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NERCC's Marshall to be CT Labor Commissioner Posted by on

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy announced today that he has appointed Carpenters Local 210 President Glenn Marshall as the Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Labor. Dennis Murphy, a labor arbitrator, was chosen as Deputy Commissioner.

??In order to run the Labor Department, it is important to have someone who can work effectively as a consensus builder,?? Governor Malloy said. ??I strongly reject the premise that you have to be either pro-labor or pro-business ?C you have to be both. There is no doubt that in these tough economic times we need to have a responsible approach to decision making and an ability to work with broad-based coalitions. Glenn and Dennis ?C both of whom I have known for years ?C will take their respective experiences and put them to work at the Department of Labor, finding new and unique ways to ensure our state??s labor force is protected, and our state??s business community thrives.??

Marshall has served on the Executive Committee of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters since 1999 and the Regional Business Manager for Connecticut Locals 24, 43 and 210. He has also served as a Trustee to various benefit and training funds.

??This is a tremendous honor and I??d like to thank Governor Malloy for this opportunity,?? said Marshall. ??I??ve respected Governor Malloy for speaking frankly and honestly about the unique ways in which we need to get the labor and business communities around the same table on behalf of the people of Connecticut. That will be my guiding principle as I begin this next phase in my career.??

Marshall notified the NERCC Executive Board of his intention to resign from the Executive Board and his fulltime position with the union.

"Though I am leaving my job and my office on the Executive Board of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, I am not leaving the union," Marshall said. "The pride in our trade and the philosophy we share about unionism will always be with me and help to guide my work with the state. This is a tremendous opportunity for me to be involved in positive changes for Connecticut, ones that I hope will benefit workers and businesses alike.

Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council noted that the union's loss is Connecticut's gain.

"Glenn is a talented, intelligent and committed leader of our union and we will miss his involvement in the administration of the union. There is no doubt that he will continue to help our members and other workers as Commissioner of the Department of Labor and represent the union well."





Mock Election held at Quinnipiac Posted by on


From Quad News/by Emily Morgan
11/2/10

Protesters Back on Mount Carmel
Election Day may have been Nov. 2, but protesters from the carpenter and steel workers unions wanted to get the vote a day earlier with their own election.

"We wanted to play off Election Day and find out Lahey's approval rating on campus," said Jeff Wolcheski, a business representative and organizer with the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

Members of the Quinnipiac and Hamden communities driving up Mount Carmel Ave were met with the familiar sight of the protesters handing out flyers, but this time participants were asked to stop and cast their vote. In response to the question, "Do you approve of the way President Lahey handles construction projects on your campus?" voters could choose to mark either "approve" or "disapprove".

Responses were mainly verbal though, as the cool temperature kept participants from getting out of their cars to fill out a ballot, according to Wolcheski.

"Many of the people we've spoken to have said they disapprove," Wolcheski said.

The protesters are still looking to sit down with the Quinnipiac administration to discuss responsible employer language in the contracts the school gives to contractors they hire for their projects.

In September, Joe Rubertone, associate vice president for facilities administration, called Bruce Lydem, vice president and director of organizing for the Carpenters Local 24 union, to ask about the protests. According to Wolcheski, the phone call came after the school's Board of Trustees met at the university and saw the protesters.

While Lydem and Rubertone corresponded back and forth, protesters scaled down their activities. But on Sept. 28, all communication ceased, according to a press release sent out by William Jordan, a business representative and organizer for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. After this, protesters decided to ramp up their efforts again.

Protesters have been handing out leaflets along Mount Carmel Ave and at the North and South lot entrances to the university since June

"We're asking for a level playing field," Wolcheski said. "[The Quinnipiac community] deserves quality work on campus."

The Connecticut Department of Labor has already issued stop work orders against two contractors working on campus projects because of the illegal misclassification of employees as independent contractors, according to the press release sent out by Jordan.

"We have a solution to the misclassification," Wolcheski said. "We want to speak about responsible employers working on campus."

Wolcheski has said their protests are not about hiring union workers over nonunion workers.

"If Quinnipiac University was acting responsibly and hiring responsible contractors who abide by community standard wages, benefits, retirement packages and state and federal laws, we would not be out here right now," Jordan said in the press release.

Wolcheski compared Quinnipiac's hiring practices to Yale University.

"Yale doesn't allow third and fourth tiered subcontractors," Wolcheski said. "Quinnipiac wants to be in the same league [as Yale] but won't act with the same responsibility."

The university has no comment on the matter according to a statement by John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations.

In September, Joe Rubertone, associate vice president for facilities administration, called Bruce Lydem, vice president and director of organizing for the Carpenters Local 24 union, to ask about the protests. According to
Wolcheski, the phone call came after the school's Board of Trustees met at the university and saw the protesters.

While Lydem and Rubertone corresponded back and forth, protesters scaled down their activities. But on Sept. 28, all communication ceased, according to a press release sent out by William Jordan, a business representative and organizer for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. After this, protesters decided to ramp up their efforts again.
Protesters have been handing out leaflets along Mount Carmel Ave and at the North and South lot entrances to the university since June

"We're asking for a level playing field," Wolcheski said. "[The Quinnipiac community] deserves quality work on campus."

