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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





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."
 





NERCC to be recognized at White House Summit Posted by on

The efforts of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, as part of the Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues to increase women’s participation in the construction trades, are being recognized nationally at the White House Summit on Working Families this Monday. NERCC Business Representative Liz Skidmore will represent the NERCC and the PGTI at the event, which is being hosted by the White House and the Department of Labor and the Center for American Progress. Both President Obama and Vice President Biden will be attending the event.

The White House planning committee for the Summit asked the National Task Force on Tradeswomen's Issues for two "Best Practices" for getting more women into the trades. The Task Force presented them with the Minnesota Vikings stadium project, which set hiring goals and has hired a lot of women, and the work being done in New England by NERCC and the Policy Group on Tradeswomen's Issues (PGTI), which is convened by Skidmore, Susan Moir of UMass Boston Labor Resource Center, Brian Doherty of the Boston Building Trades and Janet Jones of the Dorchester Roxbury Labor Committee.

The PGTI has established a multi-stakeholder strategy of bringing key players together over time to build relationships, share expertise, identify and implement solutions. The group has met at the Carpenters Center every other month for six years and includes city, state and federal officials; General and sub-contractors, academics, compliance officers, tradeswomen, and union leaders. During this time they have published two reports: Unfinished Business, an analysis of all research done on tradeswomen in the last 25 years in the US with policy recommendations and Finishing the Job, a how-to manual for meeting hiring goals on specific construction projects. 

Women's employment has risen from 3% to 6% of all hours worked in Boston over the last few years, a statistic made even more significant when considering the simultaneous increase in the number or work hours over the past two years.

Additional work being done by PGTI that has earned them recognition as a national best practice includes moving from 35 years of supply-only (recruitment and pre-apprenticeship training) to a supply and demand strategy that includes the supply work and adds demand - working to improve compliance with hiring goals. As a result of their work, the Integrated Science Center at UMass Boston building project, which is the first project in Boston that has met hiring goals for all three established goals (residents, minorities and women) over the course of the project.

PGTI has also compiled compliance numbers online in searchable, downloadable databases by a number of entities including the City of Boston, UMass Boston (for their $700 mil PLA), and the MA Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards. These databases are now being used by GCs and project owners to review past compliance history and in evaluating which contractors to hire.

As stated on the summit’s website, “the White House Summit will convene businesses, economists, labor leaders, policymakers, advocates and citizen to discuss policy solutions that can make a real difference in the lives of working families and ensure America’s global competitiveness in the coming decades.”

Learn more about the work of the PGTI by visiting their website here. To follow the events happening during the White House Summit on Working Families click here.





Union proves worth to nonunion carpenters again Posted by on

Union representatives recently go together with more than 15 carpenters who were employed by J&V Construction to collect checks for back wages. Each of the men was issued a check for between $20,000-24,000.

The union had spoken to the men when they were working at UConn, building the new basketball training center earlier this year. After learning they were owed significant money from their employer, they encouraged and helped them file wage claims with the state.

For the individual carpenters, the checks represent a big win; significant money they had earned, but thought they'd never get. For the union and the rest of the industry, the checks are another reminder that knowing your rights and standing together to protect them is a worthwhile venture. Congratulations to these carpenters and the union representatives who helped them get justice.





Response to Globe column on housing Posted by on

Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, issued the following in response to Shirley Leung's June 4 Boston Globe column about middle class housing development in the city.

"Shirley Leung’s June 4 column on the “deafening whisper campaign” that attributes the high cost of building middle class housing to overpaid union construction workers is a shallow and misguided analysis. Yes, there is a housing crisis and all hands need to be on deck to achieve the City’s goal of 20-30,000 new units. But labor makes up less than 25% of total housing production costs and is rising far more slowly than land, fees, and other soft costs.

"The reality on the ground is that hundreds of non-luxury units are under construction in East Boston, Allston-Brighton, and Jamaica Plain – all with union labor. Further, our members have built most of the non-profit development community’s affordable housing in Boston’s neighborhoods.

"Sadly, Leung has listened to a handful of whisperers comfortably located in up-market offices and condos who seek to eliminate the job opportunities of the very men and women who are the middle class Bostonians that the City’s housing policy is designed to accommodate."





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.
 





"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."





Everett mayor finds out for himself Posted by on

An unhappy Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria has a few questions for Fairfield Residential after an in-person visit to a project in the city. Fairfield is converting the old Charleston Chew factory into luxury apartments. The project has been touted as a producer of quality housing stock, but also good employment for Everett-area workers.

 When DeMaria spoke with a couple of carpenters on the project, they told the mayor they were being paid in cash on a piece-work basis and weren't getting any benefits. They were working for Wendy's Drywall, a subcontractor to VPS Drywall, a subcontractor to Metric Construction, the general contractor for one of the buildings on the project. Metric has had issues in the past with hiring subcontractors who don't meet area standards.

VPS continues a bad history. The company was ordered by the Massachusetts Attorney General to pay workers more than $4,000 in wages due to prevailing wage violations on the controversial Hannover High School project. They were also hit with more than $3,700 in fines by OSHA for safety violations, including one the agency deemed a "serious" violation. Finally, they were investigated by the United States Department of Labor for failing to pay workers more than $40,000 in overtime wages. They agreed to pay $17,500.

Carpenter Ramon Ochoa with Mayor DeMaria, NERCC Organizer Mario Mejia, Local 218 Business Agent Richard Pedi and Carpenter Moises Urias.

 Fairfield Residential is national builder and manager of multi-family housing that claims to be a leader in their industry. They claim they often work as their own general contractor and can effectively manage designs, budgets and time-lines.

 DeMaria was not happy to hear workers talk about being treated this way in his hometown and committed to following up to see that things were changed and didn't happen again.

