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

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

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

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

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

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





The Carpenters and Boston Cares Posted by on

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters and the New England Carpenters Training Fund teamed up with Boston Cares, the region’s largest volunteer mobilizer, to help them with their campaign to build 500 beds for children in need in 2014.

Instructors from the NECTF helped complete the design for the toddler beds so that they can be easily assembled by volunteers with minimal training. In advance of each volunteer day, member apprentices mill the lumber and prep all of the stock. Corporate and individual volunteers then assemble the beds at various locations, including the Carpenters Center and New England Carpenters Training Center. 

According to the Mass. Coalition for the Homeless, more than 1,500 Greater Boston school children do not have a bed, which affects their self-esteem, ability to learn, and likelihood of graduating from high school. Boston Cares works with social workers at several non-profit partners to find homes for each bed.


Volunteers assemble beds at the New England Carpenter Training Center. 
 




One Day in Boston - the Bed Project Posted by on

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters particapted in the One Day on Earth project on April 26th to film stories about the future of Boston.

On April 26, 2014, the NERCC and Boston Cares teamed up to work toward a goal of making 500 beds. At the Carpenters Training center in Dorchester, volunteers from both organizations came together to build 30 beds in about 2 hours. 

NERCC teamed up with Boston Cares earlier in the year to help with the Bed Project, see pictures from these additional volunteer efforts by clicking here

 

The Carpenters and Boston Cares | Bed Project from ellen webber on Vimeo.

One Day on Earth started in September of 2008 with the goal of creating a unique worldwide media event where thousands of participants would simultaneously film over a 24-hour period. On April 26th, 2014 hundreds of filmmakers, non-profit organizations, and inspired citizens documented stories and investigated 10 questions for the future of Boston as part of a city-wide, participatory media-creation event. The resulting media will be showcased in an interactive geo-tagged archive and a TV series on the future of the American city. In addition, local media partners will showcase the most powerful and inspiring videos created during the one-day filmmaking event.





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.
 





Carpenters endorse Coakley for Mass Gov Posted by on

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters today endorsed Martha Coakley for Governor of Massachusetts, citing her experience making government work on behalf of fairness for workers and honest business.

"As Attorney General, Martha Coakley has been an advocate for working families and consumers," said Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the NERCC. "Her Fair Labor Division sought to limit the impact of the underground economy - protecting workers and leveling the playing field for employers that play by the rules. As a candidate for Governor, she recognizes that growing income inequality is one of the major problems facing our society. Coakley knows that advocating for workers and supporting unions is the best method to rebuild the middle class. The New England Regional Council of Carpenters is pleased to endorse Martha Coakley for Governor. We believe she will bring the lessons she has learned as Attorney General to the corner office and make Massachusetts a stronger and more equitable Commonwealth."

Coakley was proud to have the support of the Carpenters union, which boasts a strong reputation for campaign and political activism among its members.

“Together, we can create a fair economy on our terms, by leveling the playing field, protecting our workers and creating good jobs at fair wages with quality, affordable health care," Coakley said. "I am honored by NERCC's support and look forward to working with them to make Massachusetts prosperous and fair."

NERCC is the regional governing body of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, one of North America’s largest building-trades unions, with nearly a half-million members in the construction and wood-products industries. NERCC advocates for all working carpenters, unionized or not, because they believe that all workers deserve fair wages, benefits, and safe working conditions.





Multi-million dollar tax giveaway in Fitchburg under scrutiny Posted by on

The Carpenters union is calling on local and state officials to rescind tax breaks given to a company for a project on which they and seven others had already been ordered by state investigators to stop work for legal violations. The violations were found less than three months before the tax package was announced. Further evidence gathered by investigators, which should have triggered an investigation for tax fraud, was apparently ignored.

