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Bay State Drywall carpenters win union election Posted by on

 In an election held last night in Southeastern Massachusetts by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), carpenters employed by Bay State Drywall voted for union representation from the Carpenters union by a 10-8 margin. The Freetown-based company is one of a group of contractors in the Fall River-New Bedford area, sometimes referred to as "drywall alley," that draw carpenters from the substantial Portuguese population. During peak season, they typically employ 40-50 carpenters and have been one of the larger nonunion companies in the market.

Representatives from the New England Regional Council of Carpenters have become familiar faces to Bay State employees over the years thanks to countless jobsite visits, which created a level of trust. When there were disputes with the owners over restoring pay cuts made during slow times, the workers decided to go forward with a union election.

Negotiation of an agreement with Bay State cannot start until after the NLRB resolves a union challenge to the uncounted ballots of six employees that Bay State had argued should be included in the election. Those employees are primarily tapers and the Council has taken the position that they do not fall under the definition of a carpenter bargaining unit. A Board ruling on the matter may take as long as two months.

"I'm proud of the carpenters who had the courage to stand up to the company and proud of our staff that led the organizing drive," said Mark Erlich, NERCC Executive Secretary-Treasurer. "NLRB elections are not that common in the construction industry and this victory sends a message that we will use every tool at our disposal to represent working carpenters in New England."

CTA signs union agreement Posted by on

CTA Construction signed a collective bargaining agreement with the New England Regional Council of Carpenters on July 2nd. The contract represents a culmination of a long campaign by the Council and extensive discussions over the past few years between the two organizations.

CTA was founded in 2000 by Lyle Coghlin and Pat Tompkins. Over the past fourteen years, the company has emerged as one of the larger public construction contractors in Massachusetts, with an annual volume of $138 million in 2013. CTA was listed as the 12th largest general contractor in the 2012 Boston Business Journal's Book of Lists and is currently ranked as the 376th biggest firm in ENR's national survey.

"We are pleased that CTA is now a union contractor," commented Mark Erlich, NERCC's Executive Secretary-Treasurer. "We believe that access to a higher caliber of subcontractors and skilled carpenters will allow the company to grow even further."

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.  

Tentative agreement for Boston, Eastern Mass. Posted by on

NERCC has reached a tentative agreement with contractors on a new collective bargaining agreement for Boston and Eastern Massachusetts. Details will be given and votes will be taken at meetings for members this Thursday night. Members who have not received a phone call with the time and location, should contact their local union hall.

RI members approve new contract Posted by on

Members of Carpenters Local 94 in Rhode Island unanimously ratified a new, two-year collective bargaining agreement at a meeting last Saturday. The contract was negotiated with the Associated General Contractors of Rhode Island and includes increases of $1.50 each year.

Seventy-five cents is being added to wages this month. The remaining seventy-five cents for the first year will be added to benefit contributions in January. The allocation for those increases will be determined in December by member vote.

The second year of the agreement is also schedule to include a wage increase of seventy-five cents in June and an increase to benefit contributions of seventy-five cents in January of 2013.

Language changes made to the agreement included mostly housekeeping issues such as a change from benefit stamps to electronic receipts for employer contributions to benefit funds.

The collective bargaining agreement with the Construction Industries of Rhode Island included a wage reopener, only. Wage and benefit changes negotiated as part of the AGC agreement will be applicable to the CCRI contract, but language changes will not.

Both the AGC and CCRI agreements will expire on June 2, 2013.

Tentative Settlement Reached in CT Strike Posted by on

Members of three Carpenter Local Unions in Connecticut affiliated with the New England Regional Council of Carpenters have reached a tentative agreement with contractors to end a one week strike. The union and contractors--represented by the Associated General Contractors/ Connecticut Construction Industry Association--held negotiating sessions Saturday and Monday afternoon. Union carpenters returned to work today as the result of progress made during Saturday negotiations.

Members of Carpenters Local 24, 43 and 210 will meet at their Local Union halls on Thursday for ratification votes.

NNE carpenters ratify new agreement Posted by on

Members in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine last night voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement negotiated with contractors working in the three Northern New England states. More than 88% of members voting cast a ballot to accept the three-year agreement, which will provide a $3.90 increase in the total wage and benefit package.

