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Carpenters recruit by showing off training center Posted by on

There's welcome news for construction contractors in New England worried about a current or looming skilled labor shortage. Today, more than 900 students currently enrolled in vocational high schools or programs are visiting the New England Carpenters Training Center in Millbury, Massachusetts today.

During their visit, they're learning more about the comprehensive training programs available in the diverse carpentry trade. They're also seeing some of the most sophisticated facilities in the country, combining state-of-the-art shop and work space with classrooms, dormitory, dining and recreation space.

Though some students may have experience in limited aspects of the industry, today's tour gives them a comprehensive view of the trade, work conditions and career opportunities available to trained, motivated and supprted trades workers.

A lack of skilled trades workers is consistently cited in surveys by employers as a limiting factor for company growth and their ability to deliver consistent quality work. Contractors signatory to the Carpenters union have the advantage of joint training programs and fairly negotiated wage and benefit packages that attract the most qualified applicants.

For more information on training programs visit nercc.org/training





Congressman Himes (CT) calls for infrastructure repairs Posted by on

There could not have been a more fitting site for a more important issue. Last week, Congressman Jim Himes was joined by state elected officials, labor leaders and business leaders at the Yankee Doodle Bridge in Norwalk, calling for a long-term solution to crumbling infrastructure.

The Yankee Doodle, which carries traffic on Interstate 95 over the Norwalk River, is the most structurally deficient bridge in the state. It was originally built in 1958 and awaits $15 million in repairs, slated to start in 2017. It is one of thousands of road and bridge projects whose maintenance or replacement have been put off to the point of posing an extreme danger to the public.

The National Highway Trust Fund received approval for a $10.8 billion infusion from the United States House of Representatives last week, but has not been acted on by the Senate. The allocation would only temporarily prevent the fund from becoming insolvent next month. It would not solve the problem of creating a long-term solution for funding road and bridge repairs in the United States, which are vital not only to public safety, but economic growth.

Road and bridge repair and construction leads to direct employment of tens of thousands of construction workers nation-wide, many of whom would face unemployment if the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money. Members of the UBC as well as other building trades unions, employers and supporters are being urged to visit Hard Hats for Highways (http://hardhatsforhighways.org/) and send an e-hardhat letter to congress to urge them to enact a long-term plan.

Coverage of the event at the Yankee Doodle Bridge can be found at the Stamford Advocate, the Norwalk Hour and It's Relevant.
 





Carpenters win right to choose representation at Electric Boat Posted by on

Carpenters in Local 1302 at Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut have successfully beat back an effort by the Metal Trades Council (AFL-CIO) to eliminate their rights and fold them into other unions. This is the first situation in the country where carpenters have stood up, fought back and defeated this piece of the national AFL-CIO's campaign against the UBC.

In 2011, the national AFL-CIO's Metal Trades Department issued a directive to Metal Trades Councils across the country to remove UBC-affiliated locals from their council and prohibit them from continuing to represent the interests of their carpenter members. In February this year, the Metal Trades Council barred Local 1302 from participating in contract negotiations with Electric Boat. The new collective bargaining agreement reached in April removed any reference to the Carpenters union. Shortly thereafter, the MTC stripped Local 1302 of its ability to represent carpenters in the adjustment of their grievances and began a campaign to have carpenters join local unions affiliated with the Laborers, Boilermakers and Painters.

"We tried to get a solidarity agreement with the Metal Trades Council, but it got shot down by their national people," said Bob Tardif, Chief Steward of Local 1302. "Once they shut us out of negotiations, we started to look at our options and talk to the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. We wanted to keep our identity and Mark (Erlich) said that whatever resources we needed, we would have."

As a result of a petition filed by NERCC and Local 1302, a Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board has issued a decision allowing carpenters at Electric Boat to have a "severance election." The election gives carpenters the right to choose the Carpenters union to bargain with the shipyard, separate from the Metal Trades Council, which represents all other trades workers. Voting for the Carpenters union will allow Local 1302 carpenters to continue their 70-year history of membership and representation by the Carpenters union, rather than be dispersed to other unions.

The election is scheduled for later this month, though the Metal Trades Council and Electric Boat may appeal the decision to the full National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C.

"If the vote isn't unanimous, it will probably be really close to unanimous," said Tardif. "Right now, we're all really proud to be members of the Council and get the support we've really needed, from the Executive Board, the Delegates and everyone else.

Congratulations to the courageous union carpenters of Local 1302 for standing together and winning this important fight .





Bay State Drywall carpenters win union election Posted by on

 In an election held last night in Southeastern Massachusetts by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), carpenters employed by Bay State Drywall voted for union representation from the Carpenters union by a 10-8 margin. The Freetown-based company is one of a group of contractors in the Fall River-New Bedford area, sometimes referred to as "drywall alley," that draw carpenters from the substantial Portuguese population. During peak season, they typically employ 40-50 carpenters and have been one of the larger nonunion companies in the market.

Representatives from the New England Regional Council of Carpenters have become familiar faces to Bay State employees over the years thanks to countless jobsite visits, which created a level of trust. When there were disputes with the owners over restoring pay cuts made during slow times, the workers decided to go forward with a union election.

Negotiation of an agreement with Bay State cannot start until after the NLRB resolves a union challenge to the uncounted ballots of six employees that Bay State had argued should be included in the election. Those employees are primarily tapers and the Council has taken the position that they do not fall under the definition of a carpenter bargaining unit. A Board ruling on the matter may take as long as two months.

"I'm proud of the carpenters who had the courage to stand up to the company and proud of our staff that led the organizing drive," said Mark Erlich, NERCC Executive Secretary-Treasurer. "NLRB elections are not that common in the construction industry and this victory sends a message that we will use every tool at our disposal to represent working carpenters in New England."





CTA signs union agreement Posted by on

CTA Construction signed a collective bargaining agreement with the New England Regional Council of Carpenters on July 2nd. The contract represents a culmination of a long campaign by the Council and extensive discussions over the past few years between the two organizations.

