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Carpenters recruit by showing off training center Posted by on

There's welcome news for construction contractors in New England worried about a current or looming skilled labor shortage. Today, more than 900 students currently enrolled in vocational high schools or programs are visiting the New England Carpenters Training Center in Millbury, Massachusetts today.

During their visit, they're learning more about the comprehensive training programs available in the diverse carpentry trade. They're also seeing some of the most sophisticated facilities in the country, combining state-of-the-art shop and work space with classrooms, dormitory, dining and recreation space.

Though some students may have experience in limited aspects of the industry, today's tour gives them a comprehensive view of the trade, work conditions and career opportunities available to trained, motivated and supprted trades workers.

A lack of skilled trades workers is consistently cited in surveys by employers as a limiting factor for company growth and their ability to deliver consistent quality work. Contractors signatory to the Carpenters union have the advantage of joint training programs and fairly negotiated wage and benefit packages that attract the most qualified applicants.

For more information on training programs visit nercc.org/training





State to review $17M tax giveaway Posted by on

In late September 2014 the Economic Assistance Coordinating Council (EACC) agreed to a panel review in response the New England Regional Council of Carpenters application to revoke state and local tax relief for Great Wolf. The EACC expects a status report from the panel review sometime in December. Read coverage of these recent events in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and the Fitchburg Sentinel

Learn more at nercc.org/greatwolf





Senate Republicans' Latest Attack on Davis-Bacon: A Sign of the Future? Posted by on

Republican Senator Mike Lee from Utah has filed Senate Bill S2617 which, if passed, would pave the way to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act. That would put millions of carpenters at risk of being paid less than the prevailing wage. Visit the UBC's website here to learn where your government representatives stand on Davis-Bacon, and vote for those who support the basic right of earning a fair wage.





Union proves worth to nonunion carpenters again Posted by on

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

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

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





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 support event for low wage workers Posted by on

In the last year, fast food workers across the country have been building a campaign to raise wages in their industry. The campaign has given energy to efforts to raise the minimum wage nationally and in states and communities across America. But the fast food industry isn't the only one where massive profits are generated and an unreasonable gulf exists between the compensation given to employees in corporate offices and those on the front lines.

From health care to hospitality and construction to customer service, too many workers are being paid too little for working so hard. In Massachusetts, an upcoming event aims to elevate their cause.

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters is joining individuals in Boston and Springfield on June 12 to support low wage workers. Hosted by Massachusetts Jobs with Justice, the Low Wage Worker Day of Action will bring information and focus attention on people who work hard and still struggle to support themselves and their families. More than that, it will encourage workers to begin standing together and acting together in a way that will make a difference.

The event matches the efforts of the Carpenters union who monitor nonunion construction sites and build relationships with nonunion carpenters. All too often, nonunion carpenters are not provided the wages and benefits they deserve, given the level of skill required and risk present on today's construction sites.

In Boston, the event will be held at Copley Square, in Springfield it will be at the Mount Calvary Church at John Street and Plainfield Street (Rt 20A). Both events will take place from 4-6 pm. Union carpenters, friends and families are invited and encouraged to participate.





CT DOL issues 3 "Stop Work" orders Posted by on

The Connecticut Labor Department has issued “Stop Work” orders against three construction companies at a shopping center construction site at 230 Industrial Park in Old Saybrook, for failing to provide the required state workers’ compensation coverage or unemployment coverage for their employees.

Two contractors, Alvin Quality Masonry LLC and Industrial Technical Services Inc. were issued “Stop Work” orders after inspectors from the Wage and Workplace Standards Division determined that the contractors, working on the Big Y supermarket project, did not have workers’ compensation or unemployment insurance coverage for employees. G&F Group LLC was issued a stop work order on the Kohl’s building project for failure to have workers’ compensation or unemployment insurance coverage and for misclassifying its employees as independent contractors.

“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.

The New Haven Register, The Day, The Bristol Press,  Insurance News Net and Shoreline Times reported on the story.

To view a PDF of these articles, click here.