An adjacent building, being built by union wood framers is progressing without incident.

 





Carpenters ready to build big in Springfield Posted by on

A story at BusinessWest.com highlights the efforts by MGM Grand and the Carpenters union to ensure that local workers are given priority consideration for work opportunities during upcoming construction of a casino in Springfield and that those jobs come with good wages and good benefits. Carpenters Local 108 Business Manager Jason Garand, who led the effort for a memorandum of agreement with MGM, is prominently featured in the piece.

Garand points to the work the union completed at Baystate Medical Center--and the way the hospital structured the contracts to encourage hiring from the area--demonstrated how the MGM project can succeed, even at a much larger scale.

Building trades unions in Massachusetts are currently working with casino developers to craft labor agreements that could create consistency in standards and working conditions for all facilities being proposed in the state.





Globe features Erlich piece Posted by on

The Boston Globe today published an opinion piece by Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

As inequality grows, 'union candidate' offers attractive vision
11/12/13
Boston Mayor-elect Marty Walsh was labeled as the union candidate early in the race. Columnists and debate moderators manufactured a perspective that Walsh’s labor affiliation was his candidacy’s albatross. Walsh does have a strong personal and family union background and recently served as the head of Boston’s building trades unions. But he had also been a state representative for 16 years with a legislative record on a full array of public policy issues.

Read more...

 





Walsh unites Boston, elected Mayor Posted by on

Buoyed by the support of a broad coalition that included union workers, minority communities, small business owners and middle class residents, State Representative Martin J. Walsh was elected Mayor of Boston last night, defeating City Councillor John Connolly. Walsh will succeed the enormously popular Thomas Menino, who is the city's longest serving mayor.

The following statement is from Mark Erlich, Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, which endorsed Walsh in both the primary and general election. Erlich is also a Boston resident.

"Last night, Marty Walsh was elected to serve as the next Mayor of Boston. Marty's victory has implications far beyond the city's borders. Boston is, in many ways, the primary economic engine of New England and the leadership at City Hall sets the tone for the regional development and construction industry. For the past 20 years, Mayor Tom Menino has been a staunch ally of construction's union sector and his stance has helped our members find gainful employment in Boston and beyond.

"Marty's election will only serve to further elevate the profile of unions in our region. As a building trades leader who spoke proudly of his involvement in the labor movement, his victory flies in the face of the prevailing political winds that dismiss or attack the value of unions in today's society. Marty had to withstand withering attacks in the Boston media that claimed he would bankrupt the city by not being able to stand up to the city's public employee unions. Marty never backed down from his loyalty to organized labor as the best vehicle to re-build the middle class in the city.

"This election has national implications. While there have been a few Senators and Congressmen that have been clear about their pro-union beliefs, it is far more rare to find someone running for an executive position -- Mayor or Governor -- who doesn't feel the need to criticize unions in an effort to show they are "fiscally responsible". Marty made it clear that you can be committed to running a sound budget in a major American city and still maintain respect for trade unions.

"Marty was also able to win the support of nearly all of the elected officials from the city's minority community, demonstrating that today's labor movement is welcoming, diverse, and inclusive.

Marty is a personal friend of ours, a friend of the Carpenters, a friend of labor, and a friend of all those people who want to work, play by the rules, and have a chance at the American Dream.

Thanks to everyone who worked to get Marty Walsh elected. It can be the beginning of a new era for labor and politics."





Enforcement against cheating businesses jumps in Mass Posted by on

More than $21 million has been collected from employers in Massachusetts who violated labor laws in the last 18 months, according to the annual report of the Joint Enforcement Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification. The amount represents more than the total that was recovered in all previous years.

The joint task force was created in 2008 and was a welcome development to union carpenters and others who had been working to bring attention to the issue of misclassification. Tens of millions of dollars in state and federal revenue are lost each year due to employee misclassification while employers who play by the rules are put at a competitive disadvantage and workers are stripped of essential protections such as workers' compensation coverage and eligibility for unemployment insurance, Social Security and Medicare.

The issue is especially acute in the construction industry, where the fairness of direct competitive bidding can easily be undermined by a bidder misclassifying employees as independent contractors to save 20-30% on labor cost. Perhaps the largest recent case involved more than $1.1 million in unreported wages found at the renovation of the Boston Marriott Copley Place, where one contractor was paying $4 an hour to employees who were recruited from a substance abuse program in Connecticut. Contractors were issued more than $100,000 in fines on the project.

"The work of the Task Force is invaluable in reducing the growth of the underground economy in the state's construction industry," said Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. "Taking on the illegal practices of wage theft, misclassification and tax and insurance fraud creates a more level playing field, which ultimately benefits legitimate employers, tradesmen and women and taxpayers."

The joint task force brings together various state agencies, including the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, the Attorney General's Fair Labor Division, the Insurance Fraud Bureau and others.

Both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald covered the issue.
 





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."
 





Wage equality, training the focus of NH forums Posted by on

People in New Hampshire are learning more about unions and the wage and training opportunities they offer thanks to panel discussions being held, which elected officials and Carpenters Local 118 Business Manager Elizabeth Skidmore.

The forums focus primarily on the wage gap between men and women and are being sponsored by the NH AFL-CIO and New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, which is 23 cents and hour in New Hampshire and 18 cents nationally. While women are still under-represented in construction, Skidmore points out that wage equality is not an issue in the union sector.

“In union construction, women make exactly the same as men,” Skidmore said at one of the forums. “Starting 35 years ago, when women started getting into construction. Every hour we work, every dollar we get paid, we get paid exactly the same.”

In addition to collective bargaining agreements ensuring equal pay, unions also offer apprentice and journey level upgrade classes, which allow for entrance and advancement in the industry. Each of the forums, held in Manchester and Portsmouth, received prominent media coverage, including quotes from Skidmore.
 





