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New London enacting local hire, training ordinance Posted by on

The city council of New London, Connecticut has approved an ordinance that will require contractors bidding for city construction projects valued at more than $1 million to hire local workers and provide apprenticeship training. New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio has pledged to sign the ordinance when it reaches his desk.

The ordinance was proposed by the New England Regional Council of Carpenters and publicly supported by members and NERCC Business Representative Chris Bachant. It passed the Administration Committee before winning a vote of the City Council the following week.

"This ordinance allows a percentage of workers from New London or New London County be required to work on a job,'' Bachant told the New London Day. "And any company working on a city project must comply with the Connecticut apprenticeship program. This is an opportunity. It's not just a job. We're offering a career."

There was opposition to the ordinance among the city council and from the editorial page of New London Day. Following the vote of the full city council, Mayor Finizio published an opinion piece in the Day rebutting criticisms of the ordinance and restating his support.

"Low bidder rules for construction projects, without the protections that this ordinance provides, favor the success of bids that use lower quality and less trained workers. While a bid awarded may, in today's dollars, be less than a union construction bid, the buildings built are not of the same quality," Finizio wrote.

"A responsible contractor ordinance, combined with appropriate budgeting for routine maintenance, will lower costs to city taxpayers in the long term by building, and maintaining, better quality buildings."

Worcester passes new REO Posted by on

The Worcester City Council this week voted to move forward with a newly proposed Responsible Employer Ordinance for public construction in the city by a 9-1 vote. The result comes after an anti-union contractor association and corporate-backed "research" group threatened long, expensive litigation if the ordinance was passed.

The City of Worcester has had a Responsible Employer Ordinance in place since 2005, but the City Manager had suspended portions of it recently out of concern that the entire ordinance would be eliminated on legal challenge. Councilors worked with various groups to re-write portions of the ordinance--most significantly to retain the language requiring contractors to participate in apprentice training programs--to put it on safer legal ground.

The Merit Construction Alliance, which represents nonunion contractors, has been using the Worcester Regional Research Bureau to back its opposition to standards for public construction in the city. According to, the Worcester Regional Research Bureau is "privately funded by a host of corporate sponsors." Their top sponsors consist mostly of banks, law firms and insurance companies. When a City Councilor asked for clarification on who the group was and what function it serves, the head of the organization claimed she was somehow being "attacked" and blamed unions. In arguing that the newly drafted REO wouldn't stand up to legal scrutiny, the group's own work seemed to be less than convincing.

Union carpenters were very active in pushing for passage of the revised REO, participating in rallies, attending hearings and lining up support from Council members. Supporters also got a boost from Susan Mailman, the president of Coghlin Electrical Contractors, who wrote a convincing opinion piece in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette detailing why opposition to the REO was built on false assumptions.

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

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.

Fairhaven passes REO Posted by on

The Town of Fairhaven recently passed a Responsible Employer Ordinance to govern public construction work. The Ordinance was passed by the Board of Selectmen in the Southeastern Massachusetts Town December.

The Ordinance requires bidders and subcontractors to agree as a condition of bidding to:
--Pay prevailing wages and, at their own expense, to provide hospitalization and medical benefits to employees.
--Maintain an active, bona fide and recognized apprenticeship program.
--Maintain industrial accident insurance (workers' comp) for all employees.
--Properly classify workers as employees rather than independent subcontractors.
--Employ United States citizens or people legally permitted to work in the United States and use e-verify systems to confirm their status.

Lincoln School project leaves something to be desired regarding apprentice training Posted by on

New Bedford Standard Times
Jack Spillane
July 26, 2009

When the national economy goes into the kind of coma it's in now, New Bedford, of course, goes on life support.

And the kind of good-paying jobs that used to be present at construction sites become like defibrillator paddles in an emergency room. There's no shortage of out-for-the-count bodies who want their turn at those paddles.

Which brings me to the situation at the work site for the new Lincoln Elementary School in the North End.

The carpenters union, the contractor and the city of New Bedford have all been competing for the best deal on the Lincoln jobs since the bids for the $20 million project were opened back in April.

But they've yet to come to an agreement that will guarantee that local men and women can obtain all the benefits possible from those defibrillator paddles, er ... job opportunities.

Yes, the Lincoln is a prevailing-wage job site, and yes, the Lang administration ?? after some earlier failures on hiring local people for other city projects ?? has succeeded in reserving 90 percent of the Lincoln jobs for locals.

