Mark Erlich, NERCC Executive Secretary-Treasurer, was quoted in an article from this Sunday’s Boston Herald that speaks about confidence and job creation in the construction industry. Those quoted in the piece all seem to sense things shifting, although as Erlich points out, it is “a little early to start to throw confetti.”
Also quoted in the piece is Northeastern University economist Alan Clayton-Matthews who said construction confidence has extended to Massachusetts as sector employment from December 2010 to December 2011 grew faster than overall employment in the state at 2.3 percent.
“It looks like at both the national and state levels, overall employment will be growing and may begin to pick up in growth later this year and in 2013,” he said. “Construction will follow that, but it will be with a little bit of a lag.”
"Stamford Plan Hits a Speedbump" is the headline of a piece in the national version of the New York Times today. And while the reporter seems to go out of her way to heap praise on the Harbor Point project being developed by Carl Kuehner's Building and Land Technology (BLT), the headline and the substance of the article probably make Kuehner wish the article had never been published. It's become a familiar feeling for him lately.
The Times article is about a dispute between Keuhner's BLT and Stamford's Downtown Special Services District (DSSD), which acts as a guide and clearinghouse for downtown development. The group participated in a grueling process to develop guidelines that B< is attempting to ignore with a planned 124-room hotel. The DSSD is digging in its heels and getting strong support from within Stamford, because, despite the Times focus on this single issue, Kuehner and Harbor Point have come under fire repeatedly in recent months for behavior that indicates a consistent, disdainful attitutde toward standards, rules and anyone that attempts to defend them.
Not long after, an article in the Stamford Advocate headlined "Developer Shows Signs of Disregarding Rules" detailed a number of instances where the Kuehner and BLT acted as if they were entitled to do just about whatever they wanted at Harbor Point, including trying to restrict the public from using public playgrounds and parking spaces, illegally blocking streets and building without permits.
Despite the current "speed bumps," the Harbor Point project and a companion hotel will undoubtedly be completed in some fashion and will benefit the City. But Stamford and its residents might suggest a few flashing yellow or red lights for those dealing with Kuehner and BLT in the future.
Brother Thomas Flynn, a 25-year member of Carpenters Local 67, has been appointed by UBC General President Doug McCarron to the position of Political and Legislative Director. The appointment was announced by McCarron today at a meeting of Regional Council leaders.
"The UBC's gain is obviously NERCC's loss," said Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer. "Tom has been one of our shining stars, a valuable leader, and a great friend. As much as I am pleased that he will have this opportunity in Washington D.C., I recognize that it will be very difficult to fill his shoes in New England."
Flynn has served as the Political and Legislative Director of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters for eleven years. During that time he has also served as the Executive Director of the New England Carpenters Labor-Management Program and, since 2009, he was been the Regional Manager for the Boston commercial carpentry Local Unions. He has also been a member of the New England Carpenters Combined Benefit Funds and subcommittees of that fund. In 2010 he was elected to the Executive Committee of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.
Prior to working for NERCC, Flynn was an Organizer and Business Manager of Local 67 and served in various positions on the Local Executive Board, including President.
The Stamford Advocate has run a significant story on the orders, as well as an excellent piece detailing the Department of Labor's efforts to confront extensive problems in the construction industry. Both are well worth reading and sharing.
Avilik Inc., Flagg World, M&M Construction, Pillar Construction, T.F. Andrews, Brothers Contracting, Continental Tile and Kitchen Classics were the companies cited for various violations of wage, hour, insurance or tax laws by the Department of Labor's Stop Fraud Unit. None of the companies are based in Connecticut. Some are only as close as New York, some have come from as far away as Maryland, according to the Advocate.
Three of those companies--Brothers Contracting, Continental Tile and Kitchen Classics--are being charged with violating a previous stop work order by going back to work without clearence by the DOL.
The project has come under intense criticism in Stamford, where citizens feel the developer and oher companies based in Harbor Point has been given too much control with little or no oversight. Union carpenters have started an online petition calling for Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia to step in and give residents more of a voice. Please read and consider signing the petition here.
While we love the convenience and immediacy of sharing news and information through the “Council Update” and on NERCC.org and social media platforms, we know not every carpenter is active online. So the New England Regional Council is committed to continuing to produce the New England Carpenter magazine and deliver it to every member’s home.
The latest issue of New England Carpenter magazine has rolled through the presses up in Salem, Massachusetts at Deschamps Printing. You’ll notice some changes in this issue, including some new design elements and more (and bigger) pictures of union members and union projects!
We’re featuring a cluster of stories about member involvement in area standards demonstrations and introducing the Union Participation Program, which will plug active members into ongoing union efforts to protect standards and win more work opportunities.
Carpenters who were cheated of tens of thousands of dollars in wages reached a settlement with Capstone Development and Cottage Builders yesterday to receive their pay. The companies are the owners and developers of the “Cottage of Durham,” an upscale housing project where the carpenters were employed. It will serve students attending the University of New Hampshire.
The carpenters solicited help in getting their pay after their employer, Builders Construction Services of Alabama, refused to pay them and then fired them and evicted them from company-provided housing when they asked for their wages.
The Carpenters union and local church, student and community groups supported the carpenters, holding a high profile march and demonstration last week. The event garnered significant local and regional media attention (link) that put Capstone under a public spotlight and raised questions about other troubles the Alabama-based company has had with college housing projects, including one in Connecticut.
