Monday, June 29, 2009
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
Thursday, June 25, 2009
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.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
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.
Now, more work is being done at the MFA and Thomas Crowley has appeared on the project again. He's not really there, but he's not a ghost, either. He's become a hot topic because he left behind a note in a wall, which was recently discovered by Laborer Rick Brendemuehl who was demolishing that same wall.
Now one of the MFAs historians and directors is trying to find out more about Thomas F Crowley.
Have you ever left anything behind on a job or somewhere you've lived, hoping someone would find it years later?
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.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
In January 2009, the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division received a complaint from the Arlington Housing Authority alleging that Phat’s Hardwood Floor failed to submit certified payroll records for work performed on the Menotomy Manor Housing project from March 2008 through December 2008. Employers who work on public works projects are required under state law to submit weekly certified payroll records to the appropriate awarding authority. The Records Keeping Laws allow state agencies to monitor the spending of taxpayer funds on public construction projects. Phat’s Hardwood Floor was performing hardwood flooring and sanding work as a subcontractor for CTA Construction, Inc., a South Boston-based general contractor, on the project.
Investigators reviewed the company’s certified payroll records which were submitted to the Town in January 2009, nearly nine months late, and discovered inconsistencies with the records which were provided by Arlington’s project managers. The Town Manager’s logs showed that the company had more employees working at the job site than were listed on the certified payroll records.
Last week, another CTA subcontractor, Garcia Drywall, reached a settlement agreement with the Massachusetts Attorney General in regards to complaints that the company failed to properly pay prevailing wages and overtime to carpenters employees. Twenty-six carpenters who worked for Garcia on projects in Dartmouth, Boston and Chelsea Massachusetts will be paid $41,600 in restitution. Garcia Drywall, Inc. and its president, Emanuel Garcia, agreed to pay over more than $18,000 in fines for intentionally violating Prevailing Wage and Overtime and Record Keeping Laws. In addition, Garcia and his company have agreed to a one-year debarment, which prevents them from bidding on any public construction projects, as well as from accepting any contracts for public work for a one-year period in the Commonwealth.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
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 NERCCBlog.com as soon as negotiations resume. Rhode Island members will also receive updates through automated phone messages.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Highlights include more than $1.4m recovered, more than 400 agency investigations and a cooperative relationship developed between 17 state agencies that now work on the Task Force.
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.
My name is Mark Erlich and I am the head of the 22,000 member New England regional Council of Carpenters.
I want to start by thanking Governor Patrick for establishing this task force 15 months ago in order to shine a light on our commonwealth’s growing underground economy.
Some 20 years ago, a number of construction employers began to label their employees as "independent contractors", thereby avoiding legally obligated tax payments and costly workers compensation premiums in order to cut costs and gain a competitive advantage.
By the late 1990s, the economic boom increased demand for workers in the Massachusetts building industry, and our region witnessed an influx of immigrant workers, many of whom were undocumented.
Employers who had been willing to cheat through misclassification now realized they could take advantage of this new workforce. They simply began to pay in cash, off the books and under the table. In many parts of our industry, particularly the private non-union construction sector, this approach has become standard practice and the current recession has only exacerbated the situation.
Construction is a straight-forward business of labor and materials. Since materials are generally the same for all bidders, companies can only undercut one another with higher productivity or lower labor costs. But if a company can cheat the state and federal government as well as insurance companies--and get away with it--they have successfully gamed the system.
How bad is the problem? It’s impossible to measure precisely because much of this economic activity is unreported. One study claimed that the shadow or underground economy in the US grew by 28% between 1990 and 2003. a 2005 Bear Stearns report suggested that the overall underground economy was nearly $3 trillion a year, nearly 9% of our GNP.
What is the impact? You will hear testimony from contractors who will explain that they cannot compete on such an un-level playing field. Last year, an area drywall contractor informed his workers that he was putting them back on the books after years of misclassifying them as independent contractors as a result, wages were cut by 30%--a figure that I believe constitutes a "fraud index."
