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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.





Workers' Memorial Day Posted by on

Workers' Memorial Day
Mourn for the Dead and Fight for the Living
Thursday, April 26, 2012

Seven months after a tornado struck Western Massachusetts in 2011, the storm claimed its final victim. 19-year-old college freshman James Ivanov was on winter break putting up a West Springfield house destroyed by the storm when he fell four stories to his death. That same year, Luis Tenezaca Palaguachi, a 25-year-old roofer, was working on a triple-decker home in New Bedford, when he lost his balance and fell three stories, later dying of his injuries. The employers of these young men failed to provide life-saving fall protection – a grave safety violation that costs lives.

To call attention to needless workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths, please join MassCOSH for:

Workers Memorial Day Public Commemoration
Thursday, April 26, 2012

12:00 – 1:15 PM
In front of the State House
24 Beacon Street, Boston
(rain location call 315-546-6391 for info.)

There is still time to participate in MassCOSH’s first annual Roses to Remember.

By participating in Roses to Remember, you can honor workers who lost their lives and support efforts to halt unsafe conditions by contributing $15 or more to MassCOSH today. For every donation received, MassCOSH will place a rose at the foot of our Workers’ Memorial Day memorial in your name. Your donation will directly fund MassCOSH’s efforts to ensure that every working person can return home to their loved ones from work healthy and sound each and every day.

Learn more about making a donation by visiting the Mass COSH website by clicking here

Donations made by the deadline on April 21 will be recognized with a rose in that donors name. If you have any questions, please contact Membership Coordinator Jeff Newton at jeff.newton@masscosh.org.


TAGS: Boston, Events, Safety



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.





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.





Troubling state of affairs in Stamford Posted by on

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


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


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





Chelsea Piers sub arrested Posted by on

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

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

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

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





Carpenters protest at Chelsea Piers Posted by on

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

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

The Stamford Advocate covered the protest, quoting union members.

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

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

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

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





OSHA Certification Updates you should know about Posted by on

? OSHA no longer issues replacement cards for training that occurred more than three (3) years ago. Also there is a
$25.00 fee for replacing lost/misplaced OSHA cards.
? Some governmental jurisdictions are now requiring that workers renew their OSHA training every four (4) years in
order to work in that jurisdiction (e.g. State of Connecticut).
? OSHA 30 Certification is required for foremen and stewards performing work under the Boston and Eastern Area of
Massachusetts CBA. It is also a graduation requirement for apprentices in the Massachusetts and Boston
Apprenticeship programs.
? OSHA 10 Certification is required for apprentices and journeymen performing work under the Boston and Eastern Area
of Massachusetts CBA.
? OSHA 10 Certification is required by Massachusetts General Law for all who work on public construction sites.
? OSHA 10 is a stand-alone course and cannot be applied to OSHA 30 Certification.


TAGS: Osha, Safety, Training



Bad press for AvalonBay Posted by on

The Somerville Journal reported on AvalonBay's troubles in Woburn, where the Attorney General forced them to settle claims of housing discrimination.

The story also discusses the death of Oscar Pintado, a carpenter who was killed during construction of the project when he fell 48 feet through a hole that was improperly covered with unmarked particle board.

The Woburn site was one of several AvalonBay sites that were the subject of an Attorney General's Office investigation into misclassification of workers and wage and hour complaints by workers employed by AvalonBay subcontractors.





OSHA stepping up penalties for "severe violators" Posted by on

OSHA has announced that it is significantly increasing penalties against employers who commit severe or repeated offenses. A directive issued in late April, outlines increased inspections and enforcement for the "Severe Violator Enforcement Program." The program is the result of a year-long work group, which determined that existing penalties were "too low to have an adequate deterrent effect."

According to an OSHA press release: "The current maximum penalty for a serious violation, one capable of causing death or serious physical harm, is only $7,000 and the maximum penalty for a willful violation is $70,000. The average penalty for a serious violation will increase from about $1,000 to an average $3,000 to $4,000. Monetary penalties for violations of the OSH Act have been increased only once in 40 years despite inflation. The Protecting America's Workers Act would raise these penalties, for the first time since 1990, to 12,000 and $250,000, respectively. Future penalty increases would also be tied to inflation."