NERCC endorses Tolman for Attorney General Posted by on

BOSTON -- The New England Regional Council of Carpenters will announce their endorsement of Warren Tolman for Attorney General at a gathering today at the NERCC Headquarters in Dorchester. 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, endorsed Tolman because of his vow to create a progressive, proactive Attorney General's Office that prioritizes protecting Massachusetts families.

"I'm honored to have the support of the hard-working men and women of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters," Tolman said. "Keeping the middle class intact and growing our economy means leveling the playing field for working families. As Attorney General, I will never waver in my commitment to standing with our workers."

"The position of Attorney General is critical for those of us in the construction industry since that office is charged with addressing the problems of wage theft, the underground economy, and the creation of a level playing field for all participants," said Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Carpenters Union. "We are confident that Warren Tolman will make an exceptional Attorney General. He brings thoughtfulness, a wealth of experience, and a zeal for public service to his candidacy. The New England Regional Council of Carpenters is pleased to endorse Warren and will work hard to support his campaign."

Earlier this month, Tolman announced the support of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the State Council of the Service Employees International Union. Tolman has the support of all four former Attorneys General, Frank Bellotti, Scott Harshbarger, Jim Shannon, and Tom Reilly. Tolman has also announced the support of Senate President Therese Murray, former State Treasurer and Democratic Gubernatorial Nominee, Shannon O’Brien, his campaign leadership team of State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, and the backing of former Massachusetts Democratic Party Chair John Walsh.

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Everett mayor finds out for himself Posted by on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 





B.U.H. Construction ordered to pay back wages, rehire employees Posted by on

Pennsylvania-based B.U.H. Construction has been ordered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to pay back wages of two carpenters and offer reinstatement to their former jobs or equivalent positions. The company was found to be in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

The original complaint filed by NERCC alleged that BUH Construction engaged in certain unfair labor practices by threatening three carpenters on a job at Walmart in Brooklyn, CT, and subsequently terminating two of those carpenters because it refused to pay them at the agreed-upon wage rate of $20 an hour.

In early April 2013, carpenters received pay checks that were short on hours and at a wage rate that was significantly lower than the agree upon rate. CT organizers helped the workers file wage claim forms with the Department of Labor. The carpenters were subsequently fired from the job. B.U.H. challenged the workers’ rights to unemployment benefits, claiming that they quit. Unemployment reviewed the evidence and ruled in favor of the workers. B.U.H. appealed the decision and after a formal hearing, the Unemployment Board of Review ruled in favor of the workers.

An NLRB Charge was filed against B.U.H. Construction on April 23, 2013. The basis of the charge was that workers were engaged in concerted activity when they tried to resolve issues with their pay checks and were terminated. The NERCC filed charges with the NLRB alleging that B.U.H. had violated the National Labor Relations Act when they threatened to reduce the carpenters’ wages and discharge the employees because they engaged in protected concerted activities.

In July the NLRB made a settlement offer to B.U.H. Construction, which the company rejected. A trial was held in November and the final ruling came down in early February. The ruling states that the two workers are to be made whole for any lost wages and they are to be rehired by B.U.H. Construction. B.U.H. had one month to appeal the decision.

 





CT Governor Malloy's budget gets Carpenter support Posted by on

Dave Jarvis, an organizer with the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, appeared before the Connecticut General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee to testify in support of Governor Dan Malloy’s recently submitted Fiscal Year 2015 Mid-Term Budget.

Governor Malloy’s Mid-Term budget includes funding for six additional employees at the Department of Labor to investigate complaints and ensure employers comply with wage and workplace standards.

Jarvis urged members to support the Governor’s proposal to beef up wage and workplace enforcement as the Connecticut construction industry continues to be plagued by employers—many from out of state--who fail to properly pay their workers’ wages, misclassify their workers as independent contractors or pay them cash “off the books.”

Last year alone, the Wage and Workplace Division of the Connecticut Department of Labor handled more than 3,500 claims and recovered over $6.5 million in unpaid wages to 1,701 Connecticut workers. The Wage and Workplace Division also issued 181 Stop Work Orders to employers at construction sites who were found to be in violation of workers’ compensation and labor laws.