CTA was founded in 2000 by Lyle Coghlin and Pat Tompkins. Over the past fourteen years, the company has emerged as one of the larger public construction contractors in Massachusetts, with an annual volume of $138 million in 2013. CTA was listed as the 12th largest general contractor in the 2012 Boston Business Journal's Book of Lists and is currently ranked as the 376th biggest firm in ENR's national survey.

"We are pleased that CTA is now a union contractor," commented Mark Erlich, NERCC's Executive Secretary-Treasurer. "We believe that access to a higher caliber of subcontractors and skilled carpenters will allow the company to grow even further."
 





Governor Malloy speaks to rank-and-file Posted by on

At a recent event held at the UAW in Farmington, CT, Governor Dannel Malloy spoke with rank-and-file carpenters and other tradespeople to talk about the industry and issues at the state house.

The Governor spoke specifically about PLA projects and upcoming work that he has secured to get the construction industry moving in Connecticut.One project in particular involves the announcement of a "historic agreement" made with United Technologies Corporation (UTC), which plans to invest billions in research, development, facilities and capital expenditures around the state over the next five years. Plans include construction of a new headquarters for Pratt & Whitney, a unit of UTC, which will create an estimated 1,500 construction jobs.

Governor Malloy has been supportive of construction projects and PLAs noting that, “project labor agreements ensure that we have the best trained workforce in place for our more important projects."

 

 





NERCC awards $59,650 in scholarships Posted by on

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters announced that it has awarded $59,650 to 152 applicants as part of the 2014 Scholarship Contest.

The NERCC Scholarship Fund is supported by settlement agreements between the union and contractors and other contributions. Its function is to help members and dependents who are attending school with the ever-increasing costs of a college education. Students must be enrolled in post-high school program and maintain a “C” average in at least three, three-credit courses to apply. All applicants must complete an essay, which is read and scored by a panel of judges who do not know the identity of the writers.

Applicants were required to write an essay of between 500 and 1000 words on the following topic: Union workers at Boeing Co. in Seattle recently vote on a proposed contract that eliminated their pension plans in exchange for guarantees of future jobs. What are your thoughts on this controversy vis-à-vis the role of the company and the role of the unions? If you were a union member there, how would you have voted and why?

A $5,000 first prize was given to Kaitlyn Benoit, daughter of Floorcoverers Local 2168’s Daniel Benoit. A second prize of $3,000 was awarded to Joseph Cunningham, whose father, Peter Cunningham, is a member of Carpenters Local 33.

Congrats to all of the scholarship recipients! 





More cheaters caught in CT Posted by on

The Connecticut Department of Labor has issued six "Stop Work" orders so far this week, two on a Stamford project and three more at an Apple store in West Hartford. All six were the result of subcontractors not having legally required workers' compensation insurance coverage in place.

Shane Gordon Drywall, of Stamford, Marcelo Drywall of Bridgeport and Arco Steel Company, of West Caldwell, New Jersey were each hit with the orders yesterday at 66 Summer Street in Stamford. The companies were working for Trinity Financial on Phase 2 of the Park Square West project, which includes 194 residential units.

Some workers on the project recently reported to union representatives that they were employed by Intext, a company that was already caught for misclassifying workers as independent contractors in April at UConn.

In West Hartford, three subcontractors identified in press reports only as being from out of state were issued stop work orders while working for California-based general contractor Dickinson Cameron. Gary Pechie, head of the Wage and Workplace Standards Division of the Department of Labor reported that contractors had ignored the orders and continued work. He has issued $1,000-a-day fines and scheduled a meeting with Apple officials.
 





CT DOL issues 3 "Stop Work" orders Posted by on

The Connecticut Labor Department has issued “Stop Work” orders against three construction companies at a shopping center construction site at 230 Industrial Park in Old Saybrook, for failing to provide the required state workers’ compensation coverage or unemployment coverage for their employees.

Two contractors, Alvin Quality Masonry LLC and Industrial Technical Services Inc. were issued “Stop Work” orders after inspectors from the Wage and Workplace Standards Division determined that the contractors, working on the Big Y supermarket project, did not have workers’ compensation or unemployment insurance coverage for employees. G&F Group LLC was issued a stop work order on the Kohl’s building project for failure to have workers’ compensation or unemployment insurance coverage and for misclassifying its employees as independent contractors.

“Stop Work” orders result in the halting of all activity at a cited company’s worksite, as well as a $300 civil penalty for each day the company does not carry workers’ compensation coverage as required by law.

The New Haven Register, The Day, The Bristol Press,  Insurance News Net and Shoreline Times reported on the story.

To view a PDF of these articles, click here.





"Groundhog" Day at UConn? Posted by on

At least one contractor that was ordered in late February to stop working on the $32 million expansion of the UConn basketball complex because they didn't have a workers' compensation policy returned to the project. Union carpenters and students of the university have started to inform the public with a large banner in front of the project and stories in the Hartford Courant and the campus newspaper.

Intext Building Systems, Inc. of Glastonbury and JV Construction of East Hartford were issued "Stop Work" orders from the Connecticut Labor Department after a visit to the site. There were issues with workers being misclassified as "independent contractors" and some of the 19 workers could not identify their employers.

J&V Construction was found to have owed $368,000 in back wages to workers and is still barred form the site, but Intext has taken on their workers, raising questions about whether there are still issues.

Chris Gallo, a member of Carpenters Local 24 who went to work on the site after the "Stop Work" orders were issued told the Courant "It's absolutely horrible- The whole job was just a mess. We go there in the middle of it, and we get it all straightened out, and we find out the guys who messed it up are back again. How would you feel? I'm losing my job because of it. Hopefully they get a building they're looking for."





Reminder - Scholarship Applications due April 11th Posted by on

Applications are now being accepted for the 2014 New England Regional Council Scholarship Program. Last year 106 students applied and a total of $52,000 was awarded, including the top prize scholarship of $5,000.