The financial increase is proportionally equivalent to those negotiated in other new agreements throughout the New England Regional Council of Carpenters this year. They will cover anticipated increases in benefit costs over the next three years.

Each year of the agreement $1.30 will be added to the total package, with increases coming in October and April. An immediate increase of $0.65, will be added to hourly pension contributions and $0.02 will be added to wages. The remaining $0.63 from the first and year will be added to hourly health benefit contributions on April 1, 2010. The increases of $1.30 in the second and third year will be divided and allocated by members at a future date.

The agreement also includes language to cover tide work and offshore work, clearly defining shifts, wage and overtime requirements and working conditions for those areas of work.

Floorcoverers ratify new contract Posted by on

Members of Massachusetts Floorcoverers Local 2168 last night voted to ratify a new three-year collective bargaining agreement. The agreement provides total wage and benefit increases of $1.25 in the first year, $1.50 in the second year and $2.50 in the third year. The contract will also change the package for floorcoverers working in western Massachusetts. Members doing floorcovering work in Local 108s geographic jurisdiction will be given the western Massachusetts carpenter rate for wages and annuity fund contributions.

EMass, Boston members ratify new contract Posted by on

Union Carpenters in Boston and Eastern area local unions affiliated with the New England Regional Council of Carpenters last night ratified a new three-year collective bargaining agreement that will provide modest wage increases and funding sufficient to maintain benefits. Ninety percent of members voting in the 13 Local Unions cast a ??yes?? vote.

The agreement, which will expire August 31, 2012, includes increases to the total wage and benefit package of $1.75 in each of the first two years and $2.25 in the third year. Each of those annual increases will be split in six-month increments. The first $0.88 increase In the first year will be added September 1, 2009 and allocated as follows: $0.75 will be added to the hourly contribution to the pension fund; $0.02 will be added to the UBC training fund. For the remaining $0.11, in Boston, $0.05 will be added to the Boston Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee and $0.06 will be added to hourly wages; in the Eastern Area, $0.11 will be added to hourly wages.

The new agreement also includes several language changes governing work.
--Off-site pre-fabrication of concrete forms must be performed under economic terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
--Residential weatherization work funded by federal stimulus money is now included and will be paid at wood-frame residential rates.
--Saturday, /Sunday and holiday work is now defined as regular shift duration unless prior notice is given.
--Definition of leveling plates has been clarified to apply to plates on leveling nuts as carpenters rates.
--Existing drug testing language from the 1987 agreement was clarified to require employers who wish to use the program to require lab test for reliability.

Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, who chaired the union??s negotiating committee said the agreement is fair given the economic climate.

??We met our goals of preserving the solvency of our benefit funds, getting language changes we needed and providing a little extra for the members. In these tough times, I??m very pleased both with the contract and the confidence the members have shown through the ratification vote.??

Agreement reached on RI heavy/highway contract Posted by on

On Saturday, members of Rhode Island Carpenters Local Union 94 unanimously approved a new agreement with the Construction Industries of Rhode Island for heavy and highway work. The four year agreement will provide hourly increases for total wages and benefits of $1.50 in the first year and $1.75 in the second year. Total package increases for the third and fourth year of the agreement will be the same as what is negotiated for the building agreement. A two-year agreement for building work was completed last week.

Coming soon...more negotiations
This year is a busy one for the New England Regional Council when it comes to collective bargaining. In addition to the Western Massachusetts and Rhode Island contracts, three other agreements covering four New England states are set to expire before the end of 2009. The final carpentry contract will be negotiated next year. The contracts, and their expiration dates are:
Boston/Eastern Massachusetts--September 30
Massachusetts Floorcoverers Local 2168--August 31
Northern New England(Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont)--September 30
Connecticut--May 2010

RI Strike settled Posted by on

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters and Rhode Island Local 94 released the following statement regarding a new collective bargaining agreement with Rhode Island building contractors.

This morning, members of Carpenters Local 94 of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters voted overwhelmingly to approve a new 2-year agreement negotiated with the Rhode Island Associated General Contractors and return to work immediately. The agreement provides an hourly increase in combined wages and benefits of $3.25 over two years. Of that, $1.50 will be added in the first year of the agreement and $1.75 in the second. Increases will cover rising costs of benefits with likely minimal, if any, wage hikes. The agreement covers building work only; a contract with heavy and highway contractors has not been reached and those carpenters remain on strike.

