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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.





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.  





Attacks on Davis-Bacon, PLAs fail in US House Posted by on

Last week, the United States House of Representatives considered and defeated two amendments to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill that would have weakened or eliminated prevailing wage protections or the use of Project Labor Agreements on federal construction projects.

Democrats were joined by a significant number of Republicans in defeating the two amendments. The vote on the Davis Bacon amendment was 183-234, with 52 Republicans joining all but one Democrat to prevent passage. The PLA language lost by a smaller, but still significant 207-213 vote. Twenty-eight Republicans joined Democrats on that vote.

Neither Republican Congressmen from New Hampshire--Charlie Bass or Frank Guinta--joined the side of union members to defeat the amendments. They are the only two Republican members of the House from New England.





The truth about PLA's Posted by on

The following Op-Ed piece by Mark Erlich was published in The Boston Globe on Saturday, July 3, 2010. You can read the article online by clicking here.

LAST MONTH the University of Massachusetts Building Authority voted to put the proposed $750 million overhaul of UMass Boston??s campus under a project labor agreement that would require the use of unionized workers. The reflex reaction of hostile voices was predictable. ??This is the kind of thing,???? said Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker, ??that makes people crazy about state government.????

A flurry of newspaper columns and radio rants revived the standard anti-PLA view that these agreements exclude the majority of potential contractors and add expense to a project. The problem with these arguments is that they are fundamentally wrong. Comments like Baker??s are what make people crazy about ideological screeds based on flawed research.

PLA critics like to claim that 80 percent of the construction workforce is non-union. This is based on Census figures where occupational identities are self-described and where handymen and summer house painters are considered part of the workforce. It does not reflect the real numbers of career trades workers in commercial, institutional, industrial, and highway construction ?? the only parts of the industry where PLAs are ever applied.

A far better indicator is to consider the presence of union firms in non-residential construction based on a review of Dodge Reports, the most comprehensive source of information in the industry. According to the Carpenters Labor Management Program??s analysis of the 2009 Dodges, 65 percent of the dollar value of Massachusetts projects was attributable to union contractors.

Furthermore, PLAs are used only on large projects where the complexity typically demands the sophistication of a sizable company. That universe is overwhelmingly union, as confirmed by the recent Boston Business Journal list in which 23 of the largest 25 general contractors in the area have collective bargaining agreements.

It is also simply not true that non-union firms cannot participate in public PLA projects. Any company can bid and use its existing labor force, as long as it is prepared to comply with the terms of the PLA, a situation that non-union contractors resist because it raises expectations for their traditionally lower-paid workers.

The claim about added costs is based on a 2003 Beacon Hill Institute report that concluded that there was a $32- per-square-foot premium on public schools built with PLAs. After an initial rush of favorable publicity, economists from Michigan State University and the University of Rhode Island analyzed the report and determined that the estimates were ??inflated and unreliable.???? The authors of the report had based their calculations on bid prices rather than final costs, failed to compensate for urban vs. suburban sites, ignored some schools that were built with PLAs and included others that never had PLAs.

The Beacon Hill Institute was forced to issue a revised report that reduced the PLA ??premium???? by 40 percent. Even then, critics utilized the institute??s own data to demonstrate that there was no appreciable difference between construction costs on PLA and non-PLA schools.

On one level, this can be seen as an academic squabble over a poorly designed study. Unfortunately, the study results still serve as gospel in certain circles and have become uncritically accepted as a legitimate part of public policy discussions. Reviewing the entire debate at the time, Peter Cockshaw, the widely respected independent construction industry commentator wrote that there is ??no solid data from any study to prove PLAs cost more or non-PLAs cost less????.

PLAs are not designed for the expansion of Aunt Martha??s deck. They have been used on large public projects as well as private buildings for Harvard, Partners, and the Museum of Fine Arts where owners seek a level of comfort regarding scheduling, training, workforce diversity, productivity, uninterrupted work progress, and known costs. The courts have looked favorably on the agreements, particularly in cases when a project??s ??size, complexity, and duration???? are an issue.

It is frustrating to hear the same tired arguments repeated and, to a surprising degree, accepted. But there are political points to be scored and, as is so often the case in public debate, some folks don??t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Mark Erlich is the executive secretary-treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.


TAGS: Media, Pla



Obama reverses Bush on Federal PLAs Posted by on

President Barack Obama yesterday reversed another Bush administration policy by issuing an Executive Order lifting a prohibition on the use of Project Labor Agreements on Federal construction projects and encouraging departments to use PLAs on projects valued at more than $25 million. The order specifically cites problems that may occur on large-scale construction projects when a structure for ensuring a steady supply of labor is not present, and when there is no formal process for resolving disputes, which are more common on sites with multiple employers on large sites.

The order stated, in part: "The use of a project labor agreement may prevent these problems from developing by providing structure and stability to large-scale construction projects, thereby promoting the efficient and expeditious completion of Federal construction contracts. Accordingly, it is the policy of the Federal Government to encourage executive agencies to consider requiring the use of project labor agreements in connection with large-scale construction projects in order to promote economy and efficiency in Federal procurement."

Project Labor Agreements had been used by the Federal Government for years before George W. Bush issued an Executive Order prohibiting their use. Though anti-union advocates lobbied hard for that move, private companies and state governments continued to use the agreements to establish fair standards and procedures for managing projects.

The Executive Order also directs the Office of Management and Budget to study and make recommendations on broader use of PLAs "with respect to both construction projects undertaken under Federal contracts and construction projects receiving Federal financial assistance."