The Connecticut Department of Labor has already issued stop work orders against two contractors working on campus projects because of the illegal misclassification of employees as independent contractors, according to the press release sent out by Jordan.

"We have a solution to the misclassification," Wolcheski said. "We want to speak about responsible employers working on campus."

Wolcheski has said their protests are not about hiring union workers over nonunion workers.

"If Quinnipiac University was acting responsibly and hiring responsible contractors who abide by community standard wages, benefits, retirement packages and state and federal laws, we would not be out here right now," Jordan said in the press release.

Wolcheski compared Quinnipiac's hiring practices to Yale University.

"Yale doesn't allow third and fourth tiered subcontractors," Wolcheski said. "Quinnipiac wants to be in the same league [as Yale] but won't act with the same responsibility."

The university has no comment on the matter according to a statement by John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations.

Read the article on the Quad News website here.


TAGS: Connecticut



Mock Election to be held at Quinnipiac University Posted by on

After months of leafleting outside of Quinnipiac University's campus, carpenters are holding a mock election on Monday November 1, 2010 from 8:00AM until 1:00PM to see how the faculty, students, and area residents feel about President John Lahey's handling of their concerns in regards to illegal contractors working on Quinnipiac University projects.

Carpenters have been greeting, and passing out informational leaflets to local residents, faculty, and students since June 17, 2010, trying to raise awareness of the misclassification of workers by contractors hired directly by Quinnipiac University to work on campus projects.

The Connecticut Department of Labor already has issued Stop Work Orders, for illegal misclassification of employees as independent contractors against two contractors working on Quinnipiac University campus projects.

Wolcheski and the carpenters have made a point to let people know that this is not a matter of nonunion workers on campus. If Quinnipiac University was acting responsibly and hiring responsible contractors who abide by community standard wages, benefits, retirement packages, and state and federal laws, we would not be out here right now.

??We make our living in the construction industry,?? says Wolcheski. ??We know the good guys, the bad guys, and the really bad guys. We know all the scams and shortcuts that hurt not just workers in the industry, but owners like Quinnipiac and the local communities. For the University to simply fold their arms and claim ??they know best?? seems shortsighted and needlessly closed minded.??

Check in to the campaign??s website www.QuinnipiacToday.com to learn more about what??s going on at Quinnipiac and find out the results of Monday??s campus poll.


TAGS: Connecticut



Bad guys nailed in Mass, Conn Posted by on

Enforcement agencies in Connecticut and Massachusetts this week moved against contractors who have been violating laws in ways that undermine the ability of honest union carpenters and contractors to compete.

The Department of Labor in Connecticut performed a random on-site inspection of an AvalonBay job in Wilton, Connecticut, finding an out of state subcontractor who didn't have workers' compensation coverage. The employees of the company were sent home and will not be allowed to work on the site until they can prove proper coverage.

A representative of AvalonBay told the Norwalk Hour he expected the problem to be remedied soon, but did not indicate how they were able to work on the job without coverage in the first place.

Workers comp coverage should be of significant concern for AvalonBay, given their history in New England. Not long after OSHA had issued a series of citations for serious violations of fall protection regulations on jobs being built for AvalonBay, a 27-year old carpenter named Oscar Pintado fell to his death on an AvalonBay job in Woburn, Mass. He was working for a framing contractor which managed 150 wood framers. All of them, including Pintado, were listed as "independent contractors," meaning they were not covered by workers' compensation. His family was not eligible for any benefits or compensation.

In Massachusetts, the Attorney General's office reached a settlement agreement with Vincent Locke and his company V. Locke Contracting, Inc. over a string of violations for which they will pay a total of $100,000 in fines and restitution to workers.

After receiving a complaint that workers were not being paid the proper prevailing wage, Attorney General Martha Coakley's office began an investigation. Locke and V. Locke agreed to a settlement which cites them for intentionally violating the Prevailing Wage Law by failing to pay the prevailing wage to 35 employees. They are also being cited for violating Prevailing Wage Records Keeping Laws, violating the Independent contractor law by misclassifying employees as independent contractors and violating Overtime Law. Each of the citations cover violations that occurred from January 2008 through the investigation.

Locke and his company have agreed to make payments totaling $90,000 to workers and to pay the state $2,500 for each of the four citations. They will also be debarred from bidding on or performing any public work for a period of six months.

Also yesterday, Coakley's office reported that two subcontractors working on the Hanover High School project for Callahan, Inc. have been cited for violations of wage and wage reporting laws. Action Floors has been issued a $2,000 penalty for intentionally failing to submit true and accurate certified payroll while Superior Foundations was found to have intentionally failing to pay proper prevailing wages on the Hanover High School project. Superior was also cited for prevailing wage violations while working on the Swansea Police Station. Superior has been issued a $2,000 penalty for the violations and order to pay $3,802.94 in restitution to workers who were cheated.

The Hanover High School project has been a source of controversy for years. After fighting to win local approval to fund construction of a new building, local authorities came under fire for ignoring or excusing misleading statements Callahan, Inc made to justify it's qualifications for the project. The Town successfully fought to have put aside opinions by the Attorney General's office and a suit brought by union carpenters in Hanover that the project should be rebid. Treasurer Tim Cahill, who's office was in control of funding for the project, refused repeated requests to intervene.