“It’s nearly impossible for Connecticut contractors who obey our state labor, tax and worker’s compensation laws to compete against unscrupulous companies that break these laws to gain a bidding advantage,” said Jarvis. He added, “Construction is becoming a magnet for predatory employers. The Wage and Workplace Division is on the front lines of protecting Connecticut workers and employers from these predatory contractors.”





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 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.

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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.





May Day gatherings held today, celebrate workers' rights Posted by on

May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, commemorates the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago. Four demonstrators and several police officers were killed during a general strike for the eight-hour workday when an unidentified person threw a bomb at police who were trying to disperse the gathering of people. Police reacted to by firing at the crowd of workers. Today, International Workers’ Day is celebrated in more than 80 countries around the world as a day to commemorate the ongoing fight for workers’ rights.

Boston-area gatherings will be held this afternoon in Revere, Everett, Chelsea and at Boston City Hall (start times vary by location). Participants will march from each of these locations to a combined rally at 5:00 PM happening at Liberty Plaza, Central Square, which is located off of Bennington and Meridian Streets in East Boston.

NERCC, with help from local community groups, created this video as a promotion for local area International Workers’ Day events. The piece gives Boston-area workers, including Piledrivers Local 56 member Fran Kotak, a chance to share their stories. Check out the full length version of this video here

Visit nercc.org/mayday for detailed information about Boston-area gatherings.





International Workers Day Rally May 1st Posted by on

With roots in the American struggle for the 8-hour work day, International Workers Day is celebrated in more than 80 countries around the world as a day to commemorate the ongoing fight for workers' rights.

Below, Boston-area workers share their stories as part of International Workers' Day, which takes place on May Day (May 1st). May 1st commemorates the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago, where workers stood for the eight-hour workday.

Join labor unions, faith organizations, immigrant rights groups and community allies as we march and rally for workers' rights. For information about Boston-area gatherings, visit nercc.org/mayday

To see the full-length version of this visit, click here.

 

 





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.





Elizabeth Warren - Senate HELP Committee - Minimum Wage Posted by on




Carpenters highlight thefts at Botany Bay Posted by on

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

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





State, Feds raid Stamford mega-sites Posted by on

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

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

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





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.  





New England Carpenters Give Scott Brown A Failing Grade On Creating Jobs, Supporting Working Families Posted by on

In new report card, Republican Scott Brown fails to support new jobs and Massachusetts’ middle-class

Today, the New England Regional Council of Carpenters issued a report card on Senator Scott Brown’s failing efforts to support job-creating programs and middle-class families across the Commonwealth. Senator Brown received an F on today’s report card for opposing numerous jobs bills that would have supported thousands of good-paying jobs in Massachusetts, opposing the extension of essential unemployment benefits, and failing to fight for fair wages for working men and women.

 

"Try as he may, Scott Brown cannot run away from his votes along national Republican Party lines,” said Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Council of Carpenters. “Whether it's unemployment benefits, jobs bills, or standing up for fair wages, Scott Brown is not on the side of working families right here in Massachusetts. The attempts to re-make his image cannot mask his record. He sides with huge corporations and Wall Street instead of the thousands of Massachusetts families still looking for jobs.”

 

Today, the New England Carpenters gave Senator Brown an “F” for failing to stand up for working families. The grade was based on the following key votes: 

 

 

Class

Score

American Jobs Act

-       Would have cut payroll taxes for 140,000 MA firms

-       Supported 11,100 MA jobs

 

Yes     No X

 

[Roll Call Vote 160, 10/11/11]

Rebuild American Jobs Act

-       Would invest $850 million in MA infrastructure including roads, bridges highway

-       Would not add to the deficit.

Yes      No X

 

[Roll Call Vote 195, 11/3/11]

Extending Unemployment Benefits

-       8 votes to extended unemployment benefits to tens of thousands of MA residents who were out of work

 

Yes      No X

 

[HR 4213 otes 48, 194, 200, 204, 209, 215; HR 4851 votes 116, 117, 3/10/10 through 7/21/10]

Prevailing Wage Protections

-       Effort to ensure construction workers are paid fair wages on federal transportation projects

 

  Yes      No X

 

[S. 223 vote 11, 2/3/11]

To Confirm President Obama’s NRLB Nominee

-       To nominate Craig Becker to the NRLB

 

  Yes      No X

 

[Roll Call Vote 22, 2/9/10]

 





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





Simon Says...Lie! Posted by on

Members from Local 118 gathered with other Building Trades members in front of the Merrimack Premium Outlets in New Hampshire to protest Simon Property Group’s broken promises and lack of support for union workers.

