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Hearing on changes at the MBTA Posted by on

Transportation Committee chairs, Representative
William Straus and Senator Thomas McGee will hold a hearing Wednesday, May 27 at 6pm at Tufts University's Cohen Auditorium at 40 Talbot Avenue in Medford. The subject will be Governor Charlie Baker's plan to overhaul the MBTA. Many jobs--including those of union carpenters--will be impacted. All available members are encouraged to attend.

Outside classes must be checked for "Basic Training" Posted by on

Members in Massachusetts who are completing required classes for the "Basic Training" program should check with the New England Carpenters Training Fund if using programs from outside the union.

While many programs for scaffolding, safety or others may be acceptable, some do not. The curriculum of the classes must be checked by NECTF to ensure it includes the necessary material and training hours. Your best bet is to contact NECTF before you take any outside classes to ensure you're getting what is required.

Everyone can learn from UBC training facilities Posted by on

Thousands of apprentices and journey-level carpenters visit UBC training centers each week. The skills they learn enable them to improve their employment opportunities. The more you know, the more valuable you are to a contractor.

That goes for elected officials, as well. The more they know about the union and its work, the more effective they are in representing our interests. Recently, Congressman Jim McGovern and State Representative Dan Donahue visited the New England Carpenters Training Center in Millbury. The two were given a tour of the facility and learned about the experience of apprentices, the UBC-developed curriculum and the value that union training programs bring to the construction industry.

The visit was one of a series of tours by elected officials of UBC training centers in New England and throughout the Brotherhood. In this case, McGovern and Donahue are already supporters of union carpenters. But in other situations, the visits have been the turning point in the relationship between contractors or elected officials who had previously not thought favorably about the union.

New study examines wage theft in Mass construction Posted by on

New research published by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Labor Center asserts how the illegal theft of workers’ wages, especially those of undocumented immigrant laborers, has reached epidemic levels in the residential construction industry in Massachusetts. In the working paper “The Epidemic of Wage Theft in Residential Construction in Massachusetts,” Tom Juravich, professor of sociology, with research assistants and co-authors Essie Ablavsky and Jake Williams, present three case studies examining the subcontractors for one of the nation’s largest homebuilding companies, regional drywall-hanging companies and affordable housing construction by a community development corporation.

Based on legal records, news reports and 27 in-depth interviews with construction workers, contractors, homeowners, union staff and community-based organizers, Juravich and his co-authors present evidence that contractors in residential construction responded to their financial losses from the Great Recession by the wholesale and illegal misclassification of their workers as independent contractors.

“By not paying taxes on workers’ wages and by not contributing to worker compensation funds, contractors reduced their building costs by 30 percent,” the paper states. “These contingent workers—the majority of who are undocumented immigrants—are routinely cheated out of their wages by contractors who pay late, do not compensate for overtime, and sometimes do not pay for work at all. Firms generate profits by victimizing some of the most vulnerable workers in Massachusetts, delivering poor quality homes to consumers, and leaving citizens of the commonwealth on the hook to make up for hundreds of millions in lost tax revenue.”

Juravich and his co-authors focused on residential construction in and around Worcester and Framingham, two modest-sized cities with populations of 182,000 and 68,100, respectively. “We chose this location, in part, because of the belief that innovation (and the violations that prompted them) often begin in smaller markets like this one before entering larger urban markets such as nearby Boston,” Juravich says. “In the case of construction, practices such as these emerge in these regional markets in residential construction, far away from the watchful eye of labor organizations and other regulatory bodies that tend to focus on larger cities and commercial construction projects.”

Juravich and his co-authors illustrate the tactics allegedly used by a major national homebuilder and its subcontractors, five of which were ordered to pay more than $400,000 in unpaid wages and penalties by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Attorney General’s office for wage theft violations in the state. The researchers say documentation shows that while the homebuilder financially benefited from this wage theft, the company was legally insulated from being charged with any wrongdoing and few of these wages and fines were ever collected, as many of its subcontractors simply closed their doors or reopened under new names.

