Nercc Blog

Welcome to our blog! Here you'll find updated news and information about the New England Regional Council of Carpenters

 

Viewing: Government
Page
of 2
Statement on the passing of Mayor Menino
Posted by NERCC on October 31, 2014 at 08:18 AM

Following is a statement by Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters in regards to the passing of former Boston Mayor Tom Menino.It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Tom Menino, our beloved Mayor of Boston for 20

years. Under Mayor Menino's leadership, Boston emerged as one of the world's great cities - a vibrant city that combines a respect for tradition and an eagerness to embrace innovation. Today's Boston is a far better place than it was a generation ago - more tolerant, more diverse, and more vital.

Mayor Menino was a great friend of the Carpenters Union and the union sector of the construction industry. He understood that great cities have to grow and evolve. He was committed to development, but in a responsible manner that respected neighborhood concerns. He knew that Boston's development should benefit everyone, including the men and women that build the city's projects. He knew that it was not enough to create jobs. Boston's jobs had to be good jobs - ones that provided decent pay, health benefits, and retirement security.

Under his leadership, Boston was a Union City and a great place to live, work, and play.

While he was one of the world's great Mayors, he never forgot where he came from. A man of humble origins and unwavering values, Tom Menino knew that Boston's greatness was intrinsically connected with the success of those who build and work for a living.

He was a friend. We will miss him.
 

Escaping the Underground Economy: One Carpenter's Story
Posted by NERCC on August 28, 2014 at 09:39 AM

 

As we celebrate Labor Day in 2014, the New England Regional Council of Carpenters continues to tell the stories of workers in our region.

This remarkable video project features Julio Beldi, a carpenter who is now realizing the benefits of working as a union member after struggling as part of the underground economy, as well as commentary by Harvard's Elaine Bernard and former MA Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Joanne Goldstein. Julio's experience is not unique. It is all too common and needs to be shared.

Julio’s story underscores the continued importance of organized labor for all workers in America. Unions are the single best solution to the problems of economic inequality and injustice. So while we celebrate the holiday and the victories won by our predecessors, let us also dedicate ourselves to continuing that progress for all of America's working families. We invite you to watch this video and to share it with anyone you think may be interested.

Happy Labor Day,

Mark Erlich
Executive Secretary-Treasurer

Accelerated deadline? Union, contractor beat it!
Posted by NERCC on August 20, 2014 at 10:08 AM

Congratulations to MIG Corporation and the UBC members working on the Morton Street Bridge in the Mattapan section of Boston. They took an "Accelerated Bridge Construction" project that was scheduled to take 10 days and got it done in 9!

Union carpenters + union contractors = efficiency + convenience + value for the state, taxpayers AND drivers. Great job!

Check out this page, and the second story linked on the page, for more information.

Congressman Himes (CT) calls for infrastructure repairs
Posted by NERCC on July 29, 2014 at 09:28 AM

There could not have been a more fitting site for a more important issue. Last week, Congressman Jim Himes was joined by state elected officials, labor leaders and business leaders at the Yankee Doodle Bridge in Norwalk, calling for a long-term solution to crumbling infrastructure.

The Yankee Doodle, which carries traffic on Interstate 95 over the Norwalk River, is the most structurally deficient bridge in the state. It was originally built in 1958 and awaits $15 million in repairs, slated to start in 2017. It is one of thousands of road and bridge projects whose maintenance or replacement have been put off to the point of posing an extreme danger to the public.

The National Highway Trust Fund received approval for a $10.8 billion infusion from the United States House of Representatives last week, but has not been acted on by the Senate. The allocation would only temporarily prevent the fund from becoming insolvent next month. It would not solve the problem of creating a long-term solution for funding road and bridge repairs in the United States, which are vital not only to public safety, but economic growth.

Road and bridge repair and construction leads to direct employment of tens of thousands of construction workers nation-wide, many of whom would face unemployment if the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money. Members of the UBC as well as other building trades unions, employers and supporters are being urged to visit Hard Hats for Highways (http://hardhatsforhighways.org/) and send an e-hardhat letter to congress to urge them to enact a long-term plan.