“We’re happy that these carpenters are finally going to be paid,” said Joe Donahue a representative of the Carpenters Union in New Hampshire. “Wage theft is a real problem in the construction industry right now. It drives down industry standards and drives qualified people out of the industry. Capstone and other developers and general contractors need to be held accountable for the subcontractors they hire. They should implement better controls and have severe penalties for members of their building teams who break the law.”
A press conference and rally held by union carpenters and other church, student and community groups in support of unpaid construction workers from a Durham site drew dozens of people as well as multiple media outlets yesterday.
The event was planned to bring attention to a group of workers hired to work on construction of the "Cottages of Durham," upscale housing for students at the University of New Hampshire. It is being developed by Capstone Development/The Cottages of Durham.
The workers say that they worked for Builders Construction Services from Alabama on the site long hours for many weeks without pay. When they complained about nonpayment of their wages, they were terminated and evicted from their housing.
Supporters of the workers marched to Capstone's local office, where a company representative came out and claimed the company would look into the issue.
Statements made or issued during the day tried to distance project owners from accountability for the nonpayment of wages and the termination. But this isn't the first time Capstone has been called into question for payment issues regarding subcontractors.
According to an article in the Hartford Courant, work Capstone did for the University of Connecticut was marred by an investigation that found "25 of 30 subcontractors working for Capstone on the Hilltop Apartment complex were underpaid by nearly $1 million."
Future tenants of the Cottages of Durham should take note of UConn's experience with Capstone. The University had to sue in order to recoup what they estimated to be $25 million in necessary repairs or construction defects Capstone refused to return and fix leading to, among other things, safety code violations. A report estimated that Capstone ultimately agreed to pay almost $15 million to settle the suit, but that was after expending an estimated $800,000 in legal fees.
The following video story about Local 40 Brother Ricardo Engermann, an apprentice who's helping pave the way for future carpenters was recently posted in the Meet Our Community section of nercc.org. Take a look to see more stories on the "Meet Our Community" page.
Union carpenters will join with church, student and community groups to hold a news conference today at 3pm at the Community Church of Durham (NH) at 17 Main Street to release information about serious violations of state and federal law--including non-payment of wages--at the "Cottages of Durham." The "Cottages of Durham" is a new student housing development for students of the University of New Hampshire. It is being developed by Capstone Development/The Cottages of Durham.
Volunteer carpenters recently helped the United Way with a major project in Framingham, MA, that will help struggling families in the surrounding community. The volunteers were an integral part of transforming the former Framingham RMV Building into the new United Way Cupboard and Café. The facility is capable of serving more than 1,000 customers a month.
Representatives from the United Way reached out to Carpenters Local 475 to help them renovate a 4,000 square foot space located at 10 Pearl Street in Framingham. Understanding all too well the growing need of families in their community, the carpenter volunteers were eager to help.
The remodel included 4,000 square feet of new ceiling grid and three styles of ceilings. Carpenters built new walls and door openings and installed 200 sheets of drywall and wood blocking. Work also included doors and hardware, including two exterior doors. An emergency exit door was cut out through block wall.
Local 475 member William Christopherson stepped up in a big way volunteering not only labor, but helping to coordinate various efforts throughout the project. He was at the facility nearly very day helping with the estimating of material, installation of the metal framing and drywall, ordering the doors and frames and directing the other volunteers.
Ted Seaholes, Local 475, also volunteered a significant amount of time at the project, at the site nearly every day. One particular aspect of the project he headed up was making new counters for the facility. Tom Quinlan, Floorcoverers Local 2168, helped coordinate the donation of 4,000 square feet of carpet squares, which were then installed by Local union members.
The Carpenters Union members as well as laborers from Local 609, who handled the demolition, combined for an estimated 3,000 volunteer hours on the project.
Although the United Way supports various food pantries across the region, this will be the first one it directly operates. This Cupboard and Café provides both a community-wide food pantry and a congregate meals program.
The United Way is committed to making people feel as comfortable as possible, recognizing that many families may find themselves using these services that they never imagined they would need. The facility offers a restaurant-like atmosphere for the hot meals dining area and there is a section of the food pantry that allows people to shop for their own produce, as they would in a grocery store.
The facility will provide additional services to the community. Cooking classes will be offered on site, showing shoppers how to make healthy meals out of their groceries. Clothing and books or children and offer other services such as courses on budget management, assistance with social services and parenting support.
The United Way was grateful for the help of all the volunteers that made the project possible and held a Grand Opening/Open House Program where they recognized the efforts of the volunteers. To learn more about the Pearl Street Cupboard and Café operated by the United Way of Tri-County, visit their website at uwotc.org.
A special thanks to the following members and signatory contractors who donated time and materials to this project:
Rick Anktell, Local 475
William Christopherson, Local 475
Harry Crone, Local 475
Scott Cunningham, Local 475
James Falconi, Local 475
Doug Frazier, Local 2168
David Grange, Local 475
Tom Henry, Local 475
Chris Iarussi, Local 475
Paul Iarussi, Local 475
Walter Jodrey, Local 475
Tim Kissane, Local 475
Kurt Niermeyer, Local 475
Tom Quinlan, Local 2168
Mike Rodgers, Local 475
Tom Rowley, Local 475
Charles Ryan, Local 475
Ted Seasholes, Local 475 American Acoustical Contractors Corp.
Central Ceilings, Inc.
Contract Flooring Installations, Inc.
Robert Fers/Brownstone Construction
Carpenters in Boston will be holding an area standards demonstration on Saturday, February 4 from 11am-1pm against Baystate Services, Inc. The demonstration will take place at the Marriott Copley Place on Huntington Avenue.