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.





Carpenters highlight thefts at Botany Bay Posted by on

NERCC staff recently spoke to a group of five workers employed at the Botany Bay development in Worcester who were owed more than $25,000 in wages and began making noise about it. Regular bannering was done at the site and last week a rally drew members of Local 107, representatives of the MetroWest Worker's Center, religious leaders and Worcester City Councilor Sarai Rivera.

The event led to pieces in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and Vocero Hispano, which highlighted the wage theft and the unwillingness of the project developer to do anything but turn a blind eye. The bad publicity may force his hand, though, as regular events are gaining attention and the support of the community.
 





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.
 





Misclassification crackdown, publicity Posted by on

Misclassification has been a serious problem in the construction industry for years, and something against which the Carpenters union has led the fight locally, regionally and nationally. Union efforts resulted first in greater understanding and awareness among elected officials and now regularly lead to enforcement and publicity on the issue that is either directly a result of union action or an indirect result of efforts initiated by the union.

Two items broke this week that reinforce that point. In Worcester, Telegram and Gazette columnist Clive McFarlane wrote about efforts by NERCC Organizer Manny Gines to chase down employers who cheat by misclassifying workers as independent contractors or cheat them out of their wages.

McFarlane's column ties into an announcement earlier in the week by the Executive Office of Labor in Massachusetts that more they had found more than 2,300 workers misclassified by just three employers. Though the three companies were not involved in the construction industry, the eye-popping $11 million in unreported wages and millions of dollars the state should have received for unemployment insurance payments generated new stories that put the issue in front of the general public.





Worcester passes new REO Posted by on

The Worcester City Council this week voted to move forward with a newly proposed Responsible Employer Ordinance for public construction in the city by a 9-1 vote. The result comes after an anti-union contractor association and corporate-backed "research" group threatened long, expensive litigation if the ordinance was passed.

The City of Worcester has had a Responsible Employer Ordinance in place since 2005, but the City Manager had suspended portions of it recently out of concern that the entire ordinance would be eliminated on legal challenge. Councilors worked with various groups to re-write portions of the ordinance--most significantly to retain the language requiring contractors to participate in apprentice training programs--to put it on safer legal ground.

The Merit Construction Alliance, which represents nonunion contractors, has been using the Worcester Regional Research Bureau to back its opposition to standards for public construction in the city. According to GoLocalWorcester.com, the Worcester Regional Research Bureau is "privately funded by a host of corporate sponsors." Their top sponsors consist mostly of banks, law firms and insurance companies. When a City Councilor asked for clarification on who the group was and what function it serves, the head of the organization claimed she was somehow being "attacked" and blamed unions. In arguing that the newly drafted REO wouldn't stand up to legal scrutiny, the group's own work seemed to be less than convincing.

Union carpenters were very active in pushing for passage of the revised REO, participating in rallies, attending hearings and lining up support from Council members. Supporters also got a boost from Susan Mailman, the president of Coghlin Electrical Contractors, who wrote a convincing opinion piece in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette detailing why opposition to the REO was built on false assumptions.
 





Rego uncovers potential mess at FRHA Posted by on

Local 1305 member Dan Rego, who is a NERCC Organizer and Fall River City Councilor, is shaking things up in the Southeastern Massachusetts city. A few weeks ago, he raised concerns over issues with work being done by the Fall River Housing Authority. Since then, the sparks have started flying.

Rego spoke at a Housing Authority meeting and reported on conversations he had with workers on several FRHA projects in the city, some of which were receiving federal funding. Several workers had reported being misclassified as independent contractors, not being paid the legally mandated prevailing wage or not being paid at all. Rego told the Board that he had referred all of the allegations and evidence to proper state authorities.

 The Housing Authority went into immediate executive session, during which they appointed their own independent investigator. The story quickly hit the Fall River Herald News. The paper then followed up with a vicious attack on Rego, questioning not only his motives, but actions by Rego and the union in the past to protect industry standards. This in a city where legal violations on public construction projects are not unheard of.

This week, Rego spoke out in his own defense in the paper, reminding readers that his knowledge of and experience in the construction industry are a benefit to the city and its residents.

Please take a moment to read Rego's "Letter to the Editor" and consider weighing in with a respectful comment on the Herald News site.

 





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.

 





NERCC calls for harsher penalties for those not buying workers' comp Posted by on

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters and other industry groups are calling on the Massachusetts legislature to make it a felony for employers to fail to purchase workers compensation insurance for their employees. Senate Bill 915, sponsored by Senator Katherine Clark (D-Melrose) and Majority Whip Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy) also has the backing of Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Operating without workers' compesnation insurance is currently a misdemeanor, punishable by upt oa year in prison or a find of up to $1,500. The new law would make the felongy punishapble by up to five years in state prison, two-and-a-half years in jail or a fine of up to $10,000.

NERCC Political Director Steve Joyce said that although union carpenters are always covered by workers' compensation insurance, they are still hurt by those who cheat.

"In an industry where work most often goes to whoever submits the lowest price, any contractor who does not purchase workers' compensation coverage has a competitive advantage right from the start over contractors who follow the law and have coverage," he said. "That negatively impacts any carpenter that works for a legitmate contractor. We're not looking to hurt all employers, we value the role they play in creating jobs. We just want everyone to comply with the law when they do it."

Even the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), a group that lobbies for businesses, support the bill. In a story by the State House News Service, John Regan, AIM's Executive Vice President described the current situation as unfair to too many.

"Their faliure to have that insurance in place means that if workers working for them get injured, the rest of the employer commnity pays the bill" and that making failure to have coverage a felony "reflects the seriousness of the issue, and conveys how important it is that coverage be in place."