Coverage of the event at the Yankee Doodle Bridge can be found at the Stamford Advocate, the Norwalk Hour and It's Relevant.
 

NERCC to be recognized at White House Summit
Posted by NERCC on June 20, 2014 at 08:41 AM

The efforts of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, as part of the Policy Group on Tradeswomen’s Issues to increase women’s participation in the construction trades, are being recognized nationally at the White House Summit on Working Families this Monday. NERCC Business Representative Liz Skidmore will represent the NERCC and the PGTI at the event, which is being hosted by the White House and the Department of Labor and the Center for American Progress. Both President Obama and Vice President Biden will be attending the event.

The White House planning committee for the Summit asked the National Task Force on Tradeswomen's Issues for two "Best Practices" for getting more women into the trades. The Task Force presented them with the Minnesota Vikings stadium project, which set hiring goals and has hired a lot of women, and the work being done in New England by NERCC and the Policy Group on Tradeswomen's Issues (PGTI), which is convened by Skidmore, Susan Moir of UMass Boston Labor Resource Center, Brian Doherty of the Boston Building Trades and Janet Jones of the Dorchester Roxbury Labor Committee.

The PGTI has established a multi-stakeholder strategy of bringing key players together over time to build relationships, share expertise, identify and implement solutions. The group has met at the Carpenters Center every other month for six years and includes city, state and federal officials; General and sub-contractors, academics, compliance officers, tradeswomen, and union leaders. During this time they have published two reports: Unfinished Business, an analysis of all research done on tradeswomen in the last 25 years in the US with policy recommendations and Finishing the Job, a how-to manual for meeting hiring goals on specific construction projects. 

Women's employment has risen from 3% to 6% of all hours worked in Boston over the last few years, a statistic made even more significant when considering the simultaneous increase in the number or work hours over the past two years.

Additional work being done by PGTI that has earned them recognition as a national best practice includes moving from 35 years of supply-only (recruitment and pre-apprenticeship training) to a supply and demand strategy that includes the supply work and adds demand - working to improve compliance with hiring goals. As a result of their work, the Integrated Science Center at UMass Boston building project, which is the first project in Boston that has met hiring goals for all three established goals (residents, minorities and women) over the course of the project.

PGTI has also compiled compliance numbers online in searchable, downloadable databases by a number of entities including the City of Boston, UMass Boston (for their $700 mil PLA), and the MA Bureau of Apprenticeship Standards. These databases are now being used by GCs and project owners to review past compliance history and in evaluating which contractors to hire.

As stated on the summit’s website, “the White House Summit will convene businesses, economists, labor leaders, policymakers, advocates and citizen to discuss policy solutions that can make a real difference in the lives of working families and ensure America’s global competitiveness in the coming decades.”

Learn more about the work of the PGTI by visiting their website here. To follow the events happening during the White House Summit on Working Families click here.

Rego honored at State House
Posted by NERCC on June 04, 2014 at 08:49 AM

Congratulations to Local 1305 Representative Dan Rego for being honored with the Portuguese Heritage Award! Rego was given the award at a ceremony at the State House in Boston by the Portuguese American Legislative Caucus.

In addition to being a full-time Council Representative and active member of the community, Dan is a City Councilor in Fall River, where he lives with his family.

Carpenters endorse Coakley for Mass Gov
Posted by NERCC on May 27, 2014 at 11:07 AM

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters today endorsed Martha Coakley for Governor of Massachusetts, citing her experience making government work on behalf of fairness for workers and honest business.

"As Attorney General, Martha Coakley has been an advocate for working families and consumers," said Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the NERCC. "Her Fair Labor Division sought to limit the impact of the underground economy - protecting workers and leveling the playing field for employers that play by the rules. As a candidate for Governor, she recognizes that growing income inequality is one of the major problems facing our society. Coakley knows that advocating for workers and supporting unions is the best method to rebuild the middle class. The New England Regional Council of Carpenters is pleased to endorse Martha Coakley for Governor. We believe she will bring the lessons she has learned as Attorney General to the corner office and make Massachusetts a stronger and more equitable Commonwealth."