They also highlight regional drywall firms that they say have a long history of illegal misclassification and wage theft in New England, demonstrating how easy it is to reorganize and resume operations under new names in order to avoid prosecution and to continue these practices.

“Because no existing mechanism prevents such firms from avoiding prosecution, we have seen an explosion of firms that employ illegal misclassification and wage theft in the drywall industry,” Juravich says. “This phenomenon deeply threatens the economic viability of legitimate contractors who play by the rules. Perhaps more troubling is that the growth of these companies who make their profits from illegal employment practices has begun to move beyond residential construction into more commercial and public types of construction.”

The paper suggests a number of policy recommendations for Massachusetts to combat illegal misclassification and wage theft, including strict enforcement of penalties and fines, public identification of violators, better permanent inter-agency coordination and a dramatic increase in workplace raids.

“We have seen how woefully inadequate the regulatory structure has been and watched the emergence of a whole new production regime in residential construction built upon a foundation wage theft,” Juravich says. “Without concerted change, these new methods of production will both intensify and spread to other forms of construction victimizing largely immigrant workers in the industry. The quality of construction will continue to decline delivering a poor value to homeowners while leaving the taxpayer on the hook to cover lost revenue and the medical cost of those not covered by workers’ compensation.”

Ultimately, however, the authors state that the real solution to the crisis lies with immigration reform.

“The single, most important policy action to combat wage theft and misclassification is genuine immigration reform,” they conclude in the paper. “Without real immigration reform that will provide a path to citizenship for the more than 10 million undocumented workers in the United States, it will be difficult to control forced misclassification of work and the theft of workers’ wages. As long as immigrants remain hidden in the shadows and largely excluded from regularized employment, unscrupulous employers will continue to exploit their vulnerability to increase their own profit.”

Rally to support union carpenters Monday Posted by on

A rally is scheduled for Monday, May 11 at 11am at the Statehouse in Boston to support MBTA workers--including dozens of union carpenters--who are fighting back against Governor Charlie Baker's attempts to eliminate the Taxpayer Protection Act.

Baker's hand-picked new board at the MBTA is looking to take advantage of the winter failures of private Commuter Rail operators Keolis to privatize the MBTA system. The Taxpayer Protection Act requires that any privatization efforts demonstrate a real benefit, not just elimination of jobs, wages and service levels.

Another win for Local 1302 Posted by on

Carpenters Local 1302, representing members working at the Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut, has won a major victory against the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Council's attempts to eliminate the local and move carpenters into unions affiliated with other trades. A decision announced late last week from the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. will allow for the opening of ballots in an election union carpenters held more than eight months ago to decide how they would be represented in contract negotiations.

The fight to protect Local 1302 and its members began when the Metal Trades Department of the AFL-CIO issued a directive to Metal Trades Councils (MTC) across the country to remove UBC-affiliated locals from their councils and prohibit them from representing their carpenter members. Early last year, Local 1302 was barred from participating in contract negotiations, a process which resulted in an agreement without any reference to the Carpenters union. The MTC then stripped Local 1302 of its ability to represent carpenters in grievances.

Local 1302 challenged the Metal Trades Council with a petition to the NLRB and won a decision from the Regional Director allowing for a "severance election," giving carpenters the right to choose the Carpenters union to represent them in bargaining separate from the MTC. After a vote that was expected to be favorable for the Carpenters union, the MTC appealed the decision to the full NLRB in Washington, D.C. Ballots were impounded and left unopened.

While awaiting the Board's decision, the Metal Trades Council took additional moves against members at the facility, stripping the local of any remaining rights and repeatedly attempting to persuade carpenters to join other unions, with little success.

Ballots from the original election will be opened soon, perhaps as early as this week. The result is expected to be a victory for carpenters selecting the UBC and Local 1302 for representation. Following that, the local will begin bargaining for an agreement between Local 1302 and Electric Boat, independent of the Metal Trades Council. All rights and privileges for the local to represent carpenters would also be restored immediately.

"I am pleased by the Board's ruling and proud of the members of Local 1302 for not wavering from their desire to be Union Carpenters," said Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

TAGS: Local 1302, NLRB