But once again, the city failed to live up to its Responsible Employer Ordinance and didn't require the winning bidder, CTA Construction Inc. of South Boston, to demonstrate that it could run apprenticeship programs at Lincoln. Those programs would train unskilled city residents for a future share of local carpentry, iron work and manual labor available at construction jobs.

Attorney General Martha Coakley's office earlier this month called out the city for not complying with its own employer ordinance and ordered it to call CTA back in. She now wants CTA, or whatever contractor finishes the project, to demonstrate it has the required apprenticeship programs. Otherwise, it has ordered New Bedford to give the jobs to one of the other bidders that does run apprenticeships.

The Lang administration says it cares about the apprenticeship program and training local people for future jobs. But it also cares about making its September 2010 deadline for opening the school.

It seems to be looking for a way to keep CTA ?? which union officials say has a horrible reputation as a labor-friendly employer ?? staying on the job even though the company has not traditionally always used subcontractors with apprentice programs.

"They were the low bidder. We're going to have to try to work with them," said Mayor Scott Lang.

That doesn't sit right with Ron Rheaume, the Fall River business manager for Local 1305 of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

He said that in order to comply with the rules of its ordinance, the city can't use a contractor on the Lincoln school that did not have an apprenticeship program to begin with and that an attempt by Simmons Concrete, a New Bedford CTA subcontractor, to start an apprenticeship program now is too late.

Rheaume asked why a supposedly labor-friendly city is dealing with what he calls an anti-union shop.

"There should be trades there working, the carpenters, the laborers, the iron workers," he said.

On the one hand, the mayor said he has confidence in school business manager Larry Oliveira and purchasing agent Debra Travers, who awarded the contract to CTA, the lowest bidder by just $160,000. But on the other hand, he said CTA should be working with the carpenters' union because the unions have the best contacts with subcontractors who have apprenticeship programs.

CTA has not returned phone calls on the issue.

Meanwhile, a longtime critic of the city's contracts, John "Buddy" Andrade, has begun working with CTA's principal subcontractor, Simmons Concrete, to start an apprenticeship program.

Rheaume said he's worried that the nonunion subcontractor will use Andrade's program to misclassify higher-paid carpenters as lower-paid laborers. He's requested payroll records in an effort to prove it and force CTA out of the job.

"This is not a joke. That's what they're turning this into: a joke," he said, contending that contractors who avoid union shops have brought wages and working conditions crashing in the construction industry.

For his part, Andrade said the attorney general has proved what he has been saying for 11 years: The city of New Bedford is not complying with its REO. "This is a big victory for the community, especially the young workers who are looking for that (training) opportunity."

Lang, who has received union support in his mayoral campaigns, said that if he were CTA, he would work with the unions. They have the most experience running apprenticeship programs. But with CTA locked in a three-year struggle with the carpenters over unionization of their shop, there doesn't seem much chance of that.

Meanwhile, this whole struggle to run apprenticeship programs leaves me wondering when it became so difficult for a union to find work on government jobs in an old-time union city like New Bedford.

It's a new world out there. And a new economy.

And it's not labor-friendly.

To comment on this article on the New Bedford Standard Times' website, click here.

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.

City must enforce Responsible Employer Ordinance Posted by on

The Massachusetts Attorney General's office ruled that the city of New Bedford must enforce its Responsible Employer Ordinance in response to a bid protest filed by the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. The NERCC filed a bid protest at the Lincoln Elementary School project, charging that the winning bidder, CTA Construction, did not have the required registered apprenticeship training program and had not demonstrated that the subcontractors they would hire had them either.

The AG's office told the city that it should provide a "reasonable period of time" for all the general contractor's who submitted bids for the construction project to supply documentation of their apprenticeship programs. Once this information is provided, the city can evaluate which contractor will be awarded the project. The contract must be rebid if none of the contractors can meet the apprenticeship requirement.

NERCC Organizers have been working to shine a light on CTA, specifically their history of hiring substandard subcontractors. Organizers have discovered a multitude of CTA projects with repeated prevailing wage violations and numerous labor law violations, including failure to file true and accurate payroll records, misclassification of independent contractors, and cash under-the-table payment to workers.

There are many CTA subcontractors that have been cited by the Attorney General's office. Two recent stories published on include Phat's Hardwood Floor and Garcia Drywall.

To check out the New Bedford Standard Times' coverage of the Lincoln Elementary school project, click here.

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.