Carpenters for Murphy in CT Posted by on

Union Carpenters in Connecticut have taken to the campaign trail to show their support for 5th District Congressman Chris Murphy. These pictures were taken before Congressman Murphy's recent debate.





CT members rally for Malloy Posted by on

Union carpenters are doing their part to protect working standards in Connecticut by supporting former Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy's bid for the Governor's office. Malloy is locked in a tight race with businessman Tom Foley.

The latest show of support from union carpenters was in New London where members joined with officers of the New London Police Department and other uions at a rally prior to the most recent televised debate.

Malloy and his running mate Nancy Wyman addressed the enthusiastic crowd as did George Jepsen, a long-time Carpenters union favorite who is running for Attorney General and Second District Congressman Joe Courtney.





Training: first and foremost Posted by on

Few programs are as important to the construction industry as training, and no one trains carpenters like the Carpenters Union.

The Carpenters Union focuses on helping all carpenters, whether they've been working in the industry for thirty years or they're just getting their start. We're committed to providing well-rounded carpenters across the entire range of building disciplines.

Check out the schedule of classes being offered this fall and winter in Connecticut to find the class and schedule that??s right for you.





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



Carpenters welcome students back to Quinnipiac Posted by on

Members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters greeted students and parents arriving yesterday for the fall semester at Quinnipiac with some questions and concerns about the school??s judgment when it comes to its building practices.

The school is in the midst of a 10-year building plan but has had some problems recently with contractors hired to do work. Two flooring contractors were issued Stop Work orders by the state while working directly for the college on small rehab projects.

??Union carpenters and union contractors have done work at Quinnipiac and will in the future, I??m sure?? said NERCC Organizer Jeff Wolcheski. ??But we think the way they??ve made some of their decisions leaves a bit to be desired. It??s understandable, given they are educators, not builders. Maybe they??re getting bad advice from outside experts who only care about bleeding profit out of the school. Maybe President John Leahy has too many outside interests or has grown complacent when it comes to details and follow-through after so many years here.??

Wolcheski and the union have been making a point that their issue is not strictly a matter of nonunion contractors working on campus. Union carpenters have worked alongside nonunion carpenters at Quinnipiac and on other sites. Union organizers have even built relationships with nonunion carpenters, offering to help them if they encounter wage or safety problems. What??s troubling is the lack of concern for quality and legal compliance by contractors allowed to bid and work on campus.

??We make our living in the construction industry,?? says Wolcheski. ??We know the good guys, the bad guys and the really bad guys. We know all the scams and shortcuts that hurt not just workers in the industry, but owners like Quinnipiac and the local communities. For the University to simply fold their arms and claim ??we know best?? seems shortsighted and needlessly close minded.??

The New Haven Register published a story, which includes video comments by NERCC Representative/Organizers Jeff Wolcheski and Bill Jordan. It can be seen here.

A story also appeared on istockanalyst.com, an investment information site.





Union Carpenters question United Illuminating, Whiting Turner Posted by on

On Tuesday morning, August 3 starting at 9:30 am members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters will protest in front of the site of the future headquarters of United Illuminating on Orange Street. Chief among the union??s concerns will be the screening, hiring and supervision practices on the site, where a subcontractor was issued a ??Stop Work?? order on Friday for not having proper workers?? compensation coverage.

??We have noticed a pattern of problems with subcontractors hired by Whiting Turner,?? said Tim Sullivan, a Representative of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. ??Throughout the process, we have also been concerned with United Illuminating??s seemingly cavalier attitude toward the screening contractors and subcontractors. Construction is a dangerous and often ruthless business. To have workers on the job without any protection should there be an accident is appalling.??

Davis Tree and Logging was the subcontractor on site ordered to stop work from proceeding with work after investigators from the Department of Labor Friday. They join a list of multiple subcontractors for Whiting Turn on multiple other sites who have been issued ??Stop Work?? orders or other legal citations.

??On Friday, the state found a subcontractor on this site without workers?? compensation coverage,?? said Sullivan. ??If a worker gets injured in that situation they are likely out of work and out of luck for a long, long time. Our concern is that, with Whiting Turner??s track record of hiring, we??ll see more violations of tax and insurance laws. Maybe workers being underpaid or not being paid at all. These things happen every day and they happen because companies like Whiting Turner and United Illuminating turn a blind eye and pretend that everything??s alright.??

Sullivan said the union will continue to visit the site to monitor compliance and to notify the public of any and all violations that occur.

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters represents more than 22,000 union members in six states who are employed by more than 1,500 union contractors. As part of their mission to bring fair wages and working standards to all carpenters, they regularly work with nonunion workers, educating them on their rights and helping them seek legal recourse when necessary.





Cheating at CT hospital not a surprise Posted by on

To union carpenters and honest contractors, it's an all too familiar story, even if it's not reported in the press often enough. A job goes out to bid and several union and nonunion contractors put in bids. Costs will be the same for materials, equipment, insurance and other items. But when the bids are opened most of the bid prices are clustered together, while one or two are dramatically lower. The owner looks only at the bottom line on the bid and grabs the rock bottom price.