In December, Great Wolf Lodge and others were ordered to stop work on their Fitchburg project by the Department of Industrial Accidents after a site visit revealed they did not have workers' compensation policies in place for construction workers. One of the employers told investigators at the time that “he had four employees on site who are being paid in cash, they receive their direction and control from Mr. Viveiros, all tools and equipment belong to him.” Two weeks later, an Organizer for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters visited the site and found the same employment conditions for other contractors on site.

In March, the state announced approval of a group of tax break packages, including $17.2 million for the Great Wolf Lodge. Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters sent a letter of concern to Greg Bialecki, Secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Development, which approved the tax breaks.

"The lack of oversight on a project involving $17 million in tax relief should be a matter of grave concern to the Patrick administration. The violations were committed before the tax relief was awarded. That relief should be rescinded," said Erlich in the letter. "Without any further action on Great Wolf, the Commonwealth is sending an unfortunate message to its taxpayers and legitimate contractors that recipients of tax relief are rewarded regardless of illegal business practices."

"Great Wolf promised in its application that it would not knowingly hire subcontractors or other third parties that did not have Massachusetts workers' compensation insurance. Great Wolf's Senior Director of Design and Construction acknowledged the "Stop Work" order to a newspaper."

Misclassification of workers as “independent contractors” is an illegal, but unfortunately common model used in the construction industry to provide unscrupulous contractors with a significant advantage in a highly competitive industry. Misclassification costs the state and federal government hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue and strips workers of important workplace protection, as well as the right to unemployment and retirement benefits.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

Summary List of Stop Work Orders
1. Great Lake Services dba Great Wolf Lodge of New England (WI)
2. Colonial Tile and Flooring (Clinton, MA)
3. Timothy Michael Locklear (NC)
4. Villnave Construction Services (VCS) (NY)
5. Wisconsin Exteriors & Drywall (WI)
6. Butters Fetting Co. (WI)
7. States Drywall (WI)
8. Weber Group (IN)





Seems like a clear objective, right? Posted by on

Union Carpenters continued their show of support for the "Jobs Not Jails" campaign over the weekend in Boston. Among the members of Local 107 and 108 who attended a rally on the Boston Common were NERCC Council Reps Rocky Thompson and Manny Gines, who were visible in this story on Boston Channel 7s news coverage.

Carpenters Locals 107 and 108 endorsed the Jobs Not Jails campaign this month. It is calling for the Commonwealth to spend $2 billion building schools, roads, and other public projects rather than building and expanding prisons.

The group is looking for volunteers to hold up banners covered with 30,000 petition signatures around the State House from 11:00 AM- 1:00 PM next Wednesday, April 30th. For more information about the campaign, including ways to help, visit JobsNotJails.org.





Apprentices prepare for Lemonade Day Posted by on

First-year apprentices at the Carpenters Center built lemonade stands this week in preparation for a visit from Lemonade Day Boston volunteers next week. Lemonade Day is a national event designed to empower young entrepreneurs. The New England Regional Council of Carpenters will play an important role in Lemonade Day Boston by hosting a Build-a-Stand workshop at the Carpenters Center. Young volunteers will get assistance from union carpenters in designing and building their lemonade stands for the May 3 event.

 

 

The event is scheduled to take place on April 23. Among the atendees for the Build-a-Stand workshop will be Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

The Carpenters Center is the headquarters of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters and the New England Carpenters Apprenticship and Training Fund. In addition to the administrative staff fo the reigonal governing body of the United Brotherohood of Carpenters and a handful of affiliated local unions, it includes extensive classroom, meeting and shop training space. It also houses the union's vision center and a private primary care health practice specially tailored for union members, called Carpenters Care.





"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."





More taxpayer money wasted in Hanover Posted by on

Statement issued by Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters regarding today’s decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Hanover v New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

We always knew the Town’s case was baseless, and was just retaliation for helping to organize the taxpayer lawsuit over the new High School a few years ago. The Massachusetts Supreme Court agreed.

The way the Town of Hanover has handled this has been disappointing from the start. Despite being given information that should have led them to do otherwise, they have instead wasted taxpayer dollars to defend giving a contract to a contractor that lied to them and attack those who wanted to protect the Town.

