Tuesday, December 6, 2011

This blog has moved!

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters has launched a brand new website at NERCC.org. All blog posts by NERCC will now be posted and viewable at NERCC.org/blog.

We hope you'll check out the site and some of the exciting new features, including:

·       Meet Our Community”: Union members speak about their experiences in the union. This section will also highlight contractors, developers and others in the construction industry and neighborhoods with whom NERCC works throughout New England.
·        Our Work”: A photo and video portfolio of projects in different geographic markets and industry segments to display the full range of work done by union carpenters with signatory general contractors and subcontractors.
·        Video Gallery”: Check out videos produced by NERCC staff of various union activities including community service projects, training programs, workers’ rights activities, and project profiles.
·       Find Your Local Search: Find a Local by entering the Local Union number or searching by zip code. This Local search function is found at the top of every page on the site.
·       Our union, our site – there are opportunities throughout the site for members to share information and suggest ideas for new content on the site. Members should look for various forms throughout the site, including:
o    Share a Story - read an interesting story on the blog? Why not share it with a friend?
o    Submit a Story - have an idea for blog content? Let us know!
o   Invite a Friend - let a friend know about an upcoming event you’ll be attending.
o   Contact Us - give us your feedback and let us know what you think of the new site.
o   Nominate Someone - know a union member with a story to tell? Let us know about him/her!
o   Nominate a Project - are you currently (or have you recently finished) working on a project that you think would make a good portfolio piece? Fill us in!

The site features plenty of information about our industry-leading training programs, our efforts to maintain decent standards for the industry and how people can work with us to build a better future. 

 We hope you will take some time to look around, learn a little more about our unions efforts, and help us spread the word by sharing NERCC.org.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

NERCCs new site is now live!

Right to Work is Wrong for New Hampshire!

Right to work supporters are planning a major event in Concord on Wednesday to coincide with a vote on Right to Work legislation for New Hampshire. There are rumors that Republican Presidential Candidates will attend this rally.

We have beaten back this efforts before and need to do it again. But we need to ensure that our voices are heard and our faces are seen. Please join us Wednesday at 8am in front of the State House for a demonstration in support of workers, in support of unions and against Right to Work.

Again, that’s this Wednesday, November 30 at 8am in front of the State House in Concord. Thank you.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Yale project gets New Haven OK

Union carpenters in Connecticut will get a boost as New Haven just approved a $600 million project for Yale to build two residential colleges. Construction is set to begin next summer and finish in 2015.

Turner Construction is the Project Manager for Phase One. Demolition on the site was performed by Manafort Brothers. Donaldson and CJ Fucci did piledriving and retainage work. All work will be done by union contractors, with bids for remaining work due in January.

The project will include living spaces, dining halls, libraries and academic and recreational spaces for an additional 800 students, according to a story in the New Haven Register. They will be the 13th and 14th "residential colleges" for Yale.

Carpenters Center to host NEFCA conference

The NorthEast Flooring Contracting Association is holding its annual Expo at the Carpenters Center in Boston on November 30 from 5:30-8:30 pm. The Expo will feature more than 40 of the top suppliers in the industry and address important topics, including: --New finish products in all flooring surfaces. --Products for preparation, including moisture mitigation leveling and finish installation. --Demonstrations of new innovations and techniques for proper preparation and installation. For more information or to attend the event, contact Jim Spiro at NEFCA by email at jimspiro@nefca.us.

Court: Universal Drywall misclassified, owes $300k to insurance company

A Massachusetts Superior Court judge has found that Universal Drywall routinely misclassified carpenters as so-called independent contractors and failed to properly purchase workers compensation coverage. The practice meant that its insurance carrier, Travelers Property Casualty Company of America was defrauded out of more than $327,000 in premiums.

The decision brings to an end a case involving work that Universal Drywall performed on some Massachusetts sites, including Brooksby Village in Peabody, Linden Ponds in Hingham, Sherburne Commons in Nantucket and Arbor Point in Burlington. It did not cover work that Universal--an Auburn, New Hampshire-based company--performed in other New England states or at other times in Massachusetts.