More often than not the result of the lowball bid is one of two things: the contractor missing something in the bid, which will result in back-charging the owner or labor costs being illegally lowered on the job because subcontractors will be misclassifying workers or not paying workers at all.

The second scenario was likely in Norwalk, Connecticut and led to a state-ordered shutdown American Cancer Society's C. Anthony and Jean Whittingham Family Building, which was reported in the Norwalk Hour.

The 13,000 square foot building was less than a month from its groundbreaking when the Department of Labor visited the site and found workers being paid in cash and having no contributions made to workers' compensation on their behalf and no state or federal taxes being paid. There were also discrepancies in the way the workers and the company identified workers on the job.

Local 210 Business Agent Glenn Marshall told the Hour he had conversations with other bidders on the job and suspected there would be problems on the job based on the winning bid.

"I talked to the other contractors and they said they didn't know how you could (construct the building) at that price," he said.





Fines boosted for employers that misclassify workers Posted by on

From CTMirror.com

Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed into law today a bill that increases the fine for employers who illegally lower their costs by misclassifying employees as independent contractors.

The bill was sought by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and the Chief State's Attorney's Office to go after employers who misclassify employees to avoid paying contributions for unemployment compensation and workers' compensation.

When introducing the proposal in March, Blumenthal said, "This is cheating, plain and simple."

Blumenthal said the fact that Linda McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment hires independent contractors as wrestlers had nothing to do with his timing or push for increased fines.

"There is nothing political about our announcement," he said, a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate who eventually could face McMahon, the current leader among three Republicans in the race.

The current fine for misclassification was $300 per incident. The fine now is $300 a day per violation.

In a recent 12-month period, 300 stop-work orders were issued for employer misclassification, according to the Enforcement Commission on Employee Misclassification. For the 1,200 workers misclassified, the Department of Labor collected $90,000 in civil penalties.

Blumenthal said the problem is costing the state millions every year from the state having to pick up the medical and workers compensation costs for employees deemed independent contractors.

Department of Revenue Services BETA Unit audits related to worker misclassification assessed $1,222,869 in additional tax. For the current fiscal year, there have been 39 worker misclassification audits completed, resulting in additional tax of $780,219.

In the construction business, companies that misclassify workers are able to underbid legitimate contractors, said Don Shubert of the Connecticut Construction Industry Association.





Labor to lose another Senate champion Posted by on

Connecticut's Christopher Dodd is expected to announce his retirement today from the United States Senate, ending 34 years of representation of the state in Washington. Dodd, who has been trailing in recent polls for re-election in November became a Congressman in 1974 and moved to the Senate in 1981.

Though he has faced troubled times and challenges, Dodd has been a consistent supporter of Democratic principles, particularly when it comes to union workers, holding a career 91% voting record with the AFL-CIO.

"In Washington there are different levels of influence and effectiveness. Senator Chris Dodd was a widely respected and highly effective representative of working people," said Mark Erlich. "He not only supported us, he had the stature and commitment to lead the charge on the floor of the Senate, in the committee meetings and in the halls of the Capitol. We appreciate his long career of dedicated service. We will miss him and we wish him well."

Dodd's retirement is expected to draw Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal into the November election. Former Congressman Rob Simmons and World Wrestling Entertainment Executive Linda McMahon are battling for the Republican nomination.

NERCC Political Director Tom Flynn said Dodd's retirement signals a call for union carpenters to ramp up political action once again.

"The recent loss of Ted Kennedy and now Chris Dodd's retirement present another challenge to our members in New England and all working people in the country," said NERCC Political Director Tom Flynn. "It is a reminder that we need to be vigilant and dedicated to making sure our voices are heard, in our districts and in Washington."





CT papers cover Stop Work orders Posted by on

The State of Connecticut continues its fight against misclassification of employees and has issued five more Stop Work orders on a job in Fairfield. The orders were posted at the Patterson Club, a new country club being built by general contractor AP Construction.

NERCC Organizer Ted Duarte and Bob Kravitz, owner of union company Whitehawk Construction Services, were quoted in news stories about the action taken by the Connecticut Labor Department:

Bob Kravitz, owner of Whitehawk Construction Services LLC, of Canton, said he bid to do the millwork installation at the Patterson Club, but didn't get the job.

And it was the millwork installers who were cited by the state at the Patterson Club.

"I bid on a number of packages," Kravitz said of his attempt to win the work. He said the selection process included showing the potential client the jobs he's done at Yale University.

"But then the trail went cold," he said. And the job went to someone else.

Kravitz said this is not the first time it's happened. He's lost jobs before to nonunion shops. Sometimes he ends up with the work anyway, he said, because the job gets botched. But, he said, it's never as big a job as it would have been if he'd gotten the project in the first place.
How misclassification works and why it hurts union carpenters and contractors is explained very well in the article, making it a good independent information source to forward to elected officials and others involved in the construction industry. It is available online here.





Barr, Inc. embarasses Conn. Posted by on

Two states down, four to go?

The bad news about Barr, Inc. is spreading like wildfire. Earlier this year they were the subject of a Fox 25 Boston piece about contractors who do a poor job, but negotiate their way into good grades in the review process. A state investigation that included review of five failing grades on public projects led to the company being debarred from bidding public work in Massachusetts.