The Town ignored serious flaws in the bidding process, defended a contractor they should have been dismissing, and then tried to retaliate after citizens exercised their constitutional rights to challenge the Town’s actions.

In dismissing the Town’s lawsuit, the Court was applying a state statute that is designed to protect parties from retaliation or punishment for exercising their constitutional rights. And the Court essentially concluded that’s just what the Town was doing in suing the Carpenters Union.

The real question for the residents of Hanover is: “How could the Town have wasted taxpayer resources to pursue a case like this in the first place, given its obvious failings?” And now, the Town will not only have its own legal bills to pay, but it will have to pay the Carpenters Union’s legal expenses as well.

UPDATE: The Boston Business Journal and Quincy Patriot Ledger/Hanover Mariner published stories on the case.
 





A project to be proud of Posted by on

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

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

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





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.





Revere again votes yes on casino Posted by on

Plans for Mohegan Sun to build a $1.3 billion hotel and casino at the Suffolk Downs horse track in Revere were approved by voters in that city for a second time yesterday. The fate of the project still hangs in the balance, as it will now go head-to-head for state approval for the single Eastern Massachusetts gaming license with a proposal by Steve Wynn in Everett. State officials are expected to hand down a decision in May or June. Union carpenters in Revere played a significant role in the campaign to approve the proposal, as they have in each of the gaming votes across the state.

Yesterday's vote was the second held for a proposal at the site. An earlier version was voted down by Revere and Boston voters, which led to modifications of the project so that the gaming facility would sit entirely on the Revere portion of the Suffolk Downs property.

As part of the state's approval of legalized gaming, three gaming licenses will be issued for casinos and one for a slot parlor. One casino license will be issued in a zone in western Massachusetts, one in a zone that covers the central and eastern part of the state, excluding southeastern Massachusetts and one is being held for a proposal for a Native American-owned proposal in southeastern Massachusetts. MGM Resorts has received local approval for a casino in Springfield, the only pending proposal for the western zone. A proposal for the southeastern zone is still pending.

Three slot parlors proposals by different developers are under consideration for locations in Raynham, Leominster and Plainville.





Carpenters Care getting noticed Posted by on

What is the future of health care? Union carpenters may be finding out through "Carpenters Care by Iora Health," a practice that serves members and is creating talk among health care policy experts. The practice was solicited by the New England Carpenters Health Benefits Fund to open two practice offices, one in the Carpenters Center in Dorchester and the other at Lahey Hospital in Burlington, Massachusetts. It aims to focus more patient care on individual attention and preventative care with tremendous flexibility to meet the needs and schedules of patients.

The practice was included in a "CommonWealth" magazine article about ways practice innovators are helping to "Heal Health Care." Local 1121 millwright Jerome Foureau is included in the article, describing his experience of losing 32 pounds, changing his diet and looking forward to doctors visits since he started visiting Carpenters Care last summer. The story is posted online and can be read free of charge.


 





At a Senate subcommittee hearing yesterday... Posted by on

“The damage was so bad they had to take bones from my wrist and hip,” Anderson testified Tuesday before a Senate labor subcommittee. “And the doctors also needed to take bones from a cadaver to do the reconstruction.”

Because he was an independent contractor, Anderson was unable to collect workers compensation. He had become an independent contractor, he said, because his employer, Dave & Marty Inc. of Michigan, had said it was the only way he’d be able to continue working with the company."

Read more here

Click here to watch a carpenter and a contractor testify at the hearing. 





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."





Carpenters on election day Posted by on

Boston voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to elect a new Mayor and City Council. Many of these race extremely close, so we urge you to vote and encourage others to vote. If possible, be active on election day in support of candidates endorsed by the Carpenters union.

Members will gather for election day activity at 11 am at a location nearest their home. Locations are listed below.

