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Carpenters Center Groundbreaking Ceremony Posted by on

As reported in the Boston Globe.

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters broke ground yesterday on a new office building that will house its headquarters and a training center in Dorchester.

The 24,000-member union will transform an existing industrial building at 750 Dorchester Ave. into offices, a bank, and an eye care center for its membership. The building will also include a trade school that will train about 2,000 students a year.

The 75,000-square-foot facility is expected to be completed by early 2010.

The Carpenters Center has its very own blog, where you can follow progress of the project. There is also a link on the right side of this page.

Carpenters Center Groundbreaking Ceremony Posted by on

As reported in the Boston Globe.

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters broke ground yesterday on a new office building that will house its headquarters and a training center in Dorchester.

The 24,000-member union will transform an existing industrial building at 750 Dorchester Ave. into offices, a bank, and an eye care center for its membership. The building will also include a trade school that will train about 2,000 students a year.

The 75,000-square-foot facility is expected to be completed by early 2010.

Conn AG supports workers in suit against National Carpentry Posted by on

Conn AG supports workers in suit against National Carpentry
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal yesterday joined immigrant workers who are suing National Carpentry to recover thousands of dollars in wages they are owed. Thirty-four workers were not properly paid for work they performed for National on a luxury condo development in Stamford.

NERCC Organizers in several states have been watching and chasing National Carpentry in an attempt to protect workers and companies doing business with National. In the last decade, they have been one of the largest nonunion woodframe contractors in the region, but with very shady business practices. They have been a subcontractor for Avalon Bay, one of the largest residential developers in the country. The company has taken advantage of the "coyote" system to hire and move crews of easily exploitable immigrant workers. Workers are hired through various layers in an attempt to shield National from employer responsibilities.

In addition to their hiring and payment practices, the company has a troubling record when it comes to safety. In 2007, Oscar Pintado, a National Carpentry employee working on an Avalon Bay job in Woburn, fell 45 feet down and elevator shaft and was killed. National essentially disavowed Pintado, claiming he worked for another subcontractor. The fall was a result of inadequate safety procedures and came not long after OSHA had issued significant fines against the company for similar violations on another job in the area.

The Connecticut Department of Labor has been investigating the company since last year and has issued several Stop Work orders for the company??s failure to meet legal requirements. John Kirk, owner of National Carpentry, also faces unrelated criminal charges stemming from an assault on the Stamford jobsite.

At a press conference with the workers yesterday, Blumenthal said:

"Today's action requires courage and integrity by immigrants, overcoming fears about their own safety and security, to report wrongdoing. Whether or not they were actually undocumented, their employer perceived them as vulnerable and thought they could be exploited.

"The employer egregiously exploited its workers, hopeful or certain that they would be reluctant to report abuse for fear of retaliation or other consequences. Despite its promises, this company paid its workers less -- and sometimes nothing at all -- for physically draining 70-hour work weeks.

"These reprehensible practices allegedly jeopardized lives and livelihood -- denying hundreds of workers fair wages and employment opportunities. My office is working closely with state labor officials, who share my concerns, to prepare appropriate state action.

"Even if employees are undocumented, they are still protected by state and federal laws that require fair treatment of employees. We will fight vigorously to uphold the law in this case -- and others when employers prey on vulnerable men and women. Substandard pay or working conditions for some workers affects all workplaces."

A full press release from the Attorney General??s office can be read here.

What's next? Posted by on

The NERCC presence in cyberspace is growing. It's been many years since we created a website. About two years ago we started sending Council Updates to staff, delegates and local union officers by email. Since July, we've been playing with this Blog thing. We haven't really let anyone know it's here yet, but maybe soon.

The latest front in the effort to reach out to members, prospective members and the general public. I've generated a Facebook profile for myself and started a Facebook "group" for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. They both link back to our will have more content and news as we go.

Check it out. Generate a profile, then search for and join the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

--Bert Durand

TAGS: Community, Nercc, Ubc

In defense of American workers Posted by on

Bob Herbert, an Opinion writer for the New York Times, makes a stirring defense of American workers and the lack of respect they receive. He uses teachers and UAW members as examples of workers who have done more for less and yet continue to be asked to do even more, for even less.