Now Barr, Inc. is showing the Connecticut Department of Transportation the problems they can bring to an awarding authority.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation had full knowledge of the fact that Barr, Inc was debarred in Massachusetts. In fact, the company is also under investigation in Connecticut for violating prevailing wage laws on another public project. Still, the DOT moved forward with awarding Barr, Inc. a $1 million project to rebuild a covered walking bridge over the Salmon River. As a result of activity on that project, Barr, Inc. has now been fined for failure to pay proper wages to workers. The events have led to very public and harsh criticism of the Department of Transportation for hiring Barr, Inc. despite their previous problems. Both the Hartford Courant and Connecticut's News Channel 8 featured the story.

"Frankly, this is the height of incompetence," said state Sen. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, who arranged a news conference Monday to discuss the contract. "Didn't we learn from the problems we had with the drains on I-84? We've had enough shoddy work in this state."

State Sen. Donald DeFronzo, co-chairman of the legislature's transportation committee, said that although it was "probably technically permissible" to award Barr the contract, "it was, at best, a very risky decision." DeFronzo, a New Britain Democrat, said "the transportation committee is going to look hard at this particular job and ask the department for frequent performance updates."

DeFronzo and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said that Barr was a "poster child" for the need to give the commissioners of transportation, labor and administrative services the clear authority to remove or suspend a contractor from the pre-qualification list ?? from which state vendors are drawn ?? when one of them is disqualified in another state.



Please note that Barr, Inc. is a Connecticut-based firm unrelated to union contractor Barr and Barr.





KBE wins project, loses control Posted by on

The Board of Selectmen in Madison, Connecticut has unanimously approved KBE Building Corporation as the construction manager for a $5.5 million senior and ambulance garage, but not without taking measures to prevent the company from hiring subcontractors that have contributed to problems on their projects in the past. The Madison Building Committee will determine and hold all contracts for subcontractors for the project in order to ??take KBE out of the picture?? according to the building committee chair.
KBE had been the only one in the running for the job until the Board of Selectmen asked that additional companies be considered. Though the interview of two additional companies did not change the end result of KBE getting the job, the town did seem to agree that leaving KBE to select subcontractors could lead to problems.

NERCC Organizers Margaret Conable and Bart Pacekonis were among those who spoke at the Selectman??s meeting on Monday. They discussed KBE??s history of hiring subcontractors that illegally misclassify employees as independent contractors, avoiding payment of Social Security, unemployment and other payroll taxes.

The story, with quotes from Conable and the building committee chair, was covered by the New Haven Register. The article is online at their site.





Trouble for Northrock sub Posted by on

Northrock Construction--sister company to GNPB and Kal-Vin--is mired in controversy once again. A stop work order was issued on a Montville, Connecticut project where they were hired to do drywall. A "Stop Work" order was issued by the Connecticut Department of Labor at the Hyatt Place Hotel site against Matrix Interior Construction, a subcontractor hired by Northrock. The counts include:
--Failure to secure payment of workers compensation
--Misrepresenting employees as independent contractors
--Understating or concealing payroll records

In addition to their on-site problems, an owner of Matrix has run into significant other trouble with law enforcement recently. Earlier this year, Scott LeDoux was arrested in New Hampshire for selling more than 400 oxycontin pills worth an estimated $18,000. The federal government is currently suing to take possession of property owned by Ledoux including equipment and furnishing from an mixed marshal arts gym in which it is alleged LeDoux made drug sales.

How and why did an accused drug dealer get to the point where their job was shut down by the state government without Northrock taking action of its own? The Hyatt Place Hotel might be asking the same question.





Hartford Biz Journal does special piece on 1099 enforcement Posted by on

Government agencies' efforts to enforce laws against misclassification of workers as so-called independent contractors has once again received prominent coverage in the business press. The Hartford Business Journal released a "Special Report" that is being featured on the front page of their website. The piece includes comments from enforcement agents, exploited worker and Bob Fitch, owner of union contractor New Haven Partitions. The story is well researched, including a sidebar story comparing the efforts in Connecticut to those in other states, including New York and Massachusetts.





No comp, no work in CT Posted by on

The State of Connecticut has begun publishing a list of companies who have been issued "Stop Work" orders for failure to provide proper workers?? compensation coverage on construction projects in the state. Since the beginning of 2008, the Department of Labor has issued more than 200 Stop Work orders through on site inspections.

The State of Connecticut passed legislation giving the Department of Labor the authority to issue Stop Work orders because of the alarming increase of construction workers who were not covered in one of the most dangerous occupational fields.

Construction companies often fail to provide workers?? compensation coverage to workers as part of a scheme to reduce their operating costs and gain an competitive advantage over their competitors. It is commonly part of a strategy where workers are misclassified as "1099" independent contractors rather than employees. Taking the name of the IRS form issued by employers to legitimate independent contractors , 1099s do not have proper state and federal taxes deducted from their pay and are not covered by unemployment insurance.

The result of the practice is often tragic, with workers seriously injured and unable to pay medical bills. The strain extends to legitimate employers and taxpayers who end up paying higher premiums and higher taxes to cover government-provided services.

To view the list of contractors issued Stop Work orders, which will be regularly updated,visit this link. In addition to the contractor??s name, the list includes the site where the order was issues, the date it was issued and the date it was released, where applicable.