The impact on state and federal revenues is even more severe. the current estimate of the "tax gap" is $290 billion and an IRS spokesman says 30% of this is attributable to misclassification. The GAO suggests misclassification reduces federal income tax revenues by up to $4.7 billion. And these staggering numbers only reflect payments by employers who are still filing some form of paperwork. Losses from those who keep a workforce completely off the books cannot even begin to be measured. at a time of massive federal and state budgets deficits, we are cutting crucial public services while these dollars remain largely uncollected.
But there is also a human side of this public policy crisis. Companies that cheat on taxes and workers compensation premiums are more likely to cut corners and expose their workers to unnecessary risks and dangers. A New York study reported a 40% increase in construction fatalities in 2006 compared to the previous five years, a spike that the authors attributed to practices in the underground economy.
Oscar Pintado is an example. This 27 year old died on a 450-unit residential project in Woburn. The builder, AvalonBay communities, a giant Virginia-based development firm, had been cited by OSHA for failure to meet fall protection standards on other projects. Pintado fell 45 feet down an elevator shaft as he stepped on and broke a piece of sub-standard particle board. Pintado worked for National Carpentry Contractors, a large framing contractor that claims it has no employees -- just 150 independent contractors. National Carpentry told OSHA inspectors that Pintado worked for an entity that did not exist and whose alleged owner conveniently disappeared and has not been located since the fatality. Pintado was, of course, paid in cash and, therefore, his family was not eligible for any benefits or compensation.
Until this situation is corrected, taxpayers and legitimate companies will continue to pay an enormous price for wanton law-breaking. And there are also the thousands and perhaps millions of Oscar Pintados working on construction sites in this country. Some are citizens, some are here illegally, but all of them are invisible victims of this nation’s shadow economy.
Those of us who live and work in Massachusetts are fortunate that we have a governor and an attorney general who understand this issue and have made heightened enforcement of the commonwealth’s laws a priority.
The current economic climate only makes the need for action in this arena more urgent. With construction unemployment over 20% and projects few and far between, the impetus to cheat is heightened in order to gain an edge in today’s brutally competitive environment.
Finally, we should remember that funds for enforcement in this arena should not be cut because the additional revenues that are collected for the commonwealth far outweigh the expenditures on enforcement staff.
Last night, WBZ-CBS4 in Boston did a piece on the underground economy and it's impact on Massachusetts' workers and economy. Kurt Englesen, owner of union woodframe company Northwing Construction pointed one of the non-financial problems of the underground economy, lack of safety protections. The story can not be embedded on our site, but is viewable online here.
It was also covered by 90.9 WBUR, Boston's NPR affiliate.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Although more projects may be chosen later, the ones already approved include not only SouthField in Weymouth and Assembly Square, but a new business park in Fall River that will recruit biotech companies, the Westwood Station project, and Waterfront Square at Revere Beach.
The state’s immediate goal is to start work in the current construction season, with the first five projects receiving $20 million to $60 million in public works improvements. Patrick officials expect to officially an nounce the funding commitments over the coming.
"The projects we will be announcing will change the way we grow and develop over the next 10 years,’’ said Gregory Bialecki, the Massachusetts secretary of housing and economic development. "What we’re trying to do is create the places that will be our new employment centers.’’
On June 15, 2009, Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, gave a tour of the Carpenters Center to Frank Spencer, Eastern District Vice President of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
The New England Regional Council of Carpenters will hold the 2009 Apprenticeship Contest and Expo on October 1-3, 2009, at the New England Carpenters Training Center located at 13 Holman Road, Millbury, MA.
The best of the best will compete in the following categories:
· Interior Finish/Cabinet Install
· Interior Systems/Drywall
· Concrete Forms
Demonstrations will held in the following areas:
· Mill Cabinet
On Friday, October 2, vocational school students and instructors will be given guided tours of the facilities and will observe contestants working on their projects and giving demonstrations. If a school in your area is interested in attending the Expo, please have them contact Cathy Fenton at 508-792-5443 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year’s reception and awards banquet will be held on October 3, 2009, at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster Street, Worcester, MA.