According to the SHNS story, the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents has reported more than 1,000 cses costing the worekrs compensation fund $26 million in the last five years becuase their employer didn't have worers' compensation coverage. In recent years the department has routinely issued Stop Work Orders against more than 3,000 employer found to be operating without workers' compensation coverage.





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.





Indiana carpenters confront tough times Posted by on

Fifty millworkers who are members of UBC Local 8093 working for Indiana Limestone Company have been on strike through the holidays after unanimously rejecting a concessionary contract. Difficult economic times have forced many Americans and union members to watch wages and working conditions slip backwards. And though they have not blindly agreed to every concession demanded of employers, union members and Americans have been flexible and realistic in working with employers to strike a balance between business viability and protecting a decent standard of living.

What's at play in Indiana, though, may have less to do with recent economic conditions than it does with the move my many American businesses from family run and privately owned to investor owned or publicly traded.

A piece by Joseph Varga for LaborNotes explains.

Resilience is the new player in Indiana’s limestone industry. Like Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, Resilience specializes in “flipping” mid-range “stressed” companies like Indiana Limestone. The private equity firm buys them up, strips them down, lowers their labor costs, and sells them to investors.

It’s the same process that has occurred throughout the country for the past 30 years, turning family-owned businesses into “lean and mean” concerns, in the process destroying good union jobs and shrinking the tax base in communities that are struggling to survive.

While company officials make the usual statements about being fair-minded corporate citizens, the fact is that there had been only one other brief strike in Indiana Limestone’s long history, while in two years Resilience had made it clear it was only about lowering costs in order to resell.

According to the article, among the concessions sought by Resilience are elimination of "just cause" standards for discipline and an end to safety meetings, though the work done can be extremely dangerous.

Varga's piece goes on to detail the context in which the strike is taking place. The state has been at the forefront of battles over rescinding collective bargaining rights and enacting so-called "right to work" laws. It has also seen some pushback from workers--both union and nonunion--as well as younger citizens who have become involved in the "occupy" movement.

New understandings and alliances have been forming between the workers and young people eager to get involved and make a lasting difference in the future.

There's no happy ending to the story, at least yet. And there may not be. But one can't help feeling there could be better results in the future if the conversations between workers and their neighbors continue, creating a better understanding of each other and the common problems they face.





California to attack underground economy Posted by on

Fed up with billions of dollars in lost tax revenue and a business community that is increasingly upset by being put at a competitive disadvantage, California is vowing to make a major push to crackdown on businesses that misclassify workers as independent contractors to avoid paying unemployment insurance, workers compensation coverage and other required feeds. The Los Angeles Times reports.





Carpenters continue mass demonstrations at Marriott Copley Posted by on

December 16, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Mark Erlich

Carpenters continue mass demonstrations at Marriott Copley
Members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, Painters District Council #35 and other Boston Building Trades unions will be demonstrating at the Marriott Copley Place this Saturday, December 17 from 11am-1pm to call attention to substandard conditions for construction workers renovating 1100 hotel rooms. Demonstrations featuring as many as 200 members have been held two to three times a week for the last month and will continue indefinitely.
 

Host Hotels, the owner of the downtown hotel, hired Baystate Services, Inc as a general contractor. Baystate and its subcontractors pay substandard wages, and minimal or no benefits. In addition, many of the subcontractors illegally misclassify their employees as "independent contractors", a violation of state and federal tax and insurance laws. Three subcontractors on the site, RB Wallcovering, of Jacksonville Beach, Florida, Jayson Connor, a Marshfield, MA flooring contractor and Installation Plus, a Corona, CA contractor were issued Stop Work Orders (attached) by the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents within the last five weeks for failure to properly cover employees with workers’ compensation insurance.
 

“Host Hotels is part of an unfortunate trend to drive standards down and jeopardize middle-class careers in construction," says Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. "Host is taking advantage of the recession to bring in low-waged out-of-state workers and hiring contractors that participate in the growing underground economy.”
 

“If guests used the same logic as Host Hotels—that price was the only issue for making a decision—would any of them stay at the Copley Marriott?" asks Jeffrey Sullivan, Business Manager of Painters District Council 35. "Guests pay up to $400 a night while these trades workers make as little as $12 an hour. With room occupancy in Boston back to pre-recession levels, Host has no excuse for these kinds of choices."
 

Video of past demonstrations can be viewed in the nercc.org video gallery under the “Workers Rights” heading. 





Massachusetts poposes debarment for Callahan Posted by on

The Department of Capital Asset Management in Massachusetts has proposed debarring Callahan, Inc. from bidding or performing any work as a result of their actions in bidding for the contract to build a new Hanover High School.

After submitting their Statement of Qualifications to the town and submitting the lowest bid, it was discovered that Callahan, Inc had taken credit for projects performed by another company in order to qualify to bid in Hanover. Though the Attorney General twice advised the Town to throw out Hanover's bid or rebid the job through an expedited process, the town moved forward with Callahan.

Petitioned by a group of union carpenters living in Hanover, a judge then ordered work on the project to stop pending further consideration of the fraud and Hanover's selecting Callahan. Another judge over-ruled that order, sending the case to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. The SJC agreed with the Town's argument that although Callahan clearly lied on the SOQ, the Town was aware of the lies and chose to do business with the company anyway.

DCAM now appears to be saying that even though Hanover has been allowed to work with a contractor that lied about its qualifications, the State of Massachusetts will not allow it again. Unless Callahan asks for an wins an appeal from DCAM, the already tarnished reputation of the company will be formalized.
 





Members to demonstrate in Worcester Posted by on

Members in Central Massachusetts will gather Friday morning to protest the use of substandard contractors at building being renovated for eventual lease to the Worcester County District Attorney??s office.