Working men and women are not getting the credit they deserve for the jobs they do without squawking every day, for the hardships they are enduring in this downturn and for the collective effort they are willing to make to get through the worst economic crisis in the U.S. in decades.

Members who have taken C.O.M.E.T or B.U.I.L.D. will recognize some of the following concepts.
The economic downturn, however severe, should not be used as an excuse to send American workers on a race to the bottom, where previously middle-class occupations take a sweatshop??s approach to pay and benefits.

The entire column is worth reading and sharing.

MASS AG hits cheaters from Mass, NH Posted by on

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's office has announced the settlement of two cases that will result in two companies paying carpenters more than $130,000 in owed wages and fines in excess of $24,000 in fines and penalties.

According to an AG Office press release, Charles J. Morris of Norwood, and his company, CJM Services, Inc., have agreed to pay $15,000 in fines and a total of $109,069.56 in restitution to seven employees for violations of prevailing wage laws and overtime laws at numerous public work sites. Morris and CJM have agreed to pay a $7,000 fine for payroll records violations and are debarred from bidding on public construction work in Massachusetts for nine months.

Alexis Construction, and its manger, James Darrah, of Manchester, NH, were also cited for failing to properly pay workers and keep records. They were ordered to pay nearly $28,000 in restitution to seven employees and over $9,000 in penalties to the state. The Attorney General's office investigated the company in response to a complaint from an employee who called the office's hotline to report that he hadn't been paid for work done at the Lexington Department of Public Works.

The Attorney General's Fair Labor Division is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage and overtime laws, and the payment of wages laws in the Commonwealth. Workers who believe that these laws may have been violated in their workplace are encouraged to call the Attorney General's Fair Labor Hotline at (617) 727-3465. More information about the wage and hour laws is also available in multiple languages at the Attorney General's Workplace Rights website.

Union carpenters, contractor spread some holiday spirit Posted by on

Members of Carpenters Local 67 recently partnered with union contractor Commodore Builders to help a WWII veteran in need. John MacPherson, a Normandy combat vet from Boston, was having a difficult time paying all of his bills. The NBC Nightly News did a story last month about how he had to make regular decisions about whether to pay the utility bills or buy food. Help streamed in from across the country in the form of financial contributions and offers to help secure him better benefits.

Union Carpenters and Commodore Builders eagerly jumped in to help through the Americans for Veterans Organization. Commodore Builders donated materials, supplies, and equipment and the manpower was donated by Local members. The group of volunteers included journeymen, apprentices, stewards, and some Veterans who joined the union through the Helmets to Hardhats program.

Carpenters did some basic weatherization on John's house to help keep the heating bills under control. In the spring they will return to install replacement windows and complete some other projects.

The UBC has strong ties to the armed forces, with many members themselves being veterans and many more coming into the union through the popular Helmets to Hardhats program. Helmets to Hardhats is a partnership between building trades unions and the armed services to help veterans get training and employment through unions after their service is complete.

Last night, NBC News ran a follow-up story on John and the folks who have come to his assistance. They visited John on the day union carpenters and Commodore were there doing their work. You can watch the video below.

What do we have to offer? Posted by on

Why should an owner or developer hire union carpenters, employed by union contractors? Take a look.

2009 NERCC Scholarship guidelines announced Posted by on

The Scholarship Sub-Committee of the Council has established the guidelines for the eligibility, application, and awarding of scholarships for 2009. They are encouraging each Local to make the guidelines available at the next regular meeting and post a copy on the Local??s bulletin board. The guidelines are listed below and will also be available in the news section of the Council website.

The Sub-Committee is seeking four retirees who would be interested in serving as essay reader/graders for 2009. They should contact Ed Flaherty at the Council for more information.

There will be a required essay on a labor-related topic. The essays will be graded by the selected reader/graders for 2009. Please note that essays are provided to the reader/graders with no student names all essays are coded by number so the grader is not aware of whose essay is being read.

The deadline for submitting letters of interest in a NERCC scholarship is March 15, 2009.

TAGS: Nercc

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

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

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

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

Obama picks LA Congresswoman for Sec of Labor Posted by on

President-elect Barack Obama is expected to nominate Congresswoman Hilda Solis to be the next Secretary of Labor. The announcement is expected to be made today. Solis is serving her fourth term in Congress, representing a Los Angeles, California district.