Garcia Drywall, Inc. and its president, Emanuel Garcia, have agreed to pay over more than $18,000 in fines for intentionally violating Prevailing Wage and Overtime and Record Keeping Laws. In addition, Garcia and his company have agreed to a one-year debarment, which prevents them from bidding on any public construction projects, as well as from accepting any contracts for public work for a one-year period in the Commonwealth.
The AG’s investigation began in January when they received a complaint that employees weren’t being paid the prevailing rate.
Investigator’s from the AG’s Fair Labor Division reviewed a self-audit prepared by the company and discovered that the company had misclassified 26 employees at four public construction sites, including: two projects at UMass-Dartmouth; the Massport State Police Station at Logan Airport; and the Prattville Apartments in Chelsea.
Additionally, Garcia Drywall failed to submit certified payroll records to the awarding authorities at these job sites. Investigators also discovered that the company failed to pay time and a half to employees for working more than 40 hours in a work week.
Click here to read the Attorney General’s Press Release.
The New Bedford Standard Times reported on the AG’s filing today. The Herald News also ran a story in today’s paper.
Many news sites allow readers to post comments about a story. Reader comments may appear beneath the story with a form for submitting more comments. Members are encouraged to use this feature and express their feelings about stories they read online concerning union and construction issues. Remember these are public forums, so be direct, but respectful of others. Site editors do reserve the right to remove comments they find objectionable.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Photo credit: Quincy Patriot Ledger
*Post updated 6/15/09
Carpenters in Massachusetts are in mourning following the tragic death of Brother Paul Pinto in a fishing accident.
Pinto joined Pile Drivers Local 56 nine years ago, transferring his book to Carpenters Local 624 in 2004. His is also a veteran commercial fisherman. His stepson, John Goggin, is an apprentice with Local 56.
Brother Pinto, 56, named his boat “Distant Cries” in honor of his son, Chris, who wrote frequent letters home during his two tours in Iraq. Pinto was killed when a pulley mechanism for the fishing boat’s dredge broke, causing a block to fall and strike him in the head. The boat was out 10 miles off the coast of Plymouth’s Gurnet Point when the accident happened.
The Plymouth harbormaster received a distress call from the first mate reporting that its captain had suffered a severe head injury. The Coast Guard dispatched a 25-foot response boat from Scituate and diverted two helicopters that were on a training exercise off Gloucester and Newburyport. The boat was the first to arrive at the scene, followed by the helicopters. One of the helicopters lowered a litter to pick up the injured fisherman.
Two rescue swimmers from the helicopter and crew members from the boat helped bring the litter onto the boat. Pinto was flown to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Pinto is survived by his sons, Christopher Pinto of Wareham and John Goggin of Carver; his daughters, Hillary Knight , Shelli-Rose McNamara and Emily Doss, all of Watertown and Meghan Francis of W. Warwick, RI. He was the loving brother of Lebon Pinto of Plymouth. He was the cherished grandfather of Tatum Knight, Riley Doss, Andrew Francis and Kaydence Pinto. Mr. Pinto also leaves his fiancée, Pam Weatherbee of Plymouth with whom he made his home.
A Mass will be celebrated at St. Mary Church in Plymouth on Tuesday morning, June 16th at 10:00 a.m. Friends may call at the Cartmell Funeral Home, 150 Court St., Plymouth on Tuesday from 8:45 to 9:45 a.m. Burial will follow at Vine Hills Cemetery, Plymouth.
We offer our condolences to the family, friends and union brothers and sisters mourning the tragic loss of Paul.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Crawford might well be the best educated motorcycle mechanic in the country. He holds PhD in Political Philosophy from the University of Chicago, but after a post doctoral fellowship and a stint as the executive director of a Washington, D.C. policy group, he realized simpler things made him happier.
He now owns a motorcycle repair shop in Richmond, Virginia where he finds satisfaction puzzling through repairs of "Japanese and European motorcycles, mostly older bikes with some 'vintage' cachet that makes people willing to spend money on them."