Northpoint, the General Contractor on the project, has hired a New Hampshire-based company by the name of Drycon to do metal stud and drywall work. Drycon took over from Metro Walls, another New Hampshire-based company that was debarred from performing public work in the state of Massachusetts as a result of misclassifying workers.

The protest rally will take place from 8am-1pm at 184 Main Street in Worcester. All members are invited and encouraged to attend.

The building is owned by 184 Main Street Associates, which is owned by Robert Oftring. The project received a $2.8 million dollar loan from Mass-Development, $600,000 for Historic Tax Credits, and is now seeking $550,000 in Tax Increment Financing from the City of Worcester.





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.





Hanover SJC arguments up for viewing online Posted by on

The arguments before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court regarding Callahan, Inc the handling of prequalification and award of the Hanover (Mass) High School to Callahan, Inc are now available for viewing online at this site. The case is Fordyce v Town of Hanover.

The protest, filed by ten union members who are residents of the town, alleges that Callahan, Inc committed fraud when it took credit for another company’s work and should be removed from the job. The Massachusetts Attorney General joined the members as a party to the suit. They had previously issued an opinion that Callahan, Inc had misled the town, a ruling which the Town ignored.

Three contractors associations--Associated General Contractors (AGC), Construction Industries of Massachusetts (CIM) and the Utitility Contractors Association of New England (UCANE)—all of which represent both union and nonunion contractors in the state, filed briefs with the court in support of the union’s position.

Their involvement, highlights the importance of this case not just to Hanover, but to the construction industry statewide. The CIM-UCANE brief, in particular, illustrates the ways in which the integrity of the public bidding system would be severely undermined should the events in Hanover be allowed to stand. The AGC brief is also instructive.

As to the cost and time delays the Town has consistently cited as a reason for pushing forward with Callahan, Inc., the job was not really begun when the AG issued its determination that Callahan, Inc had lied on its SOQ. Minor site clearing had been done and a temporary parking lot was built. Options other than continuing with Callahan were certainly available to the Town at that point and subsequent to that. Please refer to Note 4 of the CIM brief on page 12:

“It should be noted that the public bidding statutes contain an “emergency” provision that, under certain exigent circumstances, empowers an awarding authority to bid a contract in an expedited manner if necessary and appropriate to safeguard the awarding authority’s interest. SEE G.L. c. 149, S 44A Where, as here, the awarding authority is confronted with late-discovered bidding irregularities that it believes may threaten the timing of the project, this “emergency bidding provision” provides a more than adequate mechanism for promptly and expeditiously re-bidding the project or otherwise rectifying the irregularities at issue. The availability of this alternative procedure (as well as the clearly articulated goals of the public bidding laws) makes the alternative of proceeding with a tainted contract even less justifiable.”


A decision on the case is expected within a week. If the action of the Town to ignore the fraud by Callahan, Inc and award them the job is not reversed it could seriously undermine the integrity of the public bidding process throughout the Commonwealth.

 





Bid dispute over Hanover HS argued at Mass SJC today Posted by on

A suit regarding the bidding of work for construction of a Hanover, Massachusetts school was heard by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court this morning. At issue was whether the town acted improperly when it qualified and hired Callahan Construction for the work, despite their failure to meet legally mandated requirements.

Callahan appeared to mislead the awarding body when it took credit for a previous project that it did not complete. Further, the project did not fall within the three-year period required by law.

After the town awarded the job to Callahan, two lawsuits were filed against Hanover—one by an HVAC contractor, the other by ten residents of Hanover. Kirt Fordyce, a retired union carpenter and Business Agent from Local 424, was the lead complainant in the resident suit.

The Attorney General’s Office had advised Hanover to refrain from awarding the job, pending their review of the bid protest. Hanover ignored that request and awarded the job to Callahan. The town then also ignored a later finding by the Attorney General that Callahan had misled the town during the bid process and allowed the job to continue.

A Superior Court Judge then issued an injunction against the Town of Hanover preventing Callahan Construction from continuing work on a $37 million high school. The ruling found the suits clearly established a reasonable likelihood that Callahan had engaged in fraud in qualification documents, that the public interest favored issuing an injunction, and that any additional costs to the Town resulting from an injunction "would be the product of the Town's own doing."

An Appeals Court judge reversed that decision, at which time the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reached down and pulled the case from the appeals process.

Oral arguments will be available for viewing online at this site within four days. The case is KIRK [sic] FORDYCE & others vs. TOWN OF HANOVER & another. The docket number is SJC-10643.
 





Step one: diagnose the problem Posted by on

Efforts by Union Carpenters or other advocates to uncover bad deeds often run into a wall of ignorance or denial. But two prominently featured stories on Boston.com today shine a bright light on some significant issues in the construction industry and elsewhere that clearly need some attention.

The first relates to public work being awarded to contractors despite their previous violations of various laws and their failure to disclose those violations as required by law.

The story focuses on stimulus money given to companies for paving projects, but the lack of oversight is clearly a problem that carries into other projects at the state and local level. At it's worst, the problem is intentional, as awarding authorities ignore likely or confirmed violations of prequalification or bidding laws in order to hire the contractor that simply has the lowest price.

A clear example of this can be found in Hanover, where the town awarded a public school project to Callahan Construction, despite multiple warnings from the Attorney General's office that the company had misled the town. At issue there was the company's attempt to prequalify for the project by taking credit for similar work that was done by another company. Though they claim to be a successor, they did not disclose financial problems they would've been required to include in documents if that were the case.

The second is about the massive settlement Wal-Mart just reached with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This time out, the company is paying $40 million to almost 90,000 workers for illegally lowering workers pay by refusing to pay overtime, manipulating time cards and making workers skip legally mandated breaks.