Solis won her seat by defeating an incumbent Democrat in significant part due to her support from unions. Her father was a Shop Steward for the Teamsters in Mexico and her mother worked on an assembly line. As a State Representative in California she was a strong advocate for raising the minimum wage.

Solis?? website contains a page on labor issues that give some insight into her positions and indicate she would be a very good choice for union members. She has had good relationships with the UBC, both in Washington and her home district, with the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters.

Conn contractor gets time for cheating workers Posted by on

Michel Pare, former President of Ben & Sons Drywall Contractors in Connecticut has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison, along with two years of supervised release in connection with a pension fraud investigation. Once a major nonunion player in the drywall industry, over the course of two years the company failed to transfer more than $175,000 it withheld from workers to a pension plan. He has been ordered to pay restitution in that amount to impacted workers. Pare was sentenced to jail time for admitting to making false statements when he signed annual reports for benefit funds that he knew were false.

At one time or another, every NERCC staff member was chasing Ben & Sons or talking to carpenters working for the company, uncovering misdeeds. Congratulations to them for finally seeing justice served. The Hartford Courant covered the story.

"We could be talking about hundreds of thousands of jobs" Posted by on

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick today began public discussion about the influx of federal money into Massachusetts that could lead to massive job creation, in the construction industry, in particular.

Infrastructure is one area President-elect Barack Obama has pointed to where federal investment could create jobs to stimulate the nation's economy. An Associated Press story just run by the Boston Herald indicates Obama may be looking to spend as much as a TRILLION dollars in the next two years.

A State House News Service Story released today contained a lot of encouraging information for those in the building trades.

"At its height, we could be talking about hundreds of thousands of jobs," Patrick said.
Every state in the union is currently working to prioritize projects and get them ready to go when the federal money starts flowing. President-elect Barack Obama has indicated he would like to start investing early and often through federal aid to states.

In addition to identifying and preparing projects in Massachusetts that will be looked upon favorably by the Obama administration, Patrick today noted the need to ensure there are enough qualified bodies to complete the work.

Patrick cited the potential need for some who had worked in the financial services industries to consider at least temporarily considering a change in profession. While some of the areas of investment are nuts-and-bolts type work, others indicate a desire to jump start newer, greener industries.
Surrounded by more than three-dozen business, labor, state and municipal, officials, Patrick said he organized four task forces around areas that incoming administration and congressional officials had signaled would be likely points of concentration for the federal legislation: clean energy and efficiency, education facilities, transportation, information technology, private development, state facilities and ports, and municipal facilities.
The flow of federal money to states and then to actual projects figures to be the biggest ongoing story of 2009 and should set the overwhelming tone for Obama's four-year term.

Springfield, MA Diocese publicly supports unions Posted by on

In a November 2 Opinion piece in the Springfield Republican, Mark E Dupont, the group's Director of Public Affairs made a strong defense of the Church's support for union workers and contractors.

Today, we are seeing before our very eyes, the result of years of turning away from these important Catholic social principles of protecting the rights of the worker. Decreased wages, increased work hours and families who simply cannot keep up are just the most obvious examples. Principles based on the dignity of the person may not be chic or popular, but they are very much part of the core of being Catholic.

Beyond the common functions of unions, the Church believes that the greater importance of unions lies in creating a more healthy economic society with proper order as well as helping to educate and enable workers to recognize within themselves their own value and importance.

The Diocese of Springfield has given priority to awarding its construction work to companies that support the standards of a dignified workforce by employing union labor. No doubt this policy has been misunderstood, especially when taken out of the context of our Church teaching.

Green policy = Construction jobs Posted by on

"The We Campaign is a project of The Alliance for Climate Protection -- a nonprofit, nonpartisan effort founded by Nobel laureate and former Vice President Al Gore. The goal of the Alliance is to build a movement that creates the political will to solve the climate crisis -- in part through repowering America with 100 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources within 10 years. Our economy, national security, and climate can??t afford to wait."

The group has been running some pretty compelling television ads lately. Here's one that connects the dots between the climate crisis and job creation in the construction industry.

TAGS: Leed

Are unions the problem or solution for auto industry? Posted by on

Johnathan Cutler writes an interesting piece in the LA Times considering whether the problems with the auto industry have more to do with the union plants operated by the Big Three or the nonunion plants operated by Japanese automakers.