Dorchester--McKeon Post
East Boston--973 Saratoga Street
East Boston--18 Meridian St
Hyde Park--214 Neponset Valley Parkway
Jamaica Plain 668 Centre Street
Mattapan--Russell Auditorium
South Boston--Ironworkers Local 7
West Roxbury--46 Rockland St, West Roxbury
Fields Corner--1157 Dorchester Ave
Roxbury--155 DudleySt
West Dorchester--Russell Auditorium
CoC/4 Corners--Russell Auditorium
Charlestown--Teamsters Local 25
Back Bay/Beacon Hill/South End--11 Beacon St
JP/Hyde Square--315 Centre St

 





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."
 





Carpenters Union and Hospitality Workers Union Announce Joint Endorsement of Boston City Council Candidates Posted by on

CARPENTERS UNION AND HOSPITALITY WORKERS UNION ANNOUNCE JOINT ENDORSEMENT OF BOSTON CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES

 

Endorsement Marks Historic Coalition Between Two Organizations
September 9th, 2013 – Boston, MA - The New England Regional Council of Carpenters (NERCC) and Boston’s Local 26 (UNITE HERE) are pleased to announce their joint endorsement of several Boston City Council candidates. The endorsement is a product of the two organizations, representing over 26,000 workers, jointly interviewing City Council candidates over a series of days.

“This is more than just an endorsement of candidates for Boston City Council – this is two organizations that represent the diversity of Boston ensuring that working families will have a voice at City Hall. These are the leaders who have proven they can build strong communities,” said Brian Lang, President of Local 26 and resident of Jamaica Plain.

"We came together to consider the candidates as two unions with progressive and independent traditions. Our joint endorsements matter because, between us, we represent the full range of working families in the city," said Mark Erlich, President of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters and resident of Jamaica Plain.

The two organizations are proud to support incumbent Councilor Steven Murphy (At-Large), incumbent Councilor Ayanna Pressley (At-Large), Michelle Wu (At-Large), Michael Flaherty (At-Large), Joshua Zakim (District 8) and Timothy McCarthy (District 5).

The NERCC represents over 20,000 carpenters, pile drivers, shop & millmen, and floorcoverers working in the New England states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. NERCC is part of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, one of North America’s largest building-trades unions, with nearly a half-million members in the construction and wood-products industries.

UNITE HERE Local 26 represents over 6,500 workers in the City of Boston including most of the major Boston hotels, food service workers on college campuses, convention centers, Fenway Park and Logan Airport. Boston's Local 26 is one of the most politically powerful and diverse unions in the City of Boston.

###

For more information contact Harry Grill, Political Director, Boston’s Local 26 at (617) 838-4201 or Stephen Joyce, Political Director, New England Regional Council of Carpenters at (617) 438-8011.

 





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 as a result efforts by the Carpenters union and others to educate Governor Deval Patrick, state legislators and leaders of several executive branch agencies who enforce laws and policies related to employee 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 Marriot 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.





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.
 





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.
 





NERCC Business Maganer in television commercial Posted by on

NERCC Business Manager Jason Garand recently recorded the following commercial spot for Health New England, the health insurance provider for Carpenters Local 108. The commercial will run on local television stations in Western Massachusetts through May. 





Architects predict strong construction growth Posted by on

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





State, Feds raid Stamford mega-sites Posted by on

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

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

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





Contractor: Being union is beneficial to all Posted by on

David Rampone, President of Hart Engineering, a signatory contractor based in Cumberland, Rhode Island isn't shy about being a union contractor. Last year he volunteered to be one of the latest union contractors to do a radio ad on behalf of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. Now, he's published an opinion piece in the Providence Journal explaining why his business is better with a union partnership. Click through to read it.

The following opinion piece appeared in the January 10 print edition of the Providence Journal-Bulletin.