Universal Drywall, which is owned and run by Richard Pelletier and Real Tanguay, is well known to the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. The union has spoken to carpenters on many sites in the region who have told they were classified as "1099s." The company attempted to protect itself from misclassification enforcement by having carpenters sign "contracts," but the court found that the company's extensive control and direction of the workers and their work meant they were employees and premiums for workers compensation were owed to Travelers.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Why should the "haves" care about the "have nots"?

There's plenty of reasons the "haves" should care about the "have nots." They're not all humanitarian, moral or have anything to do with preventing a violent revolution. Richard Wilkinson gives a very informative, but easy to understand 15 minute talk about the increased problems faced by everyone in countries with greater income inequality compared to people living in countries with lower levels of income inequality.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Carpenters demonstrate in the cradle of liberty

Carpenters have taken to the cobblestones to demonstrate against Dave Matthews Construction twice recently. The company, which is being used to renovate several floors of a building adjacent to historic Faneuil Hall in Quincy Market, does not pay area standard wages and benefits for carpenters. The protest drew the attention of tourists and natives alike, reminding them that the first step toward liberty is exposing injustice.

Bouchard responds to Jay Peak article

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Bryan Bouchard, a Vermonter and a Regional Manager for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. It is in response to an article published in the Boston Globe on October 25. An edited version was printed in the Globe today.

"There are serious concerns about the short and long term impacts created by the current “greenbacks for green cards” model being used at Jay Peak. The desperate grab for any cash, from anywhere needs to be tempered to make sure the investment actually does lasting good for Vermonters.

"Are we selling citizenship for the promise of more low wage work? Many of the jobs at Jay Peak will be the kind people say “Americans won’t do”. But they are permanent low-wage jobs. For Americans to benefit from permanent jobs at Jay Peak, each single worker will have to take two or three of them; one clearing tables, one handing out towels and one emptying trash cans to make ends meet.

"Program administrators should also be wary of the seedy side of the construction industry. Increasingly, local, skilled trade workers and subcontractors that employ them are being put out of business by contractors who carry a workforce with them across state and national borders or ignore any reasonable standards. This project has utilized carpentry sub-contractors form Maine and New Hampshire that utilize these type of practices.

"This project has failed out of the gate to ensure decent family supporting jobs, it is hard to believe that anyone would claim the long term result would be any different."

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

LETTER-There's a reason REO was supported by so many

Despite the legal fist pounding and finger pointing recently, Mayor Flanagan and the City Council should be applauded for their efforts to support a Responsible Employer Ordinance in Fall River.

As a lifelong resident of Fall River, I was raised to believe that if you worked hard in America you could earn a living wage, have health care, own a home, maybe send your kids to college and retire with dignity. Now we are expected to sit idly by while every last part of the American dream is sacrificed on the altar of low prices and high profits?

REOs can and do play an important role in screening bidders seeking to build with taxpayer dollars. They allow cities and towns to pre-empt embarrassing investigations and slap on the wrist sanctions against bad actors after the damage has already been done to the industry. It was passed after construction at four schools in the city were the subject of complaints, investigations and violations by contractors.

As a union, we believe our training programs create a skilled workforce that builds higher quality projects. We believe health care is an important benefit for workers, and also reduces a future financial burden of all taxpayers. We believe these factors, combined with the relationships and mutual understanding developed between our union and union contradictors through collective bargaining, provide a better value for the construction dollar.

To the extent that municipalities believe in craft training, health care and other values, they may set certain standards for those who want to bid on work. Unfortunately, that effort was challenged and thrown out by people who do not live in Fall River, do not invest in Fall River’s future and have not experienced the steady decline of opportunity for Fall River natives.

Make no mistake; the REO did not prohibit nonunion contractors from bidding on or performing work. Simply reading the ordinance makes it clear that the intent was to protect standards for construction workers and Fall River taxpayers. That’s why it received such widespread support from both Mayor Flanagan and Ms. Viveiros, when it was proposed.

As a Fall River native and someone who has make his living in the construction industry, I thank Mayor Flanagan and others for continuing their support for decent standards in our city.