The good news is that Japanese automakers are influenced more by unions at home than they are here. The bad news is that, in Cutler's view, the UAW seems to have made no attempt to use that to its advantage.

Is transplant management the difference then? According to the prevailing wisdom, Japanese auto companies neither trust nor understand the American notion of labor unionism. Ah, but there's the rub. The very companies that operate as nonunion transplants in the United States have always confronted a unionized workforce at home, organized by the Japanese Automobile Workers Confederation.

The UAW simply never established any sort of alliance with the Japanese Automobile Workers Confederation. And yet the UAW leadership knew plenty about Japan and the Japanese labor movement. The leader of the Japanese Automobile Workers Confederation was Ichiro Shioji. As David Halberstam noted in his 1986 book, "The Reckoning," Shioji spent a year at Harvard in 1960 and then spent a summer at the UAW headquarters in Detroit, befriending all the major UAW leaders, including Walter Reuther, Leonard Woodcock and Douglas Fraser. Shioji was no stranger to the UAW.

No trickle down for bailout? Posted by on

Bank of America gets $25 billiion in taxpayer bailout money.

Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago, Illinois--a Bank of America client--shut its doors last week. The company was considering closing its plant, but was pushed into the action when Bank of America shut down their line of credit. So the company didn't comply with legal mandates that they give 60 days notice to employees or pay 60 days wages. They can not pay workers for vacation time they are owed.

Are the 250 workers out of work and out of luck? They've been staging a sit-in at the plant for four days, receiving lots of attention. The Governor of Illinois--George Blagojevich--is stepping in and standing up for the workers. He's telling all state agencies and departments in Illinois to suspend doing business with Bank of America until the problem is fixed and workers are given what they're owed.

The ABC affiliate in Chicago has a few stories on issue available on their website.

Trustees named to new Mass training fund Posted by on

At the quarterly Delegate's meeting on Saturday, NERCC Executive Secretary-Treasurer Mark Erlich announced labor trustees for the new Eastern Massachusetts Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee. The Committee, which is the result of the merger of three funds that served all of Massachusetts, excluding Western Massachusetts and Boston, will be composed of 9 labor and 9 management trustees.

The labor trustees will be:
Nick DiGiovanni, Local 26; Jim Turner, Local 107; Joe Gangi, Local 111; Kevin Kelley, Local 275; Rick Braccia, Local 424; Charlie Ryan, Local 475; Joe Broderick, Local 535; Rick Anderson, Local 624 and Ron Rheaume, Local 1305.

The merger of the funds is intended to cut down cost through resource sharing and reduction of administrative costs. It should not lead to any loss in the quality of training programs offered or the service given to apprentices and members seeking upgrade training.

UBC General President Doug McCarron has been encouraging benefit funds to consider consolidation of duplicate programs in Regional Councils across the country.

Conn Stops Work where it finds fraud Posted by on

As reported at the quarterly NERCC Delegats' meeting on Saturday:
As of December 5, the Connecticut Department of Labor had issued 127 "Stop Work" orders on construction sites where misclassification or similar offenses were found. Enforcement activity has picked up considerably since the state recognized the widesprad problem that existed in the industry and gave the department inreased authority to issue the orders.

Affordable housing HQ opens, with help from NERCC Posted by on

Union Carpenters joined Dorchester residents and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino at the grand opening of the new headquarters for the Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance. In addition to using 100% union contractors on the project, MAHA received the benefit of donated labor by carpenter apprentices from the New England Carpenters Training Center.

Under the supervision of instructors from the NECTC, more than 100 apprentices worked to install the exterior skin of the building over the course of several months. While on site, apprentices received training for and earned certifications for aerial lifts. They also received training on the cutting and installation of specialty exterior panels.

The Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance is a state-wide nonprofit group that advocates for investment in housing and offers educations programs for homebuyers.
The general contractor for MAHA's three story building was Lee Kennedy Co. of Quincy, which is a longtime signatory contractor with the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. MAHA will use the top two stories of the three story building, and rent out the other to offset operating costs. The 7,000 square feet of space they will use triples their previous office space and allows them to use their own classrooms, saving money and allowing them to expand programs.
The Quincy Patriot Ledger reported on the project in May.