Yes, 90,000 workers. Hardly a mistake with paperwork. And don't make the mistake of thinking Wal-Mart is being a good corporate citizen by settling the suit; it was filed in 2001!





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.





Workers with lowest wages also cheated most, study shows Posted by on

A comprehensive new study of low wage workers shows that most of them are not even being paid the meager wages they??ve agreed to work for, thanks to cheating employers. In addition most are not covered by workers compensation insurance or are pressured not to report serious injuries to seek workers compensation benefits. More than 4,000 workers in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago were interviewed revealing shocking details of exploitation and pressure by employers to give up legally provided rights.

--26% of workers interviewed were paid less than the minimum wage. Sixty percent of them were paid more than a dollar less than the minimum wage. Even among tipped workers, 30% were not paid the lower minimum wage mandated for tipped employees.

--25% worked more than 40 hours the previous week. Those working overtime averaged more than 51 hours in the week. Of those who worked overtime, 76% were not paid in accordance with overtime laws.

--The average worker in the study was cheated out of $51 the week prior to being interviewed, a 15% cut on their average $339 weekly earnings.

--Of the interviewed workers who experienced a serious injury on the job, only 8% sought workers compensation claims. Among those who did, 50% were illegally pressured by employers to abandon the claim, were fired, or reported to immigration authorities.

--Only 39% of workers interviewed were illegal immigrants. The rest were either legal immigrants or native born Americans.

One of the reasons the cheating is so widespread appears to be fear of employees to speak up. The study reports that ??when workers complained about their working conditions or tried to organize a union, employers often responded by retaliating against them. Just as important, many workers never made complaints in the first place, often because they feared retaliation by their employer.??

The conclusion wasn??t just based on anecdotal research. Twenty percent of workers complained about wages or working conditions and almost half were met with illegal employer retaliation, such as firing, suspension or threats.

The study was completed by the University of California, Los Angeles, and the City University of New York and is available online from the National Employment Law Project.





Union contractor "one to watch" Posted by on

Congrats to Beth Sturtevant of CCB for being named one of the 2009 Women to Watch by Maine Biz, the state's leading business publication.

CCB is a longtime union signatory contractor in the state and Sturtevant has done radio ads with the New England Regional Council of Carpenters to promote the partnership between contractors and the union. It's a commitment she didn't shy away from in her interview with Maine Biz:

The company prides itself on being a ??self-performing?? general contractor, meaning it employs much of its craft labor directly, rather than through subcontractors. CCB is also a union shop, one of few of its kind in Maine, an alliance that supplies the company with well-trained and certified employees, she says.

Sturtevant, in her role as a board member for the Associated General Contractors of Maine, has long advocated and lobbied in Augusta for ??responsible contracting?? practices, or limiting use of independent contractors in the regular work force, a tactic some companies use to avoid providing health insurance, access to workers?? compensation and other benefits.

She??s also dedicated to her employees?? safety, and says the company??s experience modification rate, an insurance calculation that reflects historical safety statistics, has remained below average for years. ??Ultimately, the buck stops with me, and the culture and the attitude we have in this company is safety is the priority,?? she says.





Lincoln School project leaves something to be desired regarding apprentice training Posted by on

New Bedford Standard Times
Jack Spillane
July 26, 2009


When the national economy goes into the kind of coma it's in now, New Bedford, of course, goes on life support.

And the kind of good-paying jobs that used to be present at construction sites become like defibrillator paddles in an emergency room. There's no shortage of out-for-the-count bodies who want their turn at those paddles.

Which brings me to the situation at the work site for the new Lincoln Elementary School in the North End.

The carpenters union, the contractor and the city of New Bedford have all been competing for the best deal on the Lincoln jobs since the bids for the $20 million project were opened back in April.

But they've yet to come to an agreement that will guarantee that local men and women can obtain all the benefits possible from those defibrillator paddles, er ... job opportunities.

Yes, the Lincoln is a prevailing-wage job site, and yes, the Lang administration ?? after some earlier failures on hiring local people for other city projects ?? has succeeded in reserving 90 percent of the Lincoln jobs for locals.

But once again, the city failed to live up to its Responsible Employer Ordinance and didn't require the winning bidder, CTA Construction Inc. of South Boston, to demonstrate that it could run apprenticeship programs at Lincoln. Those programs would train unskilled city residents for a future share of local carpentry, iron work and manual labor available at construction jobs.

Attorney General Martha Coakley's office earlier this month called out the city for not complying with its own employer ordinance and ordered it to call CTA back in. She now wants CTA, or whatever contractor finishes the project, to demonstrate it has the required apprenticeship programs. Otherwise, it has ordered New Bedford to give the jobs to one of the other bidders that does run apprenticeships.

The Lang administration says it cares about the apprenticeship program and training local people for future jobs. But it also cares about making its September 2010 deadline for opening the school.

It seems to be looking for a way to keep CTA ?? which union officials say has a horrible reputation as a labor-friendly employer ?? staying on the job even though the company has not traditionally always used subcontractors with apprentice programs.

"They were the low bidder. We're going to have to try to work with them," said Mayor Scott Lang.

That doesn't sit right with Ron Rheaume, the Fall River business manager for Local 1305 of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

He said that in order to comply with the rules of its ordinance, the city can't use a contractor on the Lincoln school that did not have an apprenticeship program to begin with and that an attempt by Simmons Concrete, a New Bedford CTA subcontractor, to start an apprenticeship program now is too late.

Rheaume asked why a supposedly labor-friendly city is dealing with what he calls an anti-union shop.

"There should be trades there working, the carpenters, the laborers, the iron workers," he said.

On the one hand, the mayor said he has confidence in school business manager Larry Oliveira and purchasing agent Debra Travers, who awarded the contract to CTA, the lowest bidder by just $160,000. But on the other hand, he said CTA should be working with the carpenters' union because the unions have the best contacts with subcontractors who have apprenticeship programs.