Union Carpenter featured on "All Things Considered" Posted by on

Dot Perta, a retired member of Carpenters Local 210, was featured in an interview segment of the NPR program "All Things Considered" with Connecticut affiliate WSHU. Perta is the first female carpenter to retire with a pension in Connecticut and will be one of 18 women honored for their careers in the Building Trades at an event on May 16.

You can listen to the interview on their website by following this link.

Perta and the women being honored are also the subject of a short documentary being produced by NERCC, which will premier at the event May 16th, 2009. A trailer for the piece is posted for viewing here on the NERCC blog or on YouTube with other NERCC video productions.

Tickets for the event are $35 each and include full dinner. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Sylvia Michetti of Carpenters Local 24 at 860-442-6655.

Check back here after the event for a look at the full documentary.





Bad contractors, good grades? Posted by on

NERCC Organizers have been fighting the fight for years. A general contractor wins a public job and makes a mess of it. The project may come in way over budget or months--even years--behind schedule. The city or town might have to file suits to have work completed properly. Then, mysteriously, on evaluation forms the state uses to certify contractors, the contractors in question is given a passing grade. The contractor stays in good standing with the state and future communities where they bid are left in the dark.

Boston's Fox 25 Undercover did a piece on just such a contractor, Barr, Inc. , and the broken system that's supposed to protect communities. Please note that Barr, Inc. is a Connecticut-based firm unrelated to union contractor Barr and Barr.





Coming attractions Posted by on

Please watch this trailer for the short documentary, "Women in the Trades", coming May 16th, 2009! In the film, eighteen Connecticut women share their stories about entering the trades during the late 1970s/early 1980s.


The documentary will be featured at an event in Connecticut called "Thirty Years and Still Building: Connecticut's Groundbreaking Women Celebrate Their lives in the Trades." It is being organized by the Connecticut State Building Trades and the Permanent Commission of the Status of Women. The event will recognize the first generation of women to work full careers in the building trades and who have retired or are about to retire.

These women came into the trades at a time when their participation challenged industry norms and required major adjustments on the part of most participants.

Among the honorees will be carpenters electricians, laborers, pipefitters, teamsters, and a number of other trades. The event is being held Saturday, May 16 at Zandri's Stillwood Inn in Wallingford, CT. Tickets are $35 each and include full dinner. Tickets can be purchased by contacting Sylvia Michetti of Carpenters Local 24 at 860-442-6655.

Check back here after the event for a look at the full documentary.





OSHA proposes $118k+ for fall hazards in CT Posted by on

OSHA has proposed in excess of $118,000 in fines for a Tennessee-based contractor working in Torrington, Connecticut. The fines are the result of "15 alleged repeat and serious violations of safety standards," according to the OSHA press release.

"OSHA's inspection found employees working on scaffolding, in an aerial lift and on the roof at the 492 East Main St. worksite, were exposed to falls of up to 22 feet. The inspection also identified electrical, overhead and chemical hazard communication deficiencies at the worksite."
------
"Specifically, 4 Brothers, which also operates as VP Stucco Co. Inc., was issued six repeat citations, with $84,000 in proposed penalties, for no fall protection for employees in an aerial lift; lack of guardrails on the scaffold; employees climbing the scaffold's side and cross braces; employees not trained to recognize scaffold hazards; no protective helmets; and failing to have the scaffold erected and dismantled under the supervision of a competent person. OSHA cited the company in 2007 and 2008 for similar hazards at worksites in Concord, N.H., and Plainville, Conn.

"The Torrington inspection also resulted in nine serious citations, with $34,650 in proposed penalties, for employees working on a roof without fall protection; an improperly supported scaffold; unguarded walkways between scaffolds; using an ungrounded extension cord to power a mixing drill; and lack of a hazard communication program, training, material safety data sheets, and protective gloves for employees working with cement and hazardous chemicals. OSHA issues serious citations when death or serious physical harm is likely to result from hazards about which the employer knew or should have known.
Emphasis added.





Comp? Who needs comp? Posted by on

WorkersCompCenteral.com posts a story that is a bit scary. While being the state was checking to see if workers were properly classified and covered by workers's comp, a power box exploded, hurting two. Luckily, they were covered by comp. Others weren't.

The Connecticut Division of Wage and Workplace Standards pulled 11 workers off of a Stamford, Conn., construction site last week after an electrical power box exploded and injured two others.

Division Director Gary Pechie said Friday his inspectors were on site at a refurbishing project at a downtown YMCA building when the box exploded last Tuesday.

They were conducting a routine check of JV Construction and Drywall as part of the division's sweep of Connecticut construction sites to verify workers' compensation coverage.

"Our people had to run out of the building because of the smoke," Pechie said. "It was ironic, because we were there checking to make sure they had coverage."

Pechie said the electricians suffered second-degree burns. One has been released from a local hospital and the other is expected to be released soon. Both workers were covered by workers' compensation for the project, which involves converting the old YMCA into a 99-room hotel.

But Pechie said inspectors ordered 11 other workers for JV Construction and Drywall off the site because they were identified as independent contractors.