The benefits of employing unionists

DAVID RAMPONE

Regarding Charles Chieppo’s Dec. 20 column, “Unions are 1 percenters in Mass.,” in which he portrayed the construction industry inaccurately:

As the chief executive of a major Rhode lsland construction firm that does work all over New England, I’ll set the record straight. I am the president of Hart Engineering Corp., a general and process mechanical contractor founded over 70 years ago and based in Cumberland.

While I have read several opinion pieces by “public-relations experts” articulating the “evils” of the unionized construction industry, it needs to be pointed out that these experts have no actual experience in the construction industry and draw their conclusions based purely on anecdotal information provided by those who wish to see the unionized construction industry fail.

For the record, the National Labor Relations Act lets construction companies decide for themselves whether to be affiliated with the industry’s trade unions. It is the only industry that has such a provision. Since its inception, our firm has made the business-driven decision to be affiliated with several trade unions — a decision that has been beneficial to both our company and employees.

Currently we employ more than100 union tradesmen and women on dozens of jobs, large and small, throughout New England. These employees receive a fair wage, full health-care benefits and pension contributions — a package that lets them provide their families with a respectable standard of living. And in light of the negative attention cast on public-sector unions in these times, note that unionized construction workers are not guaranteed employment. In fact, Rhode Island unionized construction workers average about 1,500 hours worked a year. They do not receive vacation time, sick days or holiday pay, nor do they receive any benefits if they do not work the required number of hours a year — usually between 1,200 and 1,400, depending on the trade union involved.

Beyond my own company, the performance of Rhode Island’s trade unions and union contractors speaks for itself. There are more than 200 local contractors with union agreements in the Rhode Island area, and there have been more than 50 all-union project labor agreements (PLAs) worth billions of dollars completed in this area, including most of the state’s highest-profile projects. Most of these PLAs have been in the private sector.

These agreements symbolize the marketplace at work. Owners, construction managers and contractors enter into these agreements for one reason only: It is in their best interest to do so. And why? The trade unions in partnership with their contractors invest millions of dollars annually recruiting, training and retraining their workers to provide the safest, most skilled workforce in our industry. In today’s world, owners want their projects completed safely, on time, under budget and to the highest level of quality possible. That is why owners from small firms to Fortune 500 companies enter into project labor agreements.

While there are far fewer PLAs in the public sector than in the private sector, they are becoming more prevalent. However, before any public entity in Rhode Island can implement a PLA, it must complete an independent “objective and reasoned” study that recommends their use.

The trade unions’ record of providing contractors and owners with a safe and productive workforce is unmatched in our industry. Those who oppose them assert that using nonunionized workers would provide the owner with great savings. Unfortunately, those savings are usually the result of substandard wages, failure to provide health-care benefits to employees, or misclassifying employees to pay them a lower wage.

For 70 years we have provided our clients with the safest, most capable and productive work force in the industry, and our employees with a fair wage and benefits for them and their families. We are proud of what we have been able to achieve with our union partners.

David Rampone is president of Hart Engineering Corp., in Cumberland.  





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.





Leavitt goes on air for a good cause Posted by on

John Leavitt, the Business Agent for Local 1996 in Portland hit the airwaves this week to promote the union and help a disk jockey fill time as he stays on the air for four consecutive days. The Mark-a-thon is an annual event held by WCYY's Mark Curdo to raise money for the Center for Grieving Children. CYY is one of the radio stations on which NERCC and the New England Carpenters Labor Management Program place ads to promote the union and industry standards. They also carry radio broadcasts of New England Patriots games, on which the union advertises. Leavitt was on air with Mark on Tuesday afternoon at 3pm.





Marriott management "asleep at the switch" Posted by on

Banker and Tradesman ran a piece this past Sunday about the lack of awareness shown by property owner Host Hotels & Resorts Inc. and Marriot management regarding what was happening on their $18 million renovation project.

Earlier this year, Union carpenters, painters and other union members demonstrated twice a week for months at the site against Baystate Interiors, Inc. of Woburn for undermining area standard for carpenters' wages and benefits.