Academic pursuits have not been abandoned completely by Crawford, who is a fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. In fact, the bridging of his two pursuits goes to the root of his well-received book and essay.
High-school shop-class programs were widely dismantled in the 1990s as educators prepared students to become "knowledge workers." The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. This has not come to pass. To begin with, such work often feels more enervating than gliding. More fundamentally, now as ever, somebody has to actually do things: fix our cars, unclog our toilets, build our houses.
When we praise people who do work that is straightforwardly useful, the praise often betrays an assumption that they had no other options. We idealize them as the salt of the earth and emphasize the sacrifice for others their work may entail. Such sacrifice does indeed occur--the hazards faced by a lineman restoring power during a storm come to mind. But what if such work answers as well to a basic human need of the one who does it? I take this to be the suggestion of Marge Piercy’s poem "To Be of Use," which concludes with the lines "the pitcher longs for water to carry/and a person for work that is real." Beneath our gratitude for the lineman may rest envy.
It's possible that Crawford's book may be a bit involved for most casual readers--parts of his NYTimes Magazine piece suggests that might be so--but Francis Fukuyama's review of the book in the Times boils it down very well. And Crawford's argument--that the ability to use skill and problem solving to complete physical tasks rather than processing thoughts--is one that carpenters will appreciate and welcome.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Below is an article that ran in the paper last Saturday. The Telegram and Gazette, like many news sites, allows readers to post comments about a story. Reader comments may appear beneath the story with a form for submitting more comments. There have been more than 75 comments made about this article on the site, many of them very negative toward unions. Members are encouraged to use the comment feature and express their feelings about the story. Remember these are public forums, so be direct, but respectful of others. Site editors do reserve the right to remove comments they find objectionable. Members are encouraged to visit the site and add their opinions.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
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.
I've had a blog going at The Patriot Ledger for several months now. Well, I've finally figured out how to carve out the time to post at least five items a week. So I figured it was as good a time as any to draw your attention to the blog in case you haven't seen it already.
Jon's done several columns in recent years about the construction industry, including the problems tied to misclassification of workers. You can check out Jon's blog at MassMarketBlog.com
The public hearing will be held Friday, June 19 from 10 am to 12 noon in Lecture Hall C202, Second Floor C Building, Bunker Hill Community College.
The Task Force is welcoming attendance and testimony and comments from general public, businesses, labor organizations, and community groups.
Find out directions, RSVP info and other details here.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
As reported in the Boston Business Journal:
The “topping off” as it is called, was held in Dorchester where the 75,000-square-foot facility is being constructed. The carpenters are converting an abandoned two-story industrial building next to Interstate 93 into a trade school that will train 2,000 students a year. The building will also house union offices, a bank and an eye care center for union members.
Those in attendance included council officials and the contractor, Suffolk Construction, as well as the architect, ADD Inc., and engineers RDK Engineers and Goldstein-Milano Structural Engineering and trade workers.
The New England Regional Council of Carpenters has been looking for a site to accommodate a new headquarters for the past decade. The building is scheduled for completion in January.
The story was also covered in Building Design and Construction.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
The State of Connecticut passed legislation giving the Department of Labor the authority to issue Stop Work orders because of the alarming increase of construction workers who were not covered in one of the most dangerous occupational fields.
Construction companies often fail to provide workers’ compensation coverage to workers as part of a scheme to reduce their operating costs and gain an competitive advantage over their competitors. It is commonly part of a strategy where workers are misclassified as "1099" independent contractors rather than employees. Taking the name of the IRS form issued by employers to legitimate independent contractors , 1099s do not have proper state and federal taxes deducted from their pay and are not covered by unemployment insurance.
The result of the practice is often tragic, with workers seriously injured and unable to pay medical bills. The strain extends to legitimate employers and taxpayers who end up paying higher premiums and higher taxes to cover government-provided services.
To view the list of contractors issued Stop Work orders, which will be regularly updated,visit this link. In addition to the contractor’s name, the list includes the site where the order was issues, the date it was issued and the date it was released, where applicable.
Monday, June 1, 2009
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%.