Please review eligibility guidelines before applying. Guidelines and applications may be downloaded from nercc.org/scholarship and are available at locals union affiliates. The deadline for applications to be returned to NERCC is APRIL 11, 2014, 5:00 p.m. No exceptions! If you have any questions about the application, please call Malerie Anderson at (617) 307-5112. Winners will be notified in June.





A project to be proud of Posted by on

Union carpenters are playing a part in healing communities in Connecticut. Members of Local 43 are working with union contractors C & R Concrete and Giordano Construction on a playground in Hartford, which kicked off this weekend. It is being done in conjunction with the Sandy Ground Project, which will build 26 playgrounds, one for each of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012.

The playground is being built in memory of Ana Grace Marquez-Greene at Elizabeth Park. Ana's parents grew up and started their family in the area. The New Haven Register published a nice piece on the effort.

Work is expected to be completed in time for an April 4 groundbreaking, which was Ana's birthday.





B.U.H. Construction ordered to pay back wages, rehire employees Posted by on

Pennsylvania-based B.U.H. Construction has been ordered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to pay back wages of two carpenters and offer reinstatement to their former jobs or equivalent positions. The company was found to be in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

The original complaint filed by NERCC alleged that BUH Construction engaged in certain unfair labor practices by threatening three carpenters on a job at Walmart in Brooklyn, CT, and subsequently terminating two of those carpenters because it refused to pay them at the agreed-upon wage rate of $20 an hour.

In early April 2013, carpenters received pay checks that were short on hours and at a wage rate that was significantly lower than the agree upon rate. CT organizers helped the workers file wage claim forms with the Department of Labor. The carpenters were subsequently fired from the job. B.U.H. challenged the workers’ rights to unemployment benefits, claiming that they quit. Unemployment reviewed the evidence and ruled in favor of the workers. B.U.H. appealed the decision and after a formal hearing, the Unemployment Board of Review ruled in favor of the workers.

An NLRB Charge was filed against B.U.H. Construction on April 23, 2013. The basis of the charge was that workers were engaged in concerted activity when they tried to resolve issues with their pay checks and were terminated. The NERCC filed charges with the NLRB alleging that B.U.H. had violated the National Labor Relations Act when they threatened to reduce the carpenters’ wages and discharge the employees because they engaged in protected concerted activities.

In July the NLRB made a settlement offer to B.U.H. Construction, which the company rejected. A trial was held in November and the final ruling came down in early February. The ruling states that the two workers are to be made whole for any lost wages and they are to be rehired by B.U.H. Construction. B.U.H. had one month to appeal the decision.

 





CT Governor Malloy's budget gets Carpenter support Posted by on

Dave Jarvis, an organizer with the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, appeared before the Connecticut General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee to testify in support of Governor Dan Malloy’s recently submitted Fiscal Year 2015 Mid-Term Budget.

Governor Malloy’s Mid-Term budget includes funding for six additional employees at the Department of Labor to investigate complaints and ensure employers comply with wage and workplace standards.

Jarvis urged members to support the Governor’s proposal to beef up wage and workplace enforcement as the Connecticut construction industry continues to be plagued by employers—many from out of state--who fail to properly pay their workers’ wages, misclassify their workers as independent contractors or pay them cash “off the books.”

Last year alone, the Wage and Workplace Division of the Connecticut Department of Labor handled more than 3,500 claims and recovered over $6.5 million in unpaid wages to 1,701 Connecticut workers. The Wage and Workplace Division also issued 181 Stop Work Orders to employers at construction sites who were found to be in violation of workers’ compensation and labor laws.

“It’s nearly impossible for Connecticut contractors who obey our state labor, tax and worker’s compensation laws to compete against unscrupulous companies that break these laws to gain a bidding advantage,” said Jarvis. He added, “Construction is becoming a magnet for predatory employers. The Wage and Workplace Division is on the front lines of protecting Connecticut workers and employers from these predatory contractors.”





Signatory contractor expands presence Posted by on

Best of luck to Manafort Brothers and the union carpenters employed on their projects as the company expands their presence with a Worcester office. Click here to read more. 





New London enacting local hire, training ordinance Posted by on

The city council of New London, Connecticut has approved an ordinance that will require contractors bidding for city construction projects valued at more than $1 million to hire local workers and provide apprenticeship training. New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio has pledged to sign the ordinance when it reaches his desk.

The ordinance was proposed by the New England Regional Council of Carpenters and publicly supported by members and NERCC Business Representative Chris Bachant. It passed the Administration Committee before winning a vote of the City Council the following week.

"This ordinance allows a percentage of workers from New London or New London County be required to work on a job,'' Bachant told the New London Day. "And any company working on a city project must comply with the Connecticut apprenticeship program. This is an opportunity. It's not just a job. We're offering a career."

There was opposition to the ordinance among the city council and from the editorial page of New London Day. Following the vote of the full city council, Mayor Finizio published an opinion piece in the Day rebutting criticisms of the ordinance and restating his support.

"Low bidder rules for construction projects, without the protections that this ordinance provides, favor the success of bids that use lower quality and less trained workers. While a bid awarded may, in today's dollars, be less than a union construction bid, the buildings built are not of the same quality," Finizio wrote.

"A responsible contractor ordinance, combined with appropriate budgeting for routine maintenance, will lower costs to city taxpayers in the long term by building, and maintaining, better quality buildings."
 





Frightening protest in Hartford Posted by on

Legendary horror author Stephen King may be looking for a UPP t-shirt. The Maine native was staying in Hartford this week, walked by a union banner protest in front of the Capital Grill, and stopped to ask about it. NERCC Business Representative Dean Pallotti told King that the Capital Grille was being built by contractors that don't meet area standards and were suspected of misclassifying workers as independent contractors. Darden Restaurants owns the Capital Grille chain as well as others, including Longhorn Steakhouse. The company is in the process of building a Longhorn in Enfeild, where there is also concern about contractors being used who don't meet area standards. King extended his support to the union's efforts, saying it didn't seem right since he pays his fair share of taxes.