CTA has not returned phone calls on the issue.

Meanwhile, a longtime critic of the city's contracts, John "Buddy" Andrade, has begun working with CTA's principal subcontractor, Simmons Concrete, to start an apprenticeship program.

Rheaume said he's worried that the nonunion subcontractor will use Andrade's program to misclassify higher-paid carpenters as lower-paid laborers. He's requested payroll records in an effort to prove it and force CTA out of the job.

"This is not a joke. That's what they're turning this into: a joke," he said, contending that contractors who avoid union shops have brought wages and working conditions crashing in the construction industry.

For his part, Andrade said the attorney general has proved what he has been saying for 11 years: The city of New Bedford is not complying with its REO. "This is a big victory for the community, especially the young workers who are looking for that (training) opportunity."

Lang, who has received union support in his mayoral campaigns, said that if he were CTA, he would work with the unions. They have the most experience running apprenticeship programs. But with CTA locked in a three-year struggle with the carpenters over unionization of their shop, there doesn't seem much chance of that.

Meanwhile, this whole struggle to run apprenticeship programs leaves me wondering when it became so difficult for a union to find work on government jobs in an old-time union city like New Bedford.

It's a new world out there. And a new economy.

And it's not labor-friendly.

To comment on this article on the New Bedford Standard Times' website, click here.

Many news sites allow readers to post comments about a story. Reader comments may 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.





City must enforce Responsible Employer Ordinance Posted by on

The Massachusetts Attorney General's office ruled that the city of New Bedford must enforce its Responsible Employer Ordinance in response to a bid protest filed by the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. The NERCC filed a bid protest at the Lincoln Elementary School project, charging that the winning bidder, CTA Construction, did not have the required registered apprenticeship training program and had not demonstrated that the subcontractors they would hire had them either.

The AG's office told the city that it should provide a "reasonable period of time" for all the general contractor's who submitted bids for the construction project to supply documentation of their apprenticeship programs. Once this information is provided, the city can evaluate which contractor will be awarded the project. The contract must be rebid if none of the contractors can meet the apprenticeship requirement.

NERCC Organizers have been working to shine a light on CTA, specifically their history of hiring substandard subcontractors. Organizers have discovered a multitude of CTA projects with repeated prevailing wage violations and numerous labor law violations, including failure to file true and accurate payroll records, misclassification of independent contractors, and cash under-the-table payment to workers.

There are many CTA subcontractors that have been cited by the Attorney General's office. Two recent stories published on NERCCBlog.com include Phat's Hardwood Floor and Garcia Drywall.

To check out the New Bedford Standard Times' coverage of the Lincoln Elementary school project, click here.

Many news sites allow readers to post comments about a story. Reader comments may 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.





Phat's Hardwood Floor Cited $20,000 by MA Attorney General's Office Posted by on

Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office has cited a Lynn flooring company, Phat's Hardwood Floor, and its owner, Phat Q. Du, age 65, of Newton, for intentionally violating the Commonwealth's record keeping laws by failing to submit certified payroll records on a weekly basis and failing to submit true and accurate certified payroll records to the Arlington Housing Authority over a nine-month period in 2008. The citation orders Phat and his company to pay a $10,000 fine for each violation.

In January 2009, the Attorney General's Fair Labor Division received a complaint from the Arlington Housing Authority alleging that Phat's Hardwood Floor failed to submit certified payroll records for work performed on the Menotomy Manor Housing project from March 2008 through December 2008. Employers who work on public works projects are required under state law to submit weekly certified payroll records to the appropriate awarding authority. The Records Keeping Laws allow state agencies to monitor the spending of taxpayer funds on public construction projects. Phat's Hardwood Floor was performing hardwood flooring and sanding work as a subcontractor for CTA Construction, Inc., a South Boston-based general contractor, on the project.

Investigators reviewed the company's certified payroll records which were submitted to the Town in January 2009, nearly nine months late, and discovered inconsistencies with the records which were provided by Arlington's project managers. The Town Manager's logs showed that the company had more employees working at the job site than were listed on the certified payroll records.

Last week, another CTA subcontractor, Garcia Drywall, reached a settlement agreement with the Massachusetts Attorney General in regards to complaints that the company failed to properly pay prevailing wages and overtime to carpenters employees. Twenty-six carpenters who worked for Garcia on projects in Dartmouth, Boston and Chelsea Massachusetts will be paid $41,600 in restitution. Garcia Drywall, Inc. and its president, Emanuel Garcia, agreed to pay over more than $18,000 in fines for intentionally violating Prevailing Wage and Overtime and Record Keeping Laws. In addition, Garcia and his company have agreed to a one-year debarment, which prevents them from bidding on any public construction projects, as well as from accepting any contracts for public work for a one-year period in the Commonwealth.





Garcia Drywall agrees to pay workers, fines and take one year debarment Posted by on

Garcia Drywall has reached a settlement agreement with the Massachusetts Attorney General in regards to complaints the company failed to properly pay prevailing wages and overtime to carpenter employees. Twenty-six carpenters who worked for Garcia on projects in Dartmouth, Boston and Chelsea Massachusetts will be paid $41,600 in restitution.

Garcia Drywall, Inc. and its president, Emanuel Garcia, have agreed to pay over more than $18,000 in fines for intentionally violating Prevailing Wage and Overtime and Record Keeping Laws. In addition, Garcia and his company have agreed to a one-year debarment, which prevents them from bidding on any public construction projects, as well as from accepting any contracts for public work for a one-year period in the Commonwealth.

The AG??s investigation began in January when they received a complaint that employees weren??t being paid the prevailing rate.