"For many employers, investing in job safety happens only when they have adequate incentives to comply with OSHA's requirements," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Dr. Michaels. "Higher penalties and more aggressive, targeted enforcement will provide a greater deterrent and further encourage these employers to furnish safe and healthy workplaces for their employees.""


TAGS: Osha, Safety



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!





NECN covers Mayo asbestos embarrassment Posted by on

Members of Local 107 in Worcester have been holding a banner and passing out leaflets in front of the Bancroft building, warning residents, neighbors and passersby that they may have been exposed to asbestos.

The Mayo Group was indicted by the Attorney General's office earlier this year on five counts of asbestos related violations of the Clean Air Act, a story that was published on NERCCBlog.com.

New England Cable News just did a story about the Local 107 activity.


The Mayo Group has admitted to improper filing of notices in relation to asbestos removal, but they have lied to residents at Bancroft Commons about the extent of the charges, telling residents; "the allegations center only upon the timing of the filing of notices".

While the Mayo Group was indicted for failure to properly file notices and conduct inspections, they were also indicted for "failure to comply with procedures for asbestos emissions control (2 counts), and improper disposal of asbestos waste (1count)." The Attorney General??s press release is attached and highlighted, for reference.

The Mayo group has been the subject of investigation and protests by the New England Regional Council of Carpenters for a couple of years.

Organizers have found immigrant workers being paid improperly, with taxes not being withheld. Despite pledges that they do and will hire contractors that comply with state and federal laws, the Mayo Group??s practices have been questionable.

In October 2007 the Worcester Telegram and Gazette ran a front page story including claims by NERCC that workers were improperly paid. The story included information from a worker on the site:

"One Mayo employee, who did not give his name, said outside the building that he is paid monthly by check and "sometimes" taxes are taken out."

The Mayo Group has tried to distract their clients, the public and residents of their projects from independently investigated and reported facts by smearing the union. But the Carpenters Union has only highlighted facts that otherwise might go unnoticed. If these truths are embarrassing or inconvenient to the business model of the Mayo Group, they must consider that in their future operations.





Multiple groups promoting safety in Washington state Posted by on

The following ad was developed by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. Sponsors for the ad include the Washington State Building and Construction Trades, Washington State Labor Council, Council, Associated General Contractors and Association of Washington Businesses.

The ad is titled "Homecomings" and is part of a media campaign aimed at promoting workplace saftey. The campaign, which began yesterday, will include radio and internet ads according to a press release by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.



More interesting information about the ads, from the press release:

L&I purchased licensing rights to an award-winning workplace-safety campaign developed in Australia, saving creative and development costs. The ads were repurposed for Washington residents, including voice-overs to eliminate the Australian accent.

In Australia, surveys showed that about 85 percent of viewers thought the ads were quite or very effective. Also, 24 percent of employers and 18 percent of employees said they had personally taken action as a result of the campaign. This was considered a very strong result in a low-interest category such as occupational safety and health.

About $450,000 in TV and radio airtime and Internet space has been purchased. The money comes from dedicated workers?? compensation funds, which can??t be used for purposes other than workers?? comp and workplace safety. Preventing one workplace injury that turns into a long-term pension could pay for the cost of the campaign. Currently, L&I has 3,964 claims with costs for each that are more than $450,000.

The ads will run in May and June, and again in September and October, with some radio advertising also airing in July and August.


TAGS: Safety



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.





Workers Memorial Day Posted by on

Members of organized labor, elected officials and community activists gathered at the Massachusetts State House on Tuesday to recognize Workers Memorial Day. It was one of many events held around the world to remember workers who have been "workers killed, injured or made ill on the job" and to call for greater protections and enforcement of existing protections.

NERCC Local 118 Representative Elizabeth Skidmore participated, reading the names of union carpenters Peter Marchese and Chris Beste, who were killed in a lift accident in Waltham last year.