Raids flush out more crooked contractors in Connecticut Posted by on

A series of sweeps of construction sites in Connecticut this year has resulted in 27 "Stop Work" orders against contractors for misclassification of workers as "independent contractors." The results continue a disturbing trend in the state's construction industry. In the past year, the Connecticut Department of Labor reports that inspection and review of 108 construction projects and 299 contractors has resulted in 199 "Stop Work" work orders, an alarming rate of cheating.

"Some employers will misclassify workers as independent contractors with the intent of avoiding their obligations under federal and state employment law covering such matters as workers' compensation, unemployment taxes and payroll reporting," said state Labor Commissioner Sharon Palmer. "Unfortunately, when an employer fails to pay for the proper coverage for injuries suffered on the job, and a worker gets hurt, the state's taxpayers ultimately foot the bill."

Avoiding tax obligations gives cheating employers a significant advantage in competitive bidding and negotiated pricing within the construction industry and creates a funding gap for state and federal governments, among other problems.

Media coverage here.





Architects predict strong construction growth Posted by on

The American Institute of Architects is confidently projecting strong growth in nonresidential construction this year and next, with increase of 5% in 2013 and 7.2% in 2014. Commercial construction is expected to lead the way in growth, followed by industrial work, while institutional construction will grow at a slower pace. The AIA is basing its predictions on a comparison of its own "Architecture Billings Index" with forecasts from six different industry groups. The consistency in forecasts leads them to believe they will be very reliable.





State, Feds raid Stamford mega-sites Posted by on

The Connecticut Department of Labor was joined by the US Department of Labor, OSHA and local and state police in raids of at least four construction sites in Stamford last week in an unprecedented effort to crack down on payroll fraud. The Stamford Advocate covered the raids and published a column by Angela Carella calling for developers to clean up their businesses.

The raids targeted three sites being built by Building and Land Technology and another by Greenfield Partners. The sites have all previously been the target of numerous public complaints as well as demonstrations by union carpenters and other trades workers. The Harbor Point project being built by BL&T has also been the site of numerious enforcement actions. More than 34 "Stop Work" orders had been issued at the project prior to last week's raids.

Investigators talked to more than 200 workers, according to media reports, and will sort out possible violations in the coming weeks after reviewing those interviews.
 





The Carpenters Union gets the job done! Posted by on

First they helped it win approval, now they're helping it become a reality. Union carpenters in Bridgeport are now building the Fairchild Wheeler Multi-Magnet School, a combination of facilities and programs that are bringing excitement and hope to a troubled area. The building will be LEED Gold Certified and offer Aeronautics, Information Technology and Zoological/Ecological programs underwritten by corporate sponsors. The 340,000 square foot building is the largest school project in Connecticut's history and is employing hundreds of local trades workers.

 

See more of this project and others in NERCC's Project Portfolio.

 

 





Clean sweep in New England Posted by on

To all staff and local unions:

Yesterday was a good day for union carpenters across New England. Amazingly, all of the Council’s endorsed candidates won election. Obama swept the six states, including winning swing-state New Hampshire by a larger-than-expected margin. In the critical races -- Warren in Massachusetts, Murphy in Connecticut, Hassan/Kuster/Shea-Porter in New Hampshire, King in Maine, Cicilline in Rhode Island – our picks were all winners!!

There is no doubt in my mind that some of the credit for these outcomes belongs to all of you and our members. We worked as hard as we ever have in an election season. We used all the tools available to us – new and old techniques – to educate and mobilize our members. And they responded. Door knocking, phone banks, rallies, visibilities, robo-dials, tele-Town Halls. We had a good story to tell…and we told it well and often.

But it’s important to keep a clear-eyed perspective on where we stand the morning after Election Day 2012. In many ways, we “held serve”. We helped fend off the right wing Republican assault on the middle class. There should be a clear message to the nation’s anti-union forces that their philosophy is not welcome, that the voters do not buy an agenda that favors the wealthy over working families. Yet we still have a divided Congress; we still have a Republican Party that attacks unions. We have some new articulate champions but we also have some old foes. Paul Ryan is still chair of the House Budget Committee and there are no signs yet that the House leadership is prepared to move forward in terms of solving our country’s problems as opposed to scoring political points.

So, as much as all of us deserve to take a deep breath and feel a justified sense of pride in our efforts, we will need to remain vigilant. The economy will not fix itself; it will require more federal and state action to invest in jobs and people. And it will require our continued involvement. Our members need to work; that’s why we endorsed the candidates who understood that the best social program is a job.

Thank you all for your efforts these past weeks and months. It was worth it. Congratulations.

Mark Erlich
Executive Secretary-Treasurer
New England Regional Council of Carpenters
 





Our Work - Fairchild Wheeler Multi-Magnet High School Posted by on

 

Lean more about the Fairchild Wheeler Muti-Magnet school project by clicking here to view it in our online portfolio





CT carpenters stand out for Murphy Posted by on

Last night in Hartford, carpenters participated a pre-debate visibility in support of Chris Murphy, the union's endorsed candidate for United States Senate.

 





Carpenters prepare for election push Posted by on

More than 75 carpenter stewards in Connecticut from Locals 24, 43 and 210 gathered last night to talk about upcoming elections in the state that could have a significant impact both locally and nationally. A United States Senate race between Congressman Chris Murphy and second-time candidate Linda McMahon of the WWE wrestling company is one of a handful of races in the country that could tilt the balance of power in the Senate. Members are also active in other races in the state.


After discussing issues of importance to union carpenters, the conversation turned to getting as many members active as possible. Stewards returned to jobsites today armed with information and schedules. The information is to educate fellow carpenters about the issues and the candidates, the schedules were for events at which members will reach out to even more members. Between now and Election Day on November 6, members will be participating in phone banks to contact registered members and talk to them about the importance of the election to their families, our union, the economy and the construction industry.
Members interested in participating in scheduled activity should contact their Local Union hall for dates and times.