Simon Property Group is building the $100 million dollar outlet mall, which will be home to more than 100 high end and designer retailers.

Local union members first stepped up to support the project in 2005.

“The developer came to us…and asked for our help getting the project through a complex zoning and planning process that included a city-wide vote that produced the highest voter turn-out in Merrimack’s history,” said Liz Skidmore, NERCC Organizer.

“In exchange for our support and help, they committed to building the entire project union. They reneged on their promise.”

Instead of hiring local, responsible contractors, Simon Property Group hire out-of-state contractors who brought out-of-state workers, a number of whom are illegally misclassified as independent contractors and aren’t covered by workers’ compensation.

Simon management released a statement in response to the demonstration.

“We have cooperated with the unions from the beginning of the project. The project was always planned as a publicly bid open shop.”

Construction workers from about 30 states have been helping to create the new shopping center, including tradesmen from as far away as Arizona, California, Nevada and Texas.

Various building trades members gathered at the mall to bring to light their frustrations from these broken promises, in an effort to drive more local jobs as fit out work continues on site.

The Merrimack Patch ,Nashua Telegraph , and Union Leader covered the rally.

Members were meeting at the site once again this morning and are considering a rally on opening day at the mall, which is scheduled for June 14th.





Carpenters demonstrate against Allstate Posted by on

Carpenters in Norwalk, Connecticut held an area standards demonstration to raise awareness about the practices of Allstate Interiors, based out of New York. The drywall contractor is working at Maplewood at Strawberry Hill. The $17-mllion project is converting a former elementary school into an assisted-living facility for the elderly.

Allstate does not meet area standards for wages and benefits. Workers  have reported making as little as $10-$12 an hour on construction projects. 

The Norwalk Hour covered the rally.





Northeast Interiors ordered to pay $30k+ for violations Posted by on

Braintree, Massachusetts-based Northeast Interiors has been ordered by the state to pay $20,000 in fines and make restitution of almost $16,000 to twelve employees. The company cheated workers on three projects in Arlington, Swampscott and Salem.

Civil citations were issued against Northeast Interiors and owner Kevin Fish for failure to pay prevailing wages for work performed ($5,000), failure to submit true and accurate certified payroll records ($7,500) and failure to keep true and accurate payroll records ($7,500). Violations occured when the company was doing work at Arlington Menotomy Manner, Swampscott Thomson Building and Salem Rainbow Terrace.

The case was handled by the Fair Labor Division of the Office of Attorney General Martha Coakley. Workers who feel their employer has paid them less than what they are owed, in violation of previaling wage laws or other wage and hour laws (ie, overtime) may contact the New England Regional Council of Carpenters for assitance or may file a complaint directly with the Attorney General's Office using this page.





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.





Stop work orders issued at Harbor Point, media depicts industry mess Posted by on

The Connecticut Department of Labor's Wages & Workplace Standards Division, has issued "Stop Work Orders" against eight contractors working on the Harbor Point project in Stamford, continuing a string of bad practices and bad press for the city and the project's developer, Carl Kuehner's Building and Land Technology (BLT).

The Stamford Advocate has run a significant story on the orders, as well as an excellent piece detailing the Department of Labor's efforts to confront extensive problems in the construction industry. Both are well worth reading and sharing.

Avilik Inc., Flagg World, M&M Construction, Pillar Construction, T.F. Andrews, Brothers Contracting, Continental Tile and Kitchen Classics were the companies cited for various violations of wage, hour, insurance or tax laws by the Department of Labor's Stop Fraud Unit. None of the companies are based in Connecticut. Some are only as close as New York, some have come from as far away as Maryland, according to the Advocate.

Three of those companies--Brothers Contracting, Continental Tile and Kitchen Classics--are being charged with violating a previous stop work order by going back to work without clearence by the DOL.