Ron Rheaume
Business manager, New England Regional Council of Carpenters
Local Union 1305
Fall River

This letter was published in the Fall River Herald News on November 1 and is open for comments.

Monday, October 31, 2011

CTA gets more bad press

After the Billerica Minuteman's piece on problems at the Parker School, the Lowell Sun has now published a piece on the controversy surrounding the use of a debarred contractors and the owner of a debarred contractor working on site for a new company apparently started by his wife.

CTA's supervision of the project and the poor work done as a result was the subject of a scathing letter by the principal of an engineering firm hired to work on the project.

The lack of oversight and avoidance of accountability is hard to accept in the current economy. How many honest contractors who employ local workers are pushed aside and struggle to keep their doors open when owners and general contractors allow these practices to occur?

Earlier post on this project.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Short film "The Carpenter"

A Greek artists group named Deep Green Sea produced and posted this short film titled "The Carpenter." It was directed by Dimitris Ladopoulos and Spiros Rasidakis and features carpenter Vironas Papadakis.

The opening sequence features the following text:
A carpenter is a skilled craftsperson who works with timber to construct, install and maintain buildings, furniture and other objects. The work, known as carpentry, may involve manual labor and work outdoors. A cabinetmaker is a carpenter who does fine and detailed work specializing in the making of cabinets made from wood, wardrobes, dressers, storage chests and other furniture designed for storage."

The Carpenter from Dimitris Ladopoulos on Vimeo.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Billerica's issues with CTA publicized

The Billerica Minuteman has published a story today detailing some serious issues experienced during construction of the Parker Elementary School currently being built by CTA Construction.

The paper today published details of a letter sent by an engineering firm on the project regarding shoddy work, poor management and apparent disregard for inspections and corrective suggestions made by those overseeing the project.

Mehul Dhruv, the Principal of Engineers Design Group wrote to the project's architect that they were "extremely concerned with the performance of the General Contractor, their sub-contractors and the quality of their work."

At issue at that time was largely foundation work that was done in cold weather without proper protections which EDG described as "blatant disregard to various requirements and details on the contract documents" and failure "to correct the deficiencies brought to their attention."

Dhruv wrote that CTA "failed to provide any protection against cold weather to the green concrete and subgrade for foundations." The work the contractor did do Dhruv described as "absolutely not acceptable, it violates all the requirements of ACI Cold Weather Protection requirements, violates the contractor's submitted plan for cold weather protection and is totally inadequate in protecting the concrete against cold weather."

Members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters have been asking questions in town with a 20-foot banner asking "Is the Paker School Safe?" It's a question that concerned Dhruv, as well who wrote that his company was "extremely concerned with the quality of the work performed by the contractor."

Dhruv noted that in addition to shoddy work, the contractor may have been trying to avoid or ignore suggestions that there were problems. "The contractor has not provided adequate time or notice for inspections, leaving insufficient time for correcting the deficiencies noted by the inspector."

It's hard to imagine the very strongly worded letter from the Principal of the engineering company to the Senior Vice President of the Architectural firm was the first attempt to address the issues with CTA and the shoddy work.

Not included in the story is the fact that one of the companies CTA hired to work on the project is prohibited from doing public work. Action Floors was debarred from bidding on or performing any public work for a period of three years in 2009 by the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents. (see line 3607 of linked spreadsheet)

Billerica Town Manager John Curran issued a statement claiming that any and all deficiencies found by the engineering firm were addressed before construction continued. The question remains how fully they were resolved and at what cost to Billerica taxpayers. And given CTA's apparent blatant disregard for oversight, project quality and acceptance of oversight, it remains to be seen if other letters will come out detailing similar problems with later stages of the project.

Carpenters will also be watching to see how Billerica treats CTA when it comes to grading them on the project. Only two years ago, Fox25 ran an investigative piece about contractors who do shoddy work but get passing grades by essentially blackmailing cities and towns.