Coakley was proud to have the support of the Carpenters union, which boasts a strong reputation for campaign and political activism among its members.

“Together, we can create a fair economy on our terms, by leveling the playing field, protecting our workers and creating good jobs at fair wages with quality, affordable health care," Coakley said. "I am honored by NERCC's support and look forward to working with them to make Massachusetts prosperous and fair."

NERCC is the regional governing body of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, one of North America’s largest building-trades unions, with nearly a half-million members in the construction and wood-products industries. NERCC advocates for all working carpenters, unionized or not, because they believe that all workers deserve fair wages, benefits, and safe working conditions.

Multi-million dollar tax giveaway in Fitchburg under scrutiny
Posted by NERCC on May 01, 2014 at 02:47 PM

The Carpenters union is calling on local and state officials to rescind tax breaks given to a company for a project on which they and seven others had already been ordered by state investigators to stop work for legal violations. The violations were found less than three months before the tax package was announced. Further evidence gathered by investigators, which should have triggered an investigation for tax fraud, was apparently ignored.

In December, Great Wolf Lodge and others were ordered to stop work on their Fitchburg project by the Department of Industrial Accidents after a site visit revealed they did not have workers' compensation policies in place for construction workers. One of the employers told investigators at the time that “he had four employees on site who are being paid in cash, they receive their direction and control from Mr. Viveiros, all tools and equipment belong to him.” Two weeks later, an Organizer for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters visited the site and found the same employment conditions for other contractors on site.

In March, the state announced approval of a group of tax break packages, including $17.2 million for the Great Wolf Lodge. Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters sent a letter of concern to Greg Bialecki, Secretary of the Executive Office of Housing and Development, which approved the tax breaks.

"The lack of oversight on a project involving $17 million in tax relief should be a matter of grave concern to the Patrick administration. The violations were committed before the tax relief was awarded. That relief should be rescinded," said Erlich in the letter. "Without any further action on Great Wolf, the Commonwealth is sending an unfortunate message to its taxpayers and legitimate contractors that recipients of tax relief are rewarded regardless of illegal business practices."

"Great Wolf promised in its application that it would not knowingly hire subcontractors or other third parties that did not have Massachusetts workers' compensation insurance. Great Wolf's Senior Director of Design and Construction acknowledged the "Stop Work" order to a newspaper."

Misclassification of workers as “independent contractors” is an illegal, but unfortunately common model used in the construction industry to provide unscrupulous contractors with a significant advantage in a highly competitive industry. Misclassification costs the state and federal government hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue and strips workers of important workplace protection, as well as the right to unemployment and retirement benefits.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

 

Summary List of Stop Work Orders
1. Great Lake Services dba Great Wolf Lodge of New England (WI)
2. Colonial Tile and Flooring (Clinton, MA)
3. Timothy Michael Locklear (NC)
4. Villnave Construction Services (VCS) (NY)
5. Wisconsin Exteriors & Drywall (WI)
6. Butters Fetting Co. (WI)
7. States Drywall (WI)
8. Weber Group (IN)

Seems like a clear objective, right?
Posted by NERCC on April 28, 2014 at 12:33 PM

Union Carpenters continued their show of support for the "Jobs Not Jails" campaign over the weekend in Boston. Among the members of Local 107 and 108 who attended a rally on the Boston Common were NERCC Council Reps Rocky Thompson and Manny Gines, who were visible in this story on Boston Channel 7s news coverage.

Carpenters Locals 107 and 108 endorsed the Jobs Not Jails campaign this month. It is calling for the Commonwealth to spend $2 billion building schools, roads, and other public projects rather than building and expanding prisons.

The group is looking for volunteers to hold up banners covered with 30,000 petition signatures around the State House from 11:00 AM- 1:00 PM next Wednesday, April 30th. For more information about the campaign, including ways to help, visit JobsNotJails.org.

"Groundhog" Day at UConn?
Posted by NERCC on April 04, 2014 at 04:34 PM

At least one contractor that was ordered in late February to stop working on the $32 million expansion of the UConn basketball complex because they didn't have a workers' compensation policy returned to the project. Union carpenters and students of the university have started to inform the public with a large banner in front of the project and stories in the Hartford Courant and the campus newspaper.