Workers take the hit Posted by on

The Stamford Advocate ran another piece covering the areas standards demonstrations at the Harbor Point apartment complex. Contractors working for Harbor Point developer Building Land Technology (BLT) are working in Connecticut but not hiring Connecticut workers, not paying Connecticut wages and not meeting are safety standards.

The Connecticut Department of Labor's Wages & Workplace Standards Division has issued 34 "Stop Work Orders" to contractors working at Harbor Point over the last two years, continuing a string of bad practices and bad press for the city and the project's developer, BLT.

"It's disheartening to see so many out-of-state workers on the job at Harbor Point because the unemployment rate in the construction industry in Connecticut is twenty percent to thirty percent,"said Tim Sullivan, Local 210 Organizer .

Read the entire article here





National talk host digs into Stamford Posted by on

National television talk show host Cenk Uygur this week hosted NERCC Representative Tim Sullivan on his show "The Young Turks" to talk about events at Stamford's Harbor Point development. The two talked about how the project is undermining area standards for carpenters' wages and benefits and how instead of local citizens voting on the project, votes were cast by a single lawyer representing a handful of corporations. That's right, corporations voting, not citizens.

 





CT DOL issues 13 "Stop Work" orders Posted by on

The Connecticut Department of Labor issued “Stop Work” orders against 13 construction companies in recent weeks for misclassifying workers as “independent contractors.” The orders were issued in multiple communities where contractors were found to have misclassified workers for the purpose of avoiding their obligations to carry workers’ compensation and paying federal and state unemployment taxes, including unemployment.

One of the "Stop Work" orders was issued against NLP Contractors at the New London Plaza. Union carpenters have been protesting at the site, where renovations are being done and where North Carolina-based SandovalConstruction has already been issued a "Stop Work " order. (earlier post)

The Hartford Courant, New London Day, Republican AmericanDanbury Patch and Greenwich Patch reported on the story. Sites where contractors issued "Stop Work" orders were issued were located in Danbury, Greenwich, New London, Preston, Naugatuck and Simsbury.

“Stop Work” orders result in the halting of all activity at a cited company’s worksite, as well as a $300 civil penalty for each day the company does not carry workers’ compensation coverage as required by law.

According to a release on the "Stop Work" orders by the Department of Labor: “in the past 12 months the agency has inspected 167 construction projects and reviewed the records of 688 contractors. A total of 281 “Stop Work” orders have been issued during this time, with 116 identified as being issued to out?\of?\state contractors. Since October 2007, a total of 735 “Stop Work” orders have been issued with $285,000 collected in civil penalties for the misclassification of workers. Additionally, referrals have been made to the Department of Revenue Services and the Labor Department’s Tax Division audit unit for further investigation.”
 

This blog post was updated form a previous post on 5/16 to include links to additional media coverage and information about the New London Plaza site.





Demonstrations against Sandoval continue Posted by on

Carpenters in Connecticut protested at the New London Plaza Hotel against Sandoval Construction of North Carolina. The area standards picket line highlighted the company’s practice of paying wages and benefits that are lower than the industry standard in the New London area. The company was also issued a Stop Work Order by the Connecticut Department of Labor for not having proper workers’ compensation coverage.

TheDay.com posted a story about the event





Resident raises concerns, reaches out Posted by on

A Stamford Connecticut resident wrote in to the Stamford Patch to voice her concerns about the Harbor Point project being developed by Carl Kuehner's Building and Land Technology (BLT) in a letter posted earlier this week. Carol Ann McClean writes that Dallas-based subcontractor Baker Concrete Construction has brought in a crew of workers from Texas, when there is a pool of local residents looking for work.

“Baker Concrete Construction does not employ skilled, licensed, local Connecticut parents from our state, who live locally and have been out of work for years. Instead, our streets are lined with Texas license plates, and I know these vehicles are not going home to Texas every night...”

She also speaks about workers’ compensation and unemployment violations and details concerns about various violations she sees in reference to the Harbor Point Infrastructure Act.

She writes, “For a corporation like BLT, Harbor Point, who gets these enormous tax breaks for the special tax district, (that would be a whole other lengthy explanation on the amazing deal they are getting) you would think that they would be concerned with following the rules, ordinances, statues etc on every issue as they are required, I have come to find it is the complete opposite.”

The Harbor Point site has been the subject of repeated demonstrations by union carpenters calling attention to the presence of subcontractors on site who do not pay area standard wages and benefits for carpenters on all of their projects.

You can read McClean’s letter in its entirety here





Carpenters demonstrate against Sandoval Posted by on

Carpenters in Connecticut have been protesting at the new London Plaza Hotel (formerly the Radisson Hotel) against Sandoval Construction of North Carolina. The company does not meet area standards for wages and benefits. It was also issued a Stop Work Order by the Connecticut Department of Labor last week for not having proper workers' compensation coverage.

The New London Patch posted a story, photos and video of the event.

 





NYTimes gets only part of Stamford story Posted by on

"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&LT 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.

The Harbor Point site has been the subject of repeated demonstrations by union carpenters calling attention to the presence of subcontractors on site who do not pay area standard wages and benefits for carpenters on all of their projects.

Local residents became upset and demanded answers from B&LT and Stamford City officials when a previously existing boathouse was demolished in defiance of an agreement to maintain a full service boatyard at the site. Mayor Michael Pavia seemed curiously ignorant of the situation until asked by reporters. The Zoning Board later ordered BLT to stop demolition work.

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.

In recent weeks, union claims about improper treatment of workers were borne out when the Department of Labor issued Stop Work Orders against 8 subcontractors working at Harbor Point for violating wage, hour or insurance laws. Three of the companies were charged with returning to work in defiance of previous Stop Work Orders without permission from the DOL.

The issue is not new to BLT or the construction industry. Subcontractors on other BLT projects had been the subject of at least eight Stop Work Orders for misclassifying workers and other violations. One subcontractor, Heritage Drywall, was ordered to pay more than $100,000 in owed wages and penalties on a BLT project. A reporter permitted to do a "ride along" with the DOL on the Harbor Point visit put it in a greater context of an industry spiraling out of control and costing honest businesses and taxpayers more than they know.