Investigators for the state task force on the underground economy found that contractor’s working on the renovation project failed to report $1.2 million in wages, which cost the state $86,000 in taxes. Investigators from the state task force on the underground economy also found that 63 employees were misclassified as independent contractors. Read more here. http://www.nercc.org/blog/p/1713

Scott Van Voorhis, the author of the piece notes that “the allegations that recovering drug addicts imported from Philadelphia were paid $4 an hour – half the state’s already measly minimum wage – are sorry enough. But the defense of the hotel’s owners – they just didn’t know what was going on with the contractors – is just as indefensible when it comes to savvy business management in a major metro market.”

Read the Banker and Tradesman piece in its entirety here.





Investigators find widespread labor violations at Copley Marriott Posted by on

As a result of the the protests  by union carpenters at the Boston Marriott Copley Place renovation project, state investigators found improper activity by fifteen companies that worked on site.

Contractor’s working on the renovation project failed to report $1.2 million in wages, which cost the state $86,000 in taxes. Investigators from the state task force on the underground economy also found that 63 employees were misclassified as independent contractors.

In the article printed in the Boston Globe, a lawyer representing Baystate Services, the general contractor that oversaw the renovation of the hotel said “it, too, was unaware of labor violations.”

Earlier this year, Baystate agreed to pay $31,000 in back wages to 37 Victory Outreach workers who received illegally low wages for 3 months of work. Read more about Victory Outreach here

Unfortunately, state law protects the privacy of companies accused of tax violations. Even in a case like this, with widespread labor violations, investigators are blocked from state laws from charging contractors and property owners.

Read more about the results of the investigation by the state task force online here.  To view a PDF of the article, click here.





Ex-boxer fights for exploited Posted by on

Clive McFarlane reports for Worcester’s Telegram & Gazette

Labor organizer Manny Gines looks like the professional ex-boxer he is.

His clean-shaven head is anchored to a solid, stocky frame with tattooed arms and strong hands.

But it is his eyes that acutely betray his former pugilistic days. They look at you measuredly, as if working out the timing of a right cross or left uppercut.

His battleground is no longer in the boxing ring, however. It is in the local trenches of the country’s underground economy.

For years now Mr. Gines has been visiting and picketing construction sites at which he suspects the presence of illegal work activities.

He is constantly working with clients who come to him with claims of being abused, underpaid or not paid at all by their employers, a role that has placed him on a first-name basis with those in the state attorney general’s office who monitor the underground economy.

A union member fighting on behalf of non-unionized and oftentimes undocumented workers would seem counterproductive, but Mr. Gines sees himself as protecting legitimate businesses from unscrupulous employers.

Read the entire piece here





Recession hit construction industry hard Posted by on

Over Labor Day weekend, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette ran a story about the impact of the recession on the construction industry. While the story mentions that “over the last six years, the construction industry in Massachusetts has lost almost a third of its jobs” it also talks about the success of two Local 107 apprentices, who joined the Carpenters Union in the middle of the recession and have worked steady since. Read the entire article online here. For a PDF version, click here

 





A look behind the scenes: Copley Marriott Boston Posted by on

Remember the protests by union carpenters at the Copley Marriott in Boston? In his article "A story of hope, and a lopsided deal," Boston Globe reporter Casey Ross reports on what was was going on behind the scenes at the hotel that was uncovered as a result of those demonstrations. 

The article looks into Victory Outreach, the Christian drug rehabilitation ministry hired for furniture installation on the job. Twelve laborers working for Victory Outreach worked for three months on the project, making about $4 an hour, half the required minimum wage in Massachuseets. 

Check out the entire article online here or in PDF format here





Local 107 Member Authors Report Posted by on

Brother Keith Wrightson, Local 107, has authored a report about the cost of construction injuries and fatalities to the residents of Maryland. Wrightson is a Worker Safety and Health Advocate for the Congress Watch division of Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group.