Investigator??s from the AG??s Fair Labor Division reviewed a self-audit prepared by the company and discovered that the company had misclassified 26 employees at four public construction sites, including: two projects at UMass-Dartmouth; the Massport State Police Station at Logan Airport; and the Prattville Apartments in Chelsea.

Additionally, Garcia Drywall failed to submit certified payroll records to the awarding authorities at these job sites. Investigators also discovered that the company failed to pay time and a half to employees for working more than 40 hours in a work week.

Click here to read the Attorney General??s Press Release.

The New Bedford Standard Times reported on the AG??s filing today. The Herald News also ran a story in today??s paper.

Many news sites allow readers to post comments about a story. Reader comments may 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.





Carpenters rally against Crowne Plaza Posted by on

Members of Local 107 and several other NERCC affiliates demonstrated at the Crowne Plaza in downtown Worcester last Thursday to alert the public that two out of state contractors have been hired to do renovations at the hotel. Local politicians and other unions also joined union members to show their support.

First Finish from Maryland was hired as the General Contractor and a company out of Virginia (!) is being used to do the drywall work. This is despite the annual presence of the Carpenters Union at the hotel for the New England Carpenters Apprenticeship Contest and Banquet and the use of the hotel for events by other unions, the Democratic Party and numerous other local groups.



Reports have been coming in that several large groups have canceled their events at the hotel as a result of the Crowne Plaza??s refusal to use even a local nonunion contractor for the project. The Apprenticeship Contest banquet is being moved to another location.

Worcester City Councilor Kate Toomey was one of the speakers at the rally, blasting the Crowne Plaza's one way version of partnership.

"For the Crowne Plaza to be a viable local entity, they need the patronage of Worcester and Worcester County residents. For Worcester and Worcester County to be viable, we need companies like the Crowne Plaza to reciprocate by using local contractors.

"Although the project is underway, I hope that [the Crowne Plaza's parent company] Lodgian and Crowne Plaza will reconsider and give local business3es and tradesmen the opportunity to work on this project."





Conservative paper highlights seedy side of construction industry Posted by on

The Manchester Union-Leader, a New Hampshire newspaper that has generally stuck to its very conservative roots even as the politics of the state become gradually more moderate to liberal, printed a two-story feature in it??s Sunday edition about the dark side of the construction industry in the state.

The stories center around Juan Garcia Hernandez, a "jefe" NERCC Organizers also knew as Juan Garcia. Hernandez supplied immigrant drywall workers for several projects in the region, including projects financed by the federal government through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). He was also arrested by state and federal agents on Easter weekend in New Hampshire??s biggest drug bust when he and some others were caught with 100 pounds of cocaine, worth approximately $4 million.

NERCC Organizers have been talking to employees working for Hernandez and other jefes for a long time, finding low wages promised, though sometimes unpaid. Without a concerted Federal effort to limit illegal immigration, several years ago the union decided it would be better served talking to immigrant workers and helping them fight for decent treatment.

The stories highlight how and why things have gotten so bad in the industry. Hutter Construction, who was the general contractor where Hernandez was subcontracted for drywall work, claimed they didn??t know a thing about Hernandez. Though their website brags about their skills as a company that can manage all aspects of a project including "supervision," "job records and reports," and "establish boundaries and benchmarks," they tried to run from any involvement with Hernandez in the story:

"The actual contract was with Granite State Drywall," said Chad Gibson, Hutter's project manager, adding that he was unaware Hernandez was involved in the project.
"It would be very hard for us to police three tiers down the line who is hiring them," Gibson said. "It's somewhat beyond our control."
[emphasis added]
The two stories can be read online here and here. The Manchester Union-Leader, like many news sites, allows readers to post comments about a story. Reader comments may 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.





Workers Memorial Day video Posted by on

A video with sights and sounds from last week's Workers Memorial Day observance at the State House in Massachusetts has been posted to YouTube by NECarpenters.





Audit: Bush safety program a failure Posted by on

Confirming what many in the field already knew, an audit by the Labor Department found that under the Bush administration, a highly touted OSHA program didn't do what it was supposed to, even before it was curtailed last year.

From a Washington Post story:

A special government program to improve worker safety in hazardous industries rarely fulfilled its promise, a Labor Department audit concluded yesterday, and over the past six years, dozens of deaths occurred at firms that should have been subjected to much tighter federal safety enforcement.

This on the heels of a report by the Government Accountability Office that the Labor Department's Wage and Hour division doesn't work very well at all and that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission violates their own employees' rights to overtime pay.

More vindication for those who sported 01.20.09 bumper stickers.





Boston pickets pay safety dividends for starters Posted by on


Picketing at a B Street site in South Boston has targeted Comprehensive Construction II, Inc, a Newton company run by Nick Zagarianakos. Comprehensive is self-performing carpentry work at the site for a development company called N&P Associates.

Different crews made up of entirely Brazilian carpenters working for between $10-15 an hour have been rotating through the job and reluctant to talk to union picketers. They are all brought to and from the job together in a van.

The line has not been without effect, though. When picketers first arrived at the site, none of the workers had hardhats or harnesses. Union members questioned and educated the workers about the issue and soon saw hardhats and harnesses issued to every carpenter on site.

Joists are now being put in place for one of the two buildings, which will be flat roof structures allowing 47 loft-style units. There is also work being done on a foundation for the second four-story building.

Some union leaders have been able to talk to N&P about standards in the industry for wages, benefits and working conditions which are not being met by Comprehensive. The hope is that N&P realizes the negative implications for the industry when contractors like Comprehensive are given work and that more responsible contractors can be hired for future carpentry work at this and other N&P sites.

Even if that doesn't occur, there are now crews of carpenters working on site with hardhats, harnesses and a better chance of going home safely, thanks to union members.