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.

 





Stop work orders issued at Harbor Point, media depicts industry mess Posted by on

The Connecticut Department of Labor's Wages & Workplace Standards Division, has issued "Stop Work Orders" against eight contractors working on the Harbor Point project in Stamford, continuing a string of bad practices and bad press for the city and the project's developer, Carl Kuehner's Building and Land Technology (BLT).

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.





Stamford developer still in hot water Posted by on

Despite trying to pack the hall with its own supporters, a Stamford developer still faced a tough room last night in a Zoning Board meeting to discuss its future plans and ongoing zoning violations (also here) at their Harbor Point project. Building and Land Technology (BLT) has come under fire for its choice of subcontractors, labor violations on its projects and contributing to industry-wide issues targeted by enforcement agencies.

The seriousness of the issues at Harbor Point is compounded by the seeming lack of interest and/or ability of Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia.





Area Standards demo: Baker Concrete Posted by on

Connecticut Carpenters will be holding an area standards demonstration against BAKER CONCRETE on Thursday, February 2nd from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm at Commons Park on Crosby Street across from 201 Park Place in Stamford.

More on Baker Concrete demonstrations.
 





Carpenters demonstrating against Baker Concrete Posted by on

Union Carpenters in southwestern Connecticut held an area standards demonstration yesterday at Commons Park on Crosby Street in Stamford to bring attention the business practices of Baker Concrete. The Ohio-based company does not meet area standards for wages and benefits for carpenters on all of their projects.

Baker is currently performing concrete work as part of the massive development at Harbor Point. The owner and development of the project is Building and Land Technology (BLT). Baker Concrete is the latest in a string of questionable subcontractors used on BLT developments. Subcontractors on BLT projects have been the subject of at least eight "Stop Work Orders" for misclassifying workers and other violations. One subcontractor, Heritage Drywall, was ordered to pay more than $100,000 in owed wages and penalties on a BLT project.

Ted Duarte, a Representative of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters said trades workers and community members will be demonstrating because Baker Concrete's attempts to undermine area standards is not only bad for the area construction industry but the regional economy.

“Most workers on this project are from out of state and that’s obviously not a good thing for area residents," he said. "It's taking jobs from local people, taking money out of the local economy and undermining standards for local workers in the future."

The demonstration was covered by local media, including the Stamford Advocate and video of Duarte commenting at the site of the demonstration were posted on YouTube (see below)





Carpenters demonstrating against Baker Concrete Posted by on

Union Carpenters in southwestern Connecticut were demonstrating today at Commons Park on Crosby Street in Stamford to bring attention the business practices of Baker Concrete. The Ohio-based company does not meet area standards for wages and benefits for carpenters on all of their projects.

Baker is currently performing concrete work as part of the massive development at Harbor Point. The owner and development of the project is Building and Land Technology (BLT). Baker Concrete is the latest in a string of questionable subcontractors used on BLT developments. Subcontractors on BLT projects have been the subject of at least eight "Stop Work Orders" for misclassifying workers and other violations. One subcontractor, Heritage Drywall, was ordered to pay more than $100,000 in owed wages and penalties on a BLT project.

Ted Duarte, a Representative of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters said trades workers and community members will be demonstrating because Baker Concrete's attempts to undermine area standards is not only bad for the area construction industry but the regional economy.
“Most workers on this project are from out of state and that’s obviously not a good thing for area residents," he said. "It's taking jobs from local people, taking money out of the local economy and undermining standards for local workers in the future."
 





Murphy winning favor among CT Carpenters Posted by on

As he campaigns to move from the United States House of Representatives to the Senate this year, Connecticut's Chris Murphy has been renewing and strengthening his relationship with union carpenters. Murphy was recently endorsed by the Working Families Party and hit the streets to push for more infrastructure fudning.

Murphy recently attended an event in New Milford with union carpenters other trades workers and construction employers highlight the need to fund repairs to the structurally deficient Veteran's Bridge and other neglected structures. The project would provide an economic boost through job creation. It would also start to tackle major infrastructure deficiencies that are dangerous, stifle growth and lead to more costly repairs later.

Funding to repair the Veteran's Bridge in New Milford is in place, but proposed cuts could lead to eliminating commitments to many projects, including the Veteran's Bridge, according to an article by the Danbury News-Times.

Local 24 Carpenter and Representative Chris Bachant is quoted in the article supporting Murphy's efforts to fudn more infrastruture construction, especially if local workers can made the beneficiaries.

Chris Bachant, a Waterford resident and union carpenter who was one of several dozen people to attend the event, said "things are very tough right now" in the construction industry.

"It's fantastic what Murphy is promoting," Bachant said. "But I think we need to go one step further and make sure that local people are hired for these jobs."

A recent bridge construction project near his home, Bachant said, was awarded to a company from Minnesota.

The entire story can be read here.





Troubling state of affairs in Stamford Posted by on

John Cunningham, Business Manager for Carpenters Local 210, has written an opinion piece, published in the Stamford Advocate today highlighting some very dangerous trends in the area's construction industry. A young trades worker was killed when he was blown off a roof in a very preventable accident. He and his brothers were owed more than $6,000 in wages, according to reports. Stop Work Orders issued against contractors who don't carry workers' compensation insurance for their crews or who misclassify workers to avoid payroll taxes and their share of other "safety net" programs are becoming more and more common. Major projects being done by major developers are involved.


The last few months should serve as something of a wake-up call for everyone from workers to elected officials and everyone in between. It is especially necessary that general contractors, construction managers and developers begin to pay more attention to what is actually happening on their sites.


Union carpenters have also begun to make more noise in the streets, demonstrating and asking people to pay a more attention to these very serious issues. The industry needs basic standards for how work is done and how workers are treated. Contractors who only focus on getting jobs, investors interested in only profits and elected officials interested in only ribbon cuttings and job creation statistics can not be relied on to follow through. Union carpenters intend to lead the fight.