Herald doubles down on AvalonBay sub Posted by on

A day after the Herald exposed the rampant violations by subcontractors on multiple AvalonBay sites in Massachusetts, they've picked up on the arrest and arraignment of one of those same subs in Connecticut.

John Kirk, CEO of National Carpentry, is the subject of today's bad news.

"In the civil lawsuit, the day laborers accused Kirk of violating payroll laws by using secret time cards and cash payments. The suit also alleges National Carpentry failed to pay overtime and minimum wage and eventually stopped paying workers altogether."

"After the suit was filed, Connecticut labor officials investigated. Kirk was arrested Feb. 12 and arraigned yesterday in Connecticut Superior Court. He faces up to $5,000 in fines or five years in jail."





Carpenters Local 210 speaks out on National Carpentry Posted by on

Glenn Marshall, President of Carpenters Local 210 in Fairfield County, Connecticut, recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Stamford Advocate. It was published only weeks the news broke that National Carpentry's CEO John Kirk was arrested and arraigned on charges he cheated dozens of workers out of pay.

National Carpentry was also one of five subcontractors hired by AvalonBay that was cited for violations after an investigation by the Massachusetts Attorney General for violations on three AvalonBay sites in Massachusetts.

Marshall's letter focused on Harbor Point, a multimillion-dollar project in Stamford's South End. In discussing ongoing concerns there, he referenced National Carpentry. A portion of that the letter follows.

"I strongly believe our contractors and skilled workers can compete with any out-of-state competition as long as everyone obeys state and federal labor and tax laws. My greatest fear is that as the economy continues to spiral downward, construction users and developers will be tempted to use companies like National Carpentry Contractors, which recently worked on the East Side Commons condominiums on East Main Street and Glen View House on Glenbrook Road -- developed by Seth Weinstein of Hannah Real Estate Investors and Ray and Paxton Kinol of Stillwater Investments.

National Carpentry, based in Tennessee with an office now on High Ridge Road, has repeatedly appeared in The Advocate for all the wrong reasons. Back in March, the Connecticut Department of Labor issued numerous stop-work orders on the Stamford projects for the contractor's failure to pay workers' compensation insurance. And more recently, 34 workers on the same projects, with the support of the Connecticut Legal Services and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, sued National Carpentry for failing to pay the workers more than $250,000 in back wages.

Mayor Malloy has worked diligently to revitalize Stamford's downtown with a combination of housing, retail and transit-oriented development, creating thousands of construction jobs for local contractors, workers and suppliers. But as the global economy continues its freefall, I worry Stamford will become the "city that works" for out-of-state contractors that illegally cut costs by flagrantly breaking state and federal labor and tax laws while the rest of us are left out in the cold."

Glenn Marshall
Fairfield





It gets worse for one AvalonBay sub Posted by on

In addition to the bad news National Carpentery received from the Massachusetts Attorney General??s office, National Carpentry is facing charges of wage fraud in Connecticut, according to an article in the Stamford Advocate. Company head John Kirk was arrested and arraigned on 20 counts of cheating day laborers out of wages on two projects in Stamford.

"He's the poster child of how not to do business in the state of Connecticut," said Gary Pechie, director of the state labor department's Wage and Workplace Standards Division.





Employee rights blog in CT Posted by on

The Connecticut Employee Rights Blog.

Stumbled across this while perusing information about enforcement of labor laws in Connecticut. It describes itself as "The Blog for Connecticut employees and the lawyers who represent them."

The identification of the author reads: "This blog is created and maintained by me, Richard Hayber. I am an employee rights attorney in Hartford, Connecticut. I have been representing employees since 1992 and care deeply about the rights of hard working employees."

There's some legal news there. This is not an endorsement or advertisement. Take it for what it is; general information.


TAGS: Connecticut



Conn AG supports workers in suit against National Carpentry Posted by on

Conn AG supports workers in suit against National Carpentry
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal yesterday joined immigrant workers who are suing National Carpentry to recover thousands of dollars in wages they are owed. Thirty-four workers were not properly paid for work they performed for National on a luxury condo development in Stamford.

NERCC Organizers in several states have been watching and chasing National Carpentry in an attempt to protect workers and companies doing business with National. In the last decade, they have been one of the largest nonunion woodframe contractors in the region, but with very shady business practices. They have been a subcontractor for Avalon Bay, one of the largest residential developers in the country. The company has taken advantage of the "coyote" system to hire and move crews of easily exploitable immigrant workers. Workers are hired through various layers in an attempt to shield National from employer responsibilities.

In addition to their hiring and payment practices, the company has a troubling record when it comes to safety. In 2007, Oscar Pintado, a National Carpentry employee working on an Avalon Bay job in Woburn, fell 45 feet down and elevator shaft and was killed. National essentially disavowed Pintado, claiming he worked for another subcontractor. The fall was a result of inadequate safety procedures and came not long after OSHA had issued significant fines against the company for similar violations on another job in the area.

The Connecticut Department of Labor has been investigating the company since last year and has issued several Stop Work orders for the company??s failure to meet legal requirements. John Kirk, owner of National Carpentry, also faces unrelated criminal charges stemming from an assault on the Stamford jobsite.