Story link: MyFoxBOSTON.com

Wentworth Info session to be held in Millbury

On Saturday, November 5, 2011, representatives from Wentworth Institute of Technology will be hosting an informational session at the New England Carpenters Training Center (NECTC) located at 13 Holman Road, Millbury, MA. Representatives from Wentworth will be discussing their associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs for Construction Management. The program is now being offered at the NECTC and the Boston Training Center, 750 Dorchester Ave, Boston.

The information session will cover registration, fees, and the various courses offered. Members will have the opportunity to ask questions. Representatives will be on hand to assist any member interested in registering for the program that day.

This specially tailored program allows members to transfer up to 22 credits from apprenticeship training and journeyman upgrade courses that have been accredited by Wentworth. Members also receive a 33% discount off the normal tuition rates. To learn more about the program click here.

The session will begin at 9:00 am. Meals will be served.

Please contact the NECTC at 508-792-5443 if you are planning to attend.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mainebiz Momentum Convention

NERCC and the New England Carpenters Labor Management Program will be at the Mainebiz Momentum Convention in Augusta, Maine this Thursday, October 20, to talk about how union carpenters and contractors are the best joint venture in the construction industry.

If you're in the area, stop by the Augusta Civic Center and visit us in the exhibit hall between 8:30-5:00 pm.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Congress passes three more trade agreements

Three trade agreements opposed by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters were passed by the United States House of Representatives this week without sufficient protections for workers in the US and abroad. The passage of the three agreements--with South Korea, Panama and Columbia--continues a two-decade trend of trade agreements that have each cost American workers hundreds of thousands of jobs, increased our trade deficit and made it easier and more profitable for corporations to abuse workers in low-wage, regulation-free countries.

UBC General President Doug McCarron urged Congress not to pass the three pending agreements, detailing specific problems that would result from each of them.

The New England delegation to Congress, dominated by Democrats, voted largely against the agreements, though not unanimously. Representatives Jim McGovern, Barney Frank, John Tierney, Ed Markey, Mike Capuano, Stephen Lynch and Bill Keating from Massachusetts voted no on all three proposed agreements. Both Representatives David Cicilline and Jim Langevin from Rhode Island voted no on all three, as did Maine's delegation of Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud. Representatives Joe Courtney, Rosa DeLauro and Chris Murphy also voted against passage of the three agreements.

Representatives John Olver, Richie Neal and Niki Tsongas of Massachusetts, Representative Peter Welch from Vermont and Representative John Larson from Connecticut all voted to pass the proposed agreement with Panama. Neal and Larson also supported the South Korean agreement.

The only Republican Representatives from New England--Representatives Frank Guinta and Charlie Bass from New Hampshire voted in support of all three agreements. Democratic Representative Jim Himes from Connecticut also voted in favor of all three agreements.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Maine Carpenters help expand travel options

Congratulations to union carpenters who recently completed construction on the expanded Portland Jetport. The building, which is receiving rave reviews, opened this weekend. It will greatly expand the capacity for travel to and from Maine. New England Cable News reported on the project.

Watch this at NECN

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

IRS, US DOL to cooperate with state enforcement on misclassification

The United States Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service yesterday signed Memorandums of Understanding with seven states to increase compliance with laws governing how workers should be classified and paid. Massachusetts and Connecticut were among the states participating. The efforts will focus on both education of employees and increased efficiency of enforcement through information-sharing between state and federal agencies, according to a DOL press release.

Wage theft and the misclassification of workers at so-called independent contractors has been a growing problem in the construction industry and others. Employers use the tactic to avoid proper payment of payroll taxes, unemployment and workers' compensation insurance. The practice is particularly troubling in the construction industry, where companies that play by the rules are put at a significant advantage during competitive bidding.

The effort expands the model used in numerous states, including five of the six New England states, where multiple agencies work together on a task force to ensure violations of some laws aren't allowed to pass because they do not fall under the jurisdiction of the agency that happens to be investigating.

News coverage
Associated Press

Resources on the issue of misclassification and wage theft:
Wage theft stories on NERCCBlog.
1099 and Misclassification stories on NERCCBlog.
National comprehensive resource page.