Intext Building Systems, Inc. of Glastonbury and JV Construction of East Hartford were issued "Stop Work" orders from the Connecticut Labor Department after a visit to the site. There were issues with workers being misclassified as "independent contractors" and some of the 19 workers could not identify their employers.

J&V Construction was found to have owed $368,000 in back wages to workers and is still barred form the site, but Intext has taken on their workers, raising questions about whether there are still issues.

Chris Gallo, a member of Carpenters Local 24 who went to work on the site after the "Stop Work" orders were issued told the Courant "It's absolutely horrible- The whole job was just a mess. We go there in the middle of it, and we get it all straightened out, and we find out the guys who messed it up are back again. How would you feel? I'm losing my job because of it. Hopefully they get a building they're looking for."

More taxpayer money wasted in Hanover
Posted by NERCC on March 25, 2014 at 03:30 PM

Statement issued by Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters regarding today’s decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Hanover v New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

We always knew the Town’s case was baseless, and was just retaliation for helping to organize the taxpayer lawsuit over the new High School a few years ago. The Massachusetts Supreme Court agreed.

The way the Town of Hanover has handled this has been disappointing from the start. Despite being given information that should have led them to do otherwise, they have instead wasted taxpayer dollars to defend giving a contract to a contractor that lied to them and attack those who wanted to protect the Town.

The Town ignored serious flaws in the bidding process, defended a contractor they should have been dismissing, and then tried to retaliate after citizens exercised their constitutional rights to challenge the Town’s actions.

In dismissing the Town’s lawsuit, the Court was applying a state statute that is designed to protect parties from retaliation or punishment for exercising their constitutional rights. And the Court essentially concluded that’s just what the Town was doing in suing the Carpenters Union.

The real question for the residents of Hanover is: “How could the Town have wasted taxpayer resources to pursue a case like this in the first place, given its obvious failings?” And now, the Town will not only have its own legal bills to pay, but it will have to pay the Carpenters Union’s legal expenses as well.

UPDATE: The Boston Business Journal and Quincy Patriot Ledger/Hanover Mariner published stories on the case.
 

Everett mayor finds out for himself
Posted by NERCC on March 14, 2014 at 08:12 AM

An unhappy Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria has a few questions for Fairfield Residential after an in-person visit to a project in the city. Fairfield is converting the old Charleston Chew factory into luxury apartments. The project has been touted as a producer of quality housing stock, but also good employment for Everett-area workers.

 When DeMaria spoke with a couple of carpenters on the project, they told the mayor they were being paid in cash on a piece-work basis and weren't getting any benefits. They were working for Wendy's Drywall, a subcontractor to VPS Drywall, a subcontractor to Metric Construction, the general contractor for one of the buildings on the project. Metric has had issues in the past with hiring subcontractors who don't meet area standards.

VPS continues a bad history. The company was ordered by the Massachusetts Attorney General to pay workers more than $4,000 in wages due to prevailing wage violations on the controversial Hannover High School project. They were also hit with more than $3,700 in fines by OSHA for safety violations, including one the agency deemed a "serious" violation. Finally, they were investigated by the United States Department of Labor for failing to pay workers more than $40,000 in overtime wages. They agreed to pay $17,500.

Carpenter Ramon Ochoa with Mayor DeMaria, NERCC Organizer Mario Mejia, Local 218 Business Agent Richard Pedi and Carpenter Moises Urias.

 Fairfield Residential is national builder and manager of multi-family housing that claims to be a leader in their industry. They claim they often work as their own general contractor and can effectively manage designs, budgets and time-lines.

 DeMaria was not happy to hear workers talk about being treated this way in his hometown and committed to following up to see that things were changed and didn't happen again.

An adjacent building, being built by union wood framers is progressing without incident.

 

Revere again votes yes on casino
Posted by NERCC on February 26, 2014 at 02:09 PM

Plans for Mohegan Sun to build a $1.3 billion hotel and casino at the Suffolk Downs horse track in Revere were approved by voters in that city for a second time yesterday. The fate of the project still hangs in the balance, as it will now go head-to-head for state approval for the single Eastern Massachusetts gaming license with a proposal by Steve Wynn in Everett. State officials are expected to hand down a decision in May or June. Union carpenters in Revere played a significant role in the campaign to approve the proposal, as they have in each of the gaming votes across the state.