At a press conference with the workers yesterday, Blumenthal said:

"Today's action requires courage and integrity by immigrants, overcoming fears about their own safety and security, to report wrongdoing. Whether or not they were actually undocumented, their employer perceived them as vulnerable and thought they could be exploited.

"The employer egregiously exploited its workers, hopeful or certain that they would be reluctant to report abuse for fear of retaliation or other consequences. Despite its promises, this company paid its workers less -- and sometimes nothing at all -- for physically draining 70-hour work weeks.

"These reprehensible practices allegedly jeopardized lives and livelihood -- denying hundreds of workers fair wages and employment opportunities. My office is working closely with state labor officials, who share my concerns, to prepare appropriate state action.

"Even if employees are undocumented, they are still protected by state and federal laws that require fair treatment of employees. We will fight vigorously to uphold the law in this case -- and others when employers prey on vulnerable men and women. Substandard pay or working conditions for some workers affects all workplaces."

A full press release from the Attorney General??s office can be read here.





What do we have to offer? Posted by on

Why should an owner or developer hire union carpenters, employed by union contractors? Take a look.





Conn contractor gets time for cheating workers Posted by on

Michel Pare, former President of Ben & Sons Drywall Contractors in Connecticut has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison, along with two years of supervised release in connection with a pension fraud investigation. Once a major nonunion player in the drywall industry, over the course of two years the company failed to transfer more than $175,000 it withheld from workers to a pension plan. He has been ordered to pay restitution in that amount to impacted workers. Pare was sentenced to jail time for admitting to making false statements when he signed annual reports for benefit funds that he knew were false.

At one time or another, every NERCC staff member was chasing Ben & Sons or talking to carpenters working for the company, uncovering misdeeds. Congratulations to them for finally seeing justice served. The Hartford Courant covered the story.





Conn Stops Work where it finds fraud Posted by on

As reported at the quarterly NERCC Delegats' meeting on Saturday:
As of December 5, the Connecticut Department of Labor had issued 127 "Stop Work" orders on construction sites where misclassification or similar offenses were found. Enforcement activity has picked up considerably since the state recognized the widesprad problem that existed in the industry and gave the department inreased authority to issue the orders.





New CT law, enforcement working well Posted by on

Full text of story posted at NERCC's website.

A new, quick and powerful enforcement tool has been used by the state Department of Labor to close down more than 85 work sites in Connecticut since last year, as officials target construction contractors with inadequate workers' compensation insurance.


Many of those hit with stop-work orders have misrepresented employees as independent contractors, underestimated payroll figures (sometimes by paying workers off-the-books cash) or misrepresented employee duties so as to avoid proper calculation of workers' comp coverage needs.


In the construction field, other state and federal agencies have authority to enforce workplace violations, but the process is invariably slow.

"This small little workers' comp measure is actually accomplishing more than all these federal and state agencies seeking out violators," Letizia said. "And it's doing it effectively, immediately and without the involvement of lawyers and courts."


"Once you misclassify someone as an independent contractor, you're not paying your share of Social Security, you're not paying unemployment tax, you're certainly not paying any overtime and are skirting the workers' comp requirement," he noted.

Donald Shubert, president of the Connecticut Construction Industry Association, said that dishonest contractors are hurting the law-abiding ones.

"A solid contractor will make a large investment managing their safety program, purchasing adequate coverage," Shubert said. "When other employers skirt the workers' comp requirements, [the law-abiding contractor] is at a tremendous disadvantage in bidding."


Letizia, a workers' comp lawyer who represents employers, said the Connecticut enforcement program is broadly beneficial.

"It's amazing when something works this well," he said. "Are we screwing business? No. Of the places shut down, no one's even asked for a hearing. So everyone has paid the fine and remedied the problem. That's the ideal of a good regulation.

"Any legitimate contractor would support this law. It evens the playing field so the crooks in the industry don't have an advantage."





Avalon Bay embarrassed again Posted by on

A story appeared today in the New Haven Register about NERCC Carpenters demonstrating in front of an Avalon Bay project in Connecticut. This major developer has chosen to turn a blind eye to the exploitation and abuse of immigrant workers in the construction industry; even when it happens on their own job sites.

The company would have people believe that all is well and they take care of any problems that arise on their job sites. Perhaps Mr. Kinter, from Avalon Bay, would like to explain why there were 10 Stop Worker Orders issued on their site by Connecticut state authorities.

The New Haven Register??s site, like many other news sites, allows readers to post comments about a story. Reader comments appear beneath the story with a form for submitting more comments. Members are encouraged to use this feature and express their feelings about stories they read online concerning union and construction issues. Remember these are public forums, so be direct, but respectful of others. Site editors do reserve the right to remove comments they find objectionable.





Connecticut serious about stopping cheats Posted by on

The Connecticut Department of Labor has made aggressive and effective use of a new law in that state to curtail tax and insurance problems in the construction industry by those who intentionally misclassify employees as independent contractors.

Following compliance checks at construction sites throughout the state, the
Connecticut Department of Labor has issued ??stop work orders?? to 60 companies
this year for failing to comply with workers?? compensation requirements.



According to Gary Pechie, Director of the agency??s Wage and Workplace Standards:

??The legislation is effective in helping the Labor Department improve working conditions on construction sites, and helps to ensure that employers who violate state laws do not have an unfair advantage over others.??