Brother Marchese, 40, lived in New Hampshire with his wife and two young children while Brother Beste, 30, was a fourth-year apprentice who was engaged to be married.

Skidmore was joined by other NERCC members and staff, who attended the event. In addition to speeches and the reading of names, the event features a large banner containing the names of all workers being honored.





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

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

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

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





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.





UBC takes fight for workers online Posted by on

It's not surprising that Carpenters union organizers in Tacoma, Washington have been visiting the jobsite of a $1 billion mixed-use waterfront development. And given that the project isn't 100% union, it's not surprising that there are some very shady things going on.

What's surprising is that an investigation by state and federal authorities was triggered by a video union carpenters produced featuring workers from the site that they then posted on YouTube.

Welcome to tech-savy world of organizing in the UBC. The Seattle-Times just published the story, detailing some of the ugly results of the investigation. Here's the YouTube video.


Make sure to check out the other videos posted on YouTube by our Brothers in the Pacific Northwest, under the name peterjmaguire. Good stuff, very good stuff.

UPDATE: Just got off the phone with Jimmy Haun, an organizer with the PNWRCC who was quoted in the newspaper article. The article was a little incomplete. Several of the workers have been suffering some serious health problems, he said, including loss of hair, sores on their hands and feet and other pretty scary stuff.





Local 107 member, Gines, named to MassCOSH Board Posted by on

Manny Gines, a member of Carpenters Local 107 and a full time Organizer with the New England Regional Council of Carpenters has been named to the Board of Directors for MassCOSH.

According to its website, "MassCOSH brings together workers, unions, community groups, and health, safety and environmental activists to organize and advocate for safe, secure jobs and healthy communities throughout eastern and central Massachusetts. Through training, technical assistance and building community/labor alliances, MassCOSH mobilizes its members and develops leaders in the movement to end unsafe work conditions."

Since becoming an Organizer almost two years ago, Gines has played an integral role in helping the union connect with exploited workers, particularly those who do no speak English. He has worked in multiple states and with various organizing teams to build coalitions not only in the construction industry, but within communities as well.





A message to undocumented workers Posted by on





Midwest carpenters given award for safety Posted by on

Congratulations to the Brothers and Sisters in Indiana, who recently earned recognition from ZISA (Zero Injury Safety Awards) for their cooperative focus on safety with contractors.

This year's top award --The Gold Star - goes to Solid Platforms, Inc., working with the Indiana/Kentucky Regional Council of Carpenters Northern Office at BP Products North America's Whiting Refinery in Whiting, Ind. At 2,569,267 hours, the three groups set a record for the most injury free hours ever worked. BP's Whiting Refinery is familiar with safety -- they also won last year's Gold Star award.

The Indiana-Kentucky Regional Council of Carpenters consists of 32 Local Unions representing Carpenters, Floor Coverers and Millwrights. They provide training to members at nine campuses in the two states.

If you're willing to let Union Solidarity trump regional sports loyalties for spell, check out the picture gallery on their website of Union Carpenters building the Lucas Oil Stadium, the brand new home for the Indianapolis Colts.


TAGS: Safety, Training



Mass AG issues advisory on OSHA 10 requirement Posted by on

In August 2008, the AGO issued "An Advisory from the Massachusetts Attorney General's Fair Labor Division on Chapter 306 of the Acts of 2004, An Act Relative to the Health and Safety on Public Construction Projects, 2008/2."

Chapter 306 of the Acts of 2004, An Act Relative to the Health and Safety on Public Construction Projects, (the "Act") requires employees who work on public construction sites in Massachusetts to have completed a 10 hour course in construction safety approved by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA) and requires employers to certify that employees will do this. The Advisory provides guidance on which employees must have the OHSA training and how employees can demonstrate they have taken the training, the documents employers need to submit to comply and the manner in which the Attorney General will enforce the Act. The Advisory was issued after extensive meetings and discussion with stakeholders in the construction industry and with unions.

The Advisory can be viewed online in pdf format here.