The Price of Inaction: A Comprehensive Look at the Costs of Injuries and Fatalities in Maryland’s Construction Industry,” quantifies the estimated costs of deaths and injuries in the state’s construction industry by considering an array of factors.

The report found that incidents of occupational injuries and fatalities cost the state $712.8 million over a three-year period and suggests that implementing a safety component to the prequalification process for public construction projects. Public Citizen suggests that “the system should be expanded to require construction firms to demonstrate that they provide safety training to workers and site supervisors, and that they do not have serious safety violations.”

The release of the report was covered online here at the Huffington Post.





Economy continues to fluctuate Posted by on

The Boston Globe reports on economic concerns in Massachusetts, where a net reduction in jobs occurred for the first time since November. Though the unemployment rate is fairly steady, concerns are mounting that the slow recovery could be slipping away. NERCC's Mark Erlich is quoted.





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.
 





National talk host digs into Stamford Posted by on

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

 





Union carpenters, pension $ put to work in Providence Posted by on

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras were among those on hand today for a ceremonial groundbreaking for The Highlands on the East Side in Pro. The project is a renovation of senior housing that will become an assisted living facility. The project is being financed by the New England Carpenters Pension Fund and led by union general contractor CWC. It will provide an eventual monetary return to the Fund while providing immediate employment opportunities to union carpenters, economic activity for Providence and badly needed housing for an aging population.

The building is owned by Halkeen Management if Norwood, Massachusetts and will eventually provide 64 unites of housing, including Alzheimer's and Dementia apartments in a variety of layouts.

The Carpenters Pension Fund is investing in the project as part of their diversified investment portfolio.

The groundbreaking was covered briefly by Providence Channel 10.

 





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.

 





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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Rego targets possible problems in FRHA Posted by on

Dan Rego, a union carpenter and organizer who successfully ran for City Council in Fall River, is starting to shake things up in the Southeastern Massachusetts City. At a Monday night hearing for the Fall River Housing Authority, Rego raised questions about the agency's awarding of construction contracts and the payment and treatment of workers.

The Fall River Herald News reported on Rego's questions in today's paper. The Housing Authority cut off Rego's statement and went into Executive Session, ultimately voting to begin an independet investigation of the allegations, according to the paper. Rego has already discussed improprieties he has found on FRHA sites with Fall River Mayor William Flanagan as well as the offices of Attorney General Martha CoakleyInspector General Gregory Sullivan and State Auditor Suzanne Bump.

Rego told the Housing Authority that he has found issues with projects that are valued at less than $10,000, which are done with very little oversight.





NECN reports on Jackson Square renaissance Posted by on

New England Cable News last week reported on the work being done to rebuild Jackson Square in Boston. The piece includes an interview with the developer and also Charles Cofield. Cofield grew up in the area and is now working there as the carpenter steward and a member of Local 67.





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.

 





NECTC in the news Posted by on

WWLP/TV-22 televised the following story on the New England Carpenters Training Center in Millbury, MA. First-year apprentice Jose Parrilla and NECTC Training Director Bert Rousseau were interviewed for the piece. 

See the report on WWLP's website by clicking here.


TAGS: Media, Training



Confidence growing, but not without concerns Posted by on

Mark Erlich, NERCC Executive Secretary-Treasurer, was quoted in an article from this Sunday’s Boston Herald that speaks about confidence and job creation in the construction industry. Those quoted in the piece all seem to sense things shifting, although as Erlich points out, it is “a little early to start to throw confetti.”


Also quoted in the piece is Northeastern University economist Alan Clayton-Matthews who said construction confidence has extended to Massachusetts as sector employment from December 2010 to December 2011 grew faster than overall employment in the state at 2.3 percent.


“It looks like at both the national and state levels, overall employment will be growing and may begin to pick up in growth later this year and in 2013,” he said. “Construction will follow that, but it will be with a little bit of a lag.”


Read the article online at the Boston Herald or click here for a PDF.


TAGS: Media



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.