Chelsea Piers sub arrested Posted by on

Connecticut State Police last week arrested John Dosky on multiple felony charges of nonpayment of wages for work performed at the Chelsea Piers project, according to the Stamford Advocate. Dosky is the owner of American Building Group, for whom Javiar Salinas was working when he was killed in late October after being blown off a 50-foot roof by wind. Salinas was not wearing a harness or any safety equipment and no ABG employees were given safety training.

Salinas and his brothers are owed close to $8,000 from Dosky and American Building Group, which was one of three companies on the site issued Stop Work Orders after the accident for misclassifying workers as independent contractors.

Chelsea Piers is a high profile sports complex being built on 28 acres of land that formerly housed offices and manufacturing for the Clairol company. Just hours before Salinas' death, NBC Sports announced plans to move 450 jobs to the site.

Union carpenters have been demonstrating regularly at the Chelsea Piers site and plan to be front and center for Dosky's court appearance on Wednesday.
 





Carpenters protest at Chelsea Piers Posted by on

Union Carpenters in the Stamford, Connecticut area turned out in force yesterday to call public attention to problems at Chelsea Piers, where a worker was blown off a 50-foot unfinished roof in October. The worker, Javier Salinas, was not wearing a harness or other safety equipment when a strong wind blew him off, causing multiple blunt force trauma, causing his death. The accident was completely and easily preventable and Salinas' death was tragic and needless.

AP Construction hired American Building Group, for whom Salinas and two of his brothers were working. Following the accident, American Building Group and two other subcontractors on the site were issued "Stop Work Orders" for misclassifying workers as independent contractors or nonpayment of wages. American Buidling Group promised to make a donation for Salinas' funeral, but reneged.Sadly, two of the workers owed money were Javier Salinas' brothers, who were owed more than $6,000.They wre going to use that money to provide a decent burial for Javier.

The Stamford Advocate covered the protest, quoting union members.

Chris Bachant, a union carpenter from Waterford, stood near the McDonald's parking lot and held a large sign addressed to AP Construction that questioned whether the company "manages" profits or safety.

"It doesn't matter to me whether someone is non-union or union," he said. "I don't want to see someone get hurt."

Ted Duarte, a union organizer at the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, said the unethical and illegal methods used by some contractors to shave operating costs end up hurting licensed, unionized construction workers, who must undergo safety training and keep up their certifications. The practices undercut local contractors, he said.

"If you play by the rules, you're not playing on a level playing field," Duarte said.





Best practices program highlighted in HBJ Posted by on

The Hartford Business Journal this week showcased the union's use of the UBC's "Best Practices in Health Care Construction" program to train carpenters. The specialized training emphasizes the special conditions and concerns that exist while building in active health care facilities and techniques and behaviors that limit the dangers construction brings to a healing environment.

To learn more about the program, visit NERCC's "Health in Building" site or UBCTraining.com.





Carabetta raided, latest problem for CT developer Posted by on

The Carabetta companies have been raided by the FBI and the IRS. It is the latest in a series of problems for Carabetta and their projects.

In April, nine Stop Work orders were issued against nine Carabetta subcontractors on a New London housing project only months after three Stop Work orders were issued against Carabetta subcontractors for similar offenses on a different NEw London housing project.

Both the Meriden Record-Journal and the Hartford Courant had coverage, including details of Carabetta's troubled financial and legal past.





Malloy unveils new plan for UConn Health Center Posted by on

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy this week unveiled and new and much larger development plan for the UConn Health Center. The $864 million renovation and expansion will move forward the state's bioscience industry, creating lots of short-term and long term jobs in the process.

Connecticut Regional Manager Bruce Lydem was part of the announcement, covered by the Connecticut Mirror.


TAGS: Connecticut



Tentative Settlement Reached in CT Strike Posted by on

Members of three Carpenter Local Unions in Connecticut affiliated with the New England Regional Council of Carpenters have reached a tentative agreement with contractors to end a one week strike. The union and contractors--represented by the Associated General Contractors/ Connecticut Construction Industry Association--held negotiating sessions Saturday and Monday afternoon. Union carpenters returned to work today as the result of progress made during Saturday negotiations.

Members of Carpenters Local 24, 43 and 210 will meet at their Local Union halls on Thursday for ratification votes.





More bad guys nabbed in New London Posted by on

From the New London Day:

New London - The state Department of Labor issued nine stop work orders Friday to several subcontractors at the Bates Woods housing construction site for violating labor laws.

Members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters were protesting at the Jefferson Avenue site Tuesday after the state charged that the subcontractors were either employing independent contractors to avoid paying workers' compensation insurance or they were under-reporting the number of people on their payrolls.
Read the full story here.





Meriden site sets CT record Posted by on

On Friday, March 25th members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters protested in front of the site of the Chamberlain Heights Housing in Meriden, Connecticut, a low-income public housing facility. The protest was scheduled after the Connecticut Department of Labor issued a record 22 "Stop Work" orders on the site, where a $27 million renovation is under way.

The orders were issued when workers on the site were found to not have workers compensation coverage, as required by law, and were not properly paying state and federal payroll taxes. There were also concerns that the workers were not legitimate "independent contractors" as indicated during an inspection of the site.

The LaRosa Building Group is the general contractor hired by the Meriden Housing Authority hired for the project.

??Having workers on the job without any workers compensation is appalling. To allow people to avoid paying taxes on Housing Authority jobs in these times is a slap in the face to every tax payer in Connecticut,?? said Tim Sullivan of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

The 22 workers join a list of hundreds of subcontractors on multiple other sites who have been issued ??Stop Work?? from the state for similar violations.

Misclassification of workers as so-called "independent contractors" has become an epidemic in the construction industry. Not only does it strip workers of basic protections, it provides a significant competitive bidding advantage to contractors who cheat and deprives the state and federal government of significant tax revenues.

The "Stop Work" orders and protest caught the attention of Connecticut House Speaker Chris Donovan, who stopped by the site.

When protesters continued to gather at the site on March 28th, a second visit by Connecticut Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division netted yet another stop work order for violations.