Feds hit NH companies on 1099s for $500k Posted by on

The U.S. Department of Labor delivered an early stocking full of coal to the Poulins and their trio of cheating companies yesterday, ordering them to pay 99 workers close to $500,000 in back wages and damages as well as a civil penalty of $108,900.

Di-pat Construction, Jerry Construction and Kel-Rick Construction management, owned by Johanne, Jerry and Patrick Poulin respectively were cited for ??willful and repeated violations of the [Fair Labor Standards Act] minimum wage, overtime and record keeping provisions.?? All three companies are based in New Hampshire and have overlapping operations.

??Our investigation found that these employers were intentionally misclassifying workers as independent contractors instead of ??employees?? to avoid paying them time-and-a-half for overtime hours they worked,?? said George Rioux, director of the Labor Department??s Wage and Hour Division district office in Boston. ??They paid the workers straight time for overtime hours and sometimes did not even pay for all hours worked. As joint employers, they switched workers among the companies in a further attempt to avoid the requirements of the law. Such behavior by any employer will not be tolerated by the Labor Department.??

According to the Department of Labor??s press release ??the defendants agreed to entry of the judgment without admitting liability.?? As part of the judgment, Jerry Poulin is prohibited from ??serving in the future as an owner, director or executive of any business entity covered by the FLSA.??

Manchester Union-Leader reports here. Nashua Telegraph story here.

Obama administration could aggressively tackle 1099s Posted by on

Former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, who is running President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, was previously heading a think tank which will recommend to Obama that the top priority of the Department of Labor should be tackling the issue of worker misclassification. It is a significant sign that workers, both union and nonunion, will enjoy greater protection under an Obama administration.

At an event on Monday in Washington titled "Putting Workers First," the Center for American Progress will release reports that address the misclassification issue as well as the Department of Labor's handling of other issues, such as worker safety, federal contracting and the treatment of immigrant workers.

The reports will detail specific ways the Executive Branch can make progress right away and recommends things that can be moved through congress. Many of them mirror what has been implemented in New England states recently, such as opening the doors for multiple agencies to share information and cooperate on investigations.

For eight years, the Bush administration and the Department of Labor have reduced investigations and enforcement, instead relying on ??voluntary compliance?? with many laws that protect workers. That is expected to change dramatically under Obama.

In addition to changing the culture of enforcement at important federal agencies to more aggressively protect workers, many expect fines levied against employers who violate those protections to be increased, to discourage future violations.

Kara Walter, a policy director for the CAP, said the group thinks ??misclassification is an item the Obama administration can work on immediately. Some of it is covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act," Walter said. "We are definitely looking at innovations. And we think that the focus on worker protection and regulation can be
accomplished with executive powers that can be used without the immediate need for legislation."

Mass AG nails another for misclassification Posted by on

The crackdown continues. This from the MASS AG's office:

BOSTON ?C Attorney General Martha Coakley??s Office has reached an agreement with the owner of a Bourne construction company to settle allegations that he misclassified one employee as an independent contractor and failed to pay the proper prevailing wage to that employee. Thomas Pappas, of Bourne, owner of Cape Cod Builders, Inc., has agreed to pay $15,000 in restitution and $2,000 in fines to settle a claim that they failed to pay the proper prevailing wage. In addition, Pappas and Cape Cod Builders will pay an additional $2,000 in fines to settle a claim that they violated the Commonwealth??s Independent Contractor/Misclassification Law.

Read the entire release here.

LEED Certifiable Posted by on

Upon completion, the Carpenters Center will qualify for LEED Certifiable status. As part of the preparation for this, a Commissioning Study of the project is being done to review various energy-related categories, including HVAC, domestic hot water, and lighting. The consultant hired for this will make recommendations or approve plans for the equipment and will supervise the delivery and installation of those items.

Other ways in which the building will be eligible for LEED Certifiable status include: implementing a storm water collection system, which will collect and filter ground water and remove more than 90% of suspended solids before discharge in the City system; installing a heat reflective (white) roof; and installing low water use toilets.

??We fully understand and appreciate the intent of the regulations of the City of Boston and the Green Building Task Forces,?? notes David Dow, NECLMP Special Projects.

??Building Green can add to a building??s cost, but adhering to these sustainability goals will provide us with dividends over the life or our building. Not only will we save on energy costs that may be far more expensive in the future, but we are providing our members and employees with a safe, clean environment to work in.??