As a union we work very closely with our partners in the industry--including subcontractors, general contractors owners and developers--to stay on top of industry trends and conditions. We understand the financial troubles that are currently impacting the construction industry. That is why we worked so hard to negotiate a reasonable agreement that balances those concerns with those of rank-and-file carpenters who build the highest quality projects in Rhode Island.

The brevity of the work stoppage clearly demonstrated that neither side wanted a strike. We??re pleased that our members will be returning to work and using their skills to help employers build a better Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Carpenters strike hits press Posted by on

Two days into Rhode Island Carpenters' statewide strike against commercial and heavy/highway builders, the Providence Journal Bulletin has published a story about the impasse.

The story includes quotes from both the union and a representative of the Associated General Contractors (AGC). The union statements (included below) emphasize the need to return to the bargaining table and resume the positive, cooperative relationship the union has had with signatory contractors. Unfortunately, the AGC maintained no such level of professionalism or respect.

Eric Anderson, executive director of the Rhode Island AGC characterized union carpenters as "kids" whose strike is "nutty" and "a power play on behalf of the carpenter's union to dominate the construction industry."

Mr. Anderson apparently doesn't think union carpenters are smart enough or considerate enough to make their own decisions, telling the paper that carpenters' wives and significant others would put pressure on members to accept whatever deal management offered: "eventually we'll get to that and people will start to become more reasonable. That's what we hope will happen soon."

Union carpenters understand that a strike is not a frivolous thing. The members of Rhode Island voted by a margin of more than 400-1 to reject the last offer and strike. They didn't do it because they wanted to lose their trucks or homes anymore than contractors want to drive their businesses into the ground by sitting idle.

As is the case in many local unions around the country, union carpenters in New England are facing new collective bargaining agreements that provide very little, if anything, in the way of wage increases. Rather, carpenters are focusing on protecting health and retirement benefits. It is an unfortunate function of the current economic times. But those benefits don't only protect members, they reduce the burden on all taxpayers by lowering demand on public assistance programs.

Carpenters are not "kids" interested in pushing aside our Brothers and Sisters in the Building Trades. At the same time, the AGC's "cookie cutter" approach to negotiating and its threats to start negotiations from scratch do nothing to protect and promote positive labor relations between the union and the AGC in the future.

Mr. Anderson suggested that contractors in Rhode Island might try to keep projects on schedule by brining carpenters down from Massachusetts. But union carpenters in Massachusetts have expressed strong solidarity with their Brothers and Sisters in Rhode Island, making it unlikely members would cross state lines and union strike lines.

Members in Rhode island are encouraged to visit the story at the Providence Journal and voice their opinion on their actions in the comments section after the story. All union carpenters--no matter where they live--can voice their support for our Brothers and Sisters in Rhode Island by submitting their own comments. Go to the story on the Providence Journal's website and leave a comment in the section following the story. Remember, the paper reserves the right to delete comments it finds objectionable and rude or immature attacks do not generate support for union members. Comments are moderated and may not show up immediately. Only submit them once.

Union statement on carpenter strike in Rhode Island Posted by on

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters and Rhode Island Local 94 released the following statement regarding the current strike.

On June 20, nearly four hundred members of Carpenters Local 94 unanimously voted to reject the final offer of the Rhode Island AGC for a new collective bargaining agreement. The previous four-year agreement expired on June 7. At that time the AGC representatives were unable to determine who had the authority to bargain on behalf of the employer association, so the union agreed to a two week extension.

On Friday, June 19, employer representatives submitted a final offer which they insisted be presented to the union??s membership.

In the wake of the membership vote, the Carpenters Union stands ready to continue negotiations at any time. The Union believes it is not in the best interests of either party or the state??s construction industry to negotiate in the media and calls on the employers to return to the bargaining table and finalize a mutually acceptable contract so that carpenters across Rhode Island can return to work.

Though many union carpenters are on strike, carpenters employed on construction projects governed by project labor agreements (PLA) continue to work as well as those employed by the dozens of construction employers who have expressed a desire to continue working with the union by signing interim agreements with the union.