Protests will continue outside the project to highlight the misuse of taxpayer money and the blatant tax and insurance fraud by some of the subcontractors on their site.

Additional coverage in the Hartford Courant.





Hundreds turnout in opposition to bank merger Posted by on

Nearly three hundred people, including representatives from Carpenters Local 24, gathered last week at a hearing in New Haven, Connecticut, to urge stat Banking Commissioner Howard Pitkin to reject Buffalo-based First Niagara Bank??s proposal to purchase NewAlliance Bank, which is headquartered in New Haven.

First Niagara President and Chief Executive Officer John R. Koelmel is seeking state regulatory approval for a merger that would make NewAlliance part of First Niagara.

Opponents of the $1.5 billion deal point to First Niagara??s poor community lending record, while New Haven leaders have suggested concessions, including significant contributions to the city??s school reform and technology-oriented economic development efforts.

NERCC Organizers in Connecticut worked together to reach out to members living in New Haven asking those interested to attend the hearing.

??We reached out to members living in New Haven, because this is the city that will be most directly impacted by this merger,?? notes Tim Sullivan, NERCC Organizer. ??We had an outstanding turnout by our membership, with over seventy-five members joining us at the hearing.??

As part of First Niagara??s business plan, the bank will make more than $1 billion in Community Reinvestment Act loans and other economic development initiatives within NewAlliance??s market over the next five years. CEO Koelmel claims the merger will help the local community with more dollars invested locally, more philanthropic giving and more community sponsorship.

However, at the four-hour hearing held on Wednesday, speakers argued that the deal would destroy local jobs. While First Niagara said it will not close any of the 88 NewAlliance branches, they will eliminate over 200 jobs, making the claim that many will be added back by the end of next year. There is also great concern that the deal will dry up mortgage and business loans for low- and moderate- income residents. People also fear that many economic decisions would be made hundreds of miles away in Buffalo, NY.

In his remarks given at the hearing, Sullivan emphasized the impact this may have on construction in the area. ??We do not want to see cranes become an endangered species in this vibrant city. We are very opposed to the loss of local control on loans and decision on capitol. We need a local partner in local decisions, not an entity in far away Buffalo??We are an industry very dependent on finance and the carpenters will not stand by silently when we see a potential for problems.??

Additionally, opponents emphasized that while NewAlliance has received ??outstanding?? Community Reinvestment Act rating, First Niagara routinely earns ??satisfactory?? ratings. Opponents fear the bank??s rating would be lowered if purchased by First Niagara.

Speakers at the hearing also pointed out the estimated $23 million payout departing CEO Peyton Patterson stands to collect in the deal. Four bank directors would collect a combined $17.4 million. This is money many feel should stay in New Haven to support affordable mortgages and small-business loans.

As Sullivan remarked, ??this [payout] does not seem to be in the interest of consumers, stockholders, or government. It could mean 600 fulltime jobs??It could mean a number of meaningful investments. It could mean police on the street, teacher aides in classes. This payout does no create new meaningful jobs in Connecticut. What it means is a wholesale layoff of Connecticut workers, higher rates and/or new fees for consumers and a fat payday for Peyton.

Pitkin said he would review the statements made during the hearings, and any other documents the public might wish to provide him with about the proposed merger, and then make a decision. In addition to approval from the Connecticut Department of Banking, the Federal Reserve Board and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency must also approve the merger.





Prevailing wage debate heats up in Connecticut Posted by on

The Connecticut Mirror published a story last week about the growing debate between municipalities and labor unions over prevailing wage. Town leaders feel the system imposes unaffordable labor charges, while labor leaders point out the system protects towns from unscrupulous contractors who undercut companies that play by the rules.

Connecticut??s prevailing wage law is gearing up to be one of the more hotly contested topics during the state's 2011 legislative session. Approximately 25 bills related to the prevailing wage statute have been introduced during the session, which began Jan. 5 and will run until June 8.

Currently, communities must pay the prevailing rate on renovation projects costing more than $100,000 and new construction over $400,000. Some argue this threshold should be raised to $500,000 for renovations and $1 million for new construction, while others propose a $1 million floor for all projects.

Glenn Marshall, newly appointed Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Labor and former Regional Business Manager for Connecticut Locals 24, 43 and 210, is quoted in the article:

??I totally understand in the economic climate we??re in that people want to cut costs, I personally don??t believe it should come off the backs of the workers.??

Marshall points out that the industry has been harmed by the growing underground economy and he fears that raising the threshold for prevailing wage projects could open a new series of projects for unscrupulous contractors to pursue.

The Labor and Public Employees Committee held a public hearing on prevailing wage at the Legislative Office Building in Connecticut. In addition to proposing revisions to the prevailing wage law, municipal leaders also called for the state to revise the binding arbitration mandate. In binding arbitration, when the two sides can??t reach an agreement on a union contract, an arbiter fashions a contract after hearing from both sides.

Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters testified at the hearing in opposition to the suggested changes. He presented data that shows that the notion that repeal of the prevailing wage law would save taxpayers money is overblown. Erlich??s testimony can be read here.

Erlich noted that ??the intent of prevailing wage legislation is to ensure that taxpayers get value for their public construction investment.??

??Weakening the state??s prevailing wage law in any fashion would hurt workers, hurt the painfully slow process of economic recovery, and ultimately lead to unsafe conditions on public projects and the delivery of shoddy construction products subsidized by taxpayer dollars.??

Erlich wrapped up his testimony saying ????If this committee wants to perform a public service by re-evaluating the current status of the prevailing wage law, please do not consider elimination of the statute. Instead, I would urge you to review all sources of public funds that do not currently trigger the use of prevailing wages. Extend the application of this valuable law; don??t remove it.??

To read more about the hearing visit Hartford Courant??s website.





Westfair contemplates Marshall as Labor Commissioner Posted by on

Ryan Doran wrote for Westfair Online late last week about the appointment of NERCC's Glenn Marshall as Connecticut Labor Commissioner.


TAGS: Connecticut