Yesterday's vote was the second held for a proposal at the site. An earlier version was voted down by Revere and Boston voters, which led to modifications of the project so that the gaming facility would sit entirely on the Revere portion of the Suffolk Downs property.

As part of the state's approval of legalized gaming, three gaming licenses will be issued for casinos and one for a slot parlor. One casino license will be issued in a zone in western Massachusetts, one in a zone that covers the central and eastern part of the state, excluding southeastern Massachusetts and one is being held for a proposal for a Native American-owned proposal in southeastern Massachusetts. MGM Resorts has received local approval for a casino in Springfield, the only pending proposal for the western zone. A proposal for the southeastern zone is still pending.

Three slot parlors proposals by different developers are under consideration for locations in Raynham, Leominster and Plainville.

Carpenters support USPS workers
Posted by NERCC on February 19, 2014 at 07:59 AM

A dozen carpenters in New Hampshire joined a rally of more than 100 to support United States Postal workers in Concord, New Hampshire this week. The event was held to protest the visit of California Congressman Darrell Issa, who was in town for a Republican fundraiser. Issa has proposed ending Saturday mail delivery and outsourcing USPS work and jobs. His motives are highly suspect, since the USPS has operated at a budget surplus recently.

NH Labor News has more on the event.

CT Governor Malloy's budget gets Carpenter support
Posted by NERCC on February 19, 2014 at 07:52 AM

Dave Jarvis, an organizer with the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, appeared before the Connecticut General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee to testify in support of Governor Dan Malloy’s recently submitted Fiscal Year 2015 Mid-Term Budget.

Governor Malloy’s Mid-Term budget includes funding for six additional employees at the Department of Labor to investigate complaints and ensure employers comply with wage and workplace standards.

Jarvis urged members to support the Governor’s proposal to beef up wage and workplace enforcement as the Connecticut construction industry continues to be plagued by employers—many from out of state--who fail to properly pay their workers’ wages, misclassify their workers as independent contractors or pay them cash “off the books.”

Last year alone, the Wage and Workplace Division of the Connecticut Department of Labor handled more than 3,500 claims and recovered over $6.5 million in unpaid wages to 1,701 Connecticut workers. The Wage and Workplace Division also issued 181 Stop Work Orders to employers at construction sites who were found to be in violation of workers’ compensation and labor laws.

“It’s nearly impossible for Connecticut contractors who obey our state labor, tax and worker’s compensation laws to compete against unscrupulous companies that break these laws to gain a bidding advantage,” said Jarvis. He added, “Construction is becoming a magnet for predatory employers. The Wage and Workplace Division is on the front lines of protecting Connecticut workers and employers from these predatory contractors.”

Globe features Erlich piece
Posted by NERCC on November 12, 2013 at 08:40 AM

The Boston Globe today published an opinion piece by Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

As inequality grows, 'union candidate' offers attractive vision
11/12/13
Boston Mayor-elect Marty Walsh was labeled as the union candidate early in the race. Columnists and debate moderators manufactured a perspective that Walsh’s labor affiliation was his candidacy’s albatross. Walsh does have a strong personal and family union background and recently served as the head of Boston’s building trades unions. But he had also been a state representative for 16 years with a legislative record on a full array of public policy issues.

Read more...

 

Walsh unites Boston, elected Mayor
Posted by NERCC on November 06, 2013 at 08:31 AM

Buoyed by the support of a broad coalition that included union workers, minority communities, small business owners and middle class residents, State Representative Martin J. Walsh was elected Mayor of Boston last night, defeating City Councillor John Connolly. Walsh will succeed the enormously popular Thomas Menino, who is the city's longest serving mayor.

The following statement is from Mark Erlich, Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, which endorsed Walsh in both the primary and general election. Erlich is also a Boston resident.