The project has come under intense criticism in Stamford, where citizens feel the developer and oher companies based in Harbor Point has been given too much control with little or no oversight. Union carpenters have started an online petition calling for Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia to step in and give residents more of a voice. Please read and consider signing the petition here.





Despite assaults, unionization rates hold steady Posted by on

While Republicans Governors and legislatures in the United States mounted a withering attack on public sector workers in 2011, rates of unionization among workers in the country remained steady, with some potentially positive signs for the future.

John Schmitt and Jannelle Jones from the Center for Economic Policy and Research broke down the numbers (reporduced in a post on truth-out.org over the weekend). In the public sector, the number of union members declined slightly in 2011, but union density went up. In the private sector, which has seen a greater decline in union members and union density over the years, the number of union members went up with union density holding steady.

The numbers indicate that even though there are fewer union jobs in the public sector, union jobs are being cut at a lower rate than nonunion positions. The increase in the number of union jobs in the private sector is also a positive indicator that anti-union efforts were not as successful in 2011.

Time will tell if the numbers indicate a reaction to attacks on union rights, which exploded on the public scene in Wisconsin and other states early in 2011 or a manifestation of the same frustration with economic inequality that spurred the "Occupy" movements later in the year. But they are good news for American workers.





Pulte subs ordered to pay more than $500k Posted by on

Multiple enforcement agencies in Massachusetts today announced that five subcontractors employed by Pulte on sites in Eastern Massachusetts have been ordered to pay workers more than $400,000 in owed wages and make payments totaling $141,000 to cover unpaid taxes.

The order is the result of investigations that began after workers complained to Representatives of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters that they had been unpaid for extended periods of time. Workers went on strike at several Pulte locations and filed complaints with the state.

"The investigation fined five separate subcontractors, but the real culprit is Pulte Homes, a multi-billion dollar national homebuilder," said Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. "Those subs are interchangeable and were just doing Pulte's bidding. Cheating is Pulte's business model and, unfortunately, that approach is far too common in the residential construction industry."

Subcontractors that were part of the order include:
--AM Construction Services and its President, Adimar Demoura, age 32 of Framingham, allegedly failed to pay four workers a total of $15,331.50 for framing work done on private residential projects in Braintree and Plymouth. They were also fined $22,500 in penalties.
--Five Stars Construction and its President, Alexandre Miranda, age 40 of Trumbull, Connecticut, allegedly failed to pay two workers a total of $30,700 for framing work done on a private condominium project in Natick. They were also fined $30,000 in penalties.
--Nunes Brothers Construction and its President, Tiago Aguiar M. Nunes, age 28 of Brooklyn, New York, allegedly failed to pay 23 workers a total of $99,086.75 for framing work done on private condominium and single-family homes projects in Braintree, Plymouth, Natick, and Northbridge. They were also fined $112,500 in penalties.
--Seven Seas Group and its President, Jackson Croscup, age 55 of Fall River, allegedly failed to pay five workers a total of $10,333 for framing work done on a private condominium project in Natick. They were also fined $20,075 in penalties.
--Two Brothers Construction and its President, Wellington DeLima Borges, age 41 of East Natick, allegedly failed to pay six workers a total of $34,751.50 for framing work done on a private home development project in Plymouth. They were also fined $34,500 in penalties.

Investigating the complaints were Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office (AGO), the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD), and the Joint Enforcement Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification (JTF). The JTF was established by Governor Deval Patrick through Executive Order #499 in March 2008 to coordinate multiple state agencies’ efforts to stamp out fraudulent employment activities by enforcing the state’s labor, licensing, and tax laws.

“All workers in the Commonwealth deserve to be paid for the wages they have earned, including their overtime,” said Attorney General Coakley. “We will continue to work together and take appropriate action to stop these unlawful business practices, level the playing field for companies and protect workers.”

“The Commonwealth is committed to insuring that all businesses carry both workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance coverage,” said Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Joanne F. Goldstein. “We will not tolerate employers or developers who proceed without this coverage, which puts employees at risk and employers who play by the rules at a competitive disadvantage. The Joint Task Force will continue to take all necessary action to protect legitimate employers, employees and the taxpayers of the Commonwealth.”