The Carpenters union has always enjoyed a cooperative and professional relationship with the AGC and all construction employers in the state of Rhode Island. Through cooperative training and benefit programs, we have worked to train and retain the best trades workers in the industry. It is through this partnership that union contractors have been able to produce the highest quality work at competitive prices for their clients. The Union looks forward to returning to the bargaining table and re-establishing that partnership with the AGC.

Rhode Island carpenters vote to strike Posted by on

As a result of a unanimous vote by the members attending this morning??s well attended membership meeting, Carpenters Local 94 has rejected the final offer from the AGC Labor Division and the Construction Industries of Rhode Island (the road builders) and are now on strike.

All building and heavy/highway members of Local 94 are instructed not to report to work starting on Monday June 22 until further notice. Exceptions to this are the projects at Blue Cross, Women and Infants and FM Global, which are covered by PLAs and will continue to work. Any members who have questions should call the union hall at 401-467-7070.

All stewards are to report to the union hall on Monday at 7am for instructions.

Electronic updates will be provided, through the Council Update and on as soon as negotiations resume. Rhode Island members will also receive updates through automated phone messages.

Rhose Island contract meeting Sat Posted by on

Members of Carpenters Local 94 in Rhode Island will hold a meeting to vote on current contract proposals on Saturday, June 20 at 9:00 am. The meeting will be held at Local 94's union hall at 14 Jefferson Park Road in Warwick.

The union and contractors had agreed to a two-week extension of the previous agreement, effective June 7. That extension will expire on Sunday, June 21. If members do not approve a new contract, they will vote to strike all commercial construction and heavy/highway sites beginning Monday, June 22.

Contract extended 2 weeks in RI as negotiations continue Posted by on

Contract negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement in Rhode Island between the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, Local 94 and the AGC Labor Division and the Construction Industries road builders have not been completed.

Both of the associations and the union have agreed to a two week extension, with the understanding that any increase in wages or benefits will be retroactive to June 7. As a result of this extension, the membership meeting scheduled for Sat June 6 has been canceled. Another meeting has been scheduled for Saturday June 20 at 9 am at the Carpenters Local 94 hall to consider contract proposals.

Local 108 agreement negotiated, ratified Posted by on

Members of Carpenters Local 108 in Western Massachusetts have completed negotiations on a new three-year collective bargaining agreement, which was ratified by members at a meeting on Saturday.

The agreement, reached with Construction Industry Association provides an increase in wages and benefits totaling $4.50 an hour with increases of $1.50 per year in six month increments. The first increase is 72-cents an hour and will take effect June 8th. Of the first 72-cent increase, 50 cents will be allocated to hourly pension fund contributions, 10 cents will be added to annuity fund contributions, 2 cents will be allocated to the International Training Fund and 10 cents will be added to hourly wages.

On October 5th, carpenters will see a 78-cent increase to the hourly wage and benefit package. Seventy-five cents of that will be added to hourly pension fund contributions and another 3 cents being added to hourly wages.

Additional increases of seventy-five cents will be added to the total hourly wage and benefit rates will be allocated by votes of members as they come into effect in April and October of both 2010 and 2011.

In addition to the financial increases to the agreement, several language changes were made. The sections in the agreement on "Work Description" and "Words and Phrases defined" have been reorganized to match the way work is done on a project. Other language in those sections has been cleaned up and clarified, often to make language more modern. Other changes were made to increase the continuity of language between the Western Massachusetts agreement and those in the "Eastern area" and Boston.

Article 3A, pertaining to subcontracting, was changed to add language to protect work that is traditionally performed by carpenters on the job, but which may be done off site.

A new Section 10 has been added covering Fringe Benefit Payments and other Payment Provisions that will allow for the payment of benefits to Superintendents, estimators, or other non-carpenter employees.

Also changed was the annuity payment for apprentices, which will now be based on a percentage of the rate. The change will only effect apprentices indentured after June 1 of this year. Apprentice language was also changed in relation to lay-off notices given to apprentices that need to go to attend training sessions.

The agreement was passed by a membership vote of 94%-6%.

Contract allocations to be discussed at Mass and NNE meetings Posted by on

The next contract allocation will be the subject of discussion at January monthly meetings for those locals covered by the Boston and Eastern Massachusetts agreement, the Northern New England agreement, as well as Locals 723 and 2168.

With the downturn in the financial markets in 2008, there will be an opportunity to review the impact on the New England Pension and Annuity Funds.