in here at night drivers will slow down to watch the sparks, and perhaps wonder for a moment what is being made.

To view this story on the Dorchester Reporter's website, click here.

TAGS: Media

Labor Day address from Hilda Solis Posted by on

TAGS: Unions