"Last night, Marty Walsh was elected to serve as the next Mayor of Boston. Marty's victory has implications far beyond the city's borders. Boston is, in many ways, the primary economic engine of New England and the leadership at City Hall sets the tone for the regional development and construction industry. For the past 20 years, Mayor Tom Menino has been a staunch ally of construction's union sector and his stance has helped our members find gainful employment in Boston and beyond.

"Marty's election will only serve to further elevate the profile of unions in our region. As a building trades leader who spoke proudly of his involvement in the labor movement, his victory flies in the face of the prevailing political winds that dismiss or attack the value of unions in today's society. Marty had to withstand withering attacks in the Boston media that claimed he would bankrupt the city by not being able to stand up to the city's public employee unions. Marty never backed down from his loyalty to organized labor as the best vehicle to re-build the middle class in the city.

"This election has national implications. While there have been a few Senators and Congressmen that have been clear about their pro-union beliefs, it is far more rare to find someone running for an executive position -- Mayor or Governor -- who doesn't feel the need to criticize unions in an effort to show they are "fiscally responsible". Marty made it clear that you can be committed to running a sound budget in a major American city and still maintain respect for trade unions.

"Marty was also able to win the support of nearly all of the elected officials from the city's minority community, demonstrating that today's labor movement is welcoming, diverse, and inclusive.

Marty is a personal friend of ours, a friend of the Carpenters, a friend of labor, and a friend of all those people who want to work, play by the rules, and have a chance at the American Dream.

Thanks to everyone who worked to get Marty Walsh elected. It can be the beginning of a new era for labor and politics."

Enforcement against cheating businesses jumps in Mass
Posted by NERCC on September 13, 2013 at 03:01 PM

More than $21 million has been collected from employers in Massachusetts who violated labor laws in the last 18 months, according to the annual report of the Joint Enforcement Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification. The amount represents more than the total that was recovered in all previous years.

The joint task force was created in 2008 and was a welcome development to union carpenters and others who had been working to bring attention to the issue of misclassification. Tens of millions of dollars in state and federal revenue are lost each year due to employee misclassification while employers who play by the rules are put at a competitive disadvantage and workers are stripped of essential protections such as workers' compensation coverage and eligibility for unemployment insurance, Social Security and Medicare.

The issue is especially acute in the construction industry, where the fairness of direct competitive bidding can easily be undermined by a bidder misclassifying employees as independent contractors to save 20-30% on labor cost. Perhaps the largest recent case involved more than $1.1 million in unreported wages found at the renovation of the Boston Marriott Copley Place, where one contractor was paying $4 an hour to employees who were recruited from a substance abuse program in Connecticut. Contractors were issued more than $100,000 in fines on the project.

"The work of the Task Force is invaluable in reducing the growth of the underground economy in the state's construction industry," said Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. "Taking on the illegal practices of wage theft, misclassification and tax and insurance fraud creates a more level playing field, which ultimately benefits legitimate employers, tradesmen and women and taxpayers."

The joint task force brings together various state agencies, including the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, the Attorney General's Fair Labor Division, the Insurance Fraud Bureau and others.

Both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald covered the issue.
 

New London enacting local hire, training ordinance
Posted by NERCC on September 13, 2013 at 02:06 PM

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."
 

Carpenters Union and Hospitality Workers Union Announce Joint Endorsement of Boston City Council Candidates
Posted by NERCC on September 09, 2013 at 11:31 AM

CARPENTERS UNION AND HOSPITALITY WORKERS UNION ANNOUNCE JOINT ENDORSEMENT OF BOSTON CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES

 

Endorsement Marks Historic Coalition Between Two Organizations
September 9th, 2013 – Boston, MA - The New England Regional Council of Carpenters (NERCC) and Boston’s Local 26 (UNITE HERE) are pleased to announce their joint endorsement of several Boston City Council candidates. The endorsement is a product of the two organizations, representing over 26,000 workers, jointly interviewing City Council candidates over a series of days.

“This is more than just an endorsement of candidates for Boston City Council – this is two organizations that represent the diversity of Boston ensuring that working families will have a voice at City Hall. These are the leaders who have proven they can build strong communities,” said Brian Lang, President of Local 26 and resident of Jamaica Plain.

"We came together to consider the candidates as two unions with progressive and independent traditions. Our joint endorsements matter because, between us, we represent the full range of working families in the city," said Mark Erlich, President of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters and resident of Jamaica Plain.

The two organizations are proud to support incumbent Councilor Steven Murphy (At-Large), incumbent Councilor Ayanna Pressley (At-Large), Michelle Wu (At-Large), Michael Flaherty (At-Large), Joshua Zakim (District 8) and Timothy McCarthy (District 5).

The NERCC represents over 20,000 carpenters, pile drivers, shop & millmen, and floorcoverers working in the New England states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. NERCC is part of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, one of North America’s largest building-trades unions, with nearly a half-million members in the construction and wood-products industries.

UNITE HERE Local 26 represents over 6,500 workers in the City of Boston including most of the major Boston hotels, food service workers on college campuses, convention centers, Fenway Park and Logan Airport. Boston's Local 26 is one of the most politically powerful and diverse unions in the City of Boston.

###

For more information contact Harry Grill, Political Director, Boston’s Local 26 at (617) 838-4201 or Stephen Joyce, Political Director, New England Regional Council of Carpenters at (617) 438-8011.

 

Enforcement against cheating businesses jumps in Mass
Posted by NERCC on September 05, 2013 at 12:46 PM

More than $21 million has been collected from employers in Massachusetts who violated labor laws in the last 18 months, according to the annual report of the Joint Enforcement Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification. The amount represents more than the total that was recovered in all previous years.

The joint task force was created in 2008 as a result efforts by the Carpenters union and others to educate Governor Deval Patrick, state legislators and leaders of several executive branch agencies who enforce laws and policies related to employee misclassification. Tens of millions of dollars in state and federal revenue are lost each year due to employee misclassification while employers who play by the rules are put at a competitive disadvantage and workers are stripped of essential protections such as workers' compensation coverage and eligibility for unemployment insurance, Social Security and Medicare.

The issue is especially acute in the construction industry, where the fairness of direct competitive bidding can easily be undermined by a bidder misclassifying employees as independent contractors to save 20-30% on labor cost. Perhaps the largest recent case involved more than $1.1 million in unreported wages found at the renovation of the Boston Marriot Copley Place, where one contractor was paying $4 an hour to employees who were recruited from a substance abuse program in Connecticut. Contractors were issued more than $100,000 in fines on the project.

"The work of the Task Force is invaluable in reducing the growth of the underground economy in the state's construction industry,” said Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. “Taking on the illegal practices of wage theft, misclassification and tax and insurance fraud creates a more level playing field, which ultimately benefits legitimate employers, tradesmen and women and taxpayers."

The joint task force brings together various state agencies, including the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division, the Insurance Fraud Bureau and others.

Both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald covered the issue.

Donahue wins in Worcester
Posted by NERCC on August 14, 2013 at 01:45 PM

Dan Donahue, son of Jack Donahue, who is the Business Manager of Local 107, Regional Manager for Central and Western Massachusetts and Warden for the NERCC, was the winner of a special election Democratic primary election for state representative last night. Donahue will take on Republican Carla Claros in a general election on September 10 for the 16th Worcester District seat, from which John Fresolo recently resigned.

Raids flush out more crooked contractors in Connecticut
Posted by NERCC on March 27, 2013 at 10:41 AM

A series of sweeps of construction sites in Connecticut this year has resulted in 27 "Stop Work" orders against contractors for misclassification of workers as "independent contractors." The results continue a disturbing trend in the state's construction industry. In the past year, the Connecticut Department of Labor reports that inspection and review of 108 construction projects and 299 contractors has resulted in 199 "Stop Work" work orders, an alarming rate of cheating.

"Some employers will misclassify workers as independent contractors with the intent of avoiding their obligations under federal and state employment law covering such matters as workers' compensation, unemployment taxes and payroll reporting," said state Labor Commissioner Sharon Palmer. "Unfortunately, when an employer fails to pay for the proper coverage for injuries suffered on the job, and a worker gets hurt, the state's taxpayers ultimately foot the bill."

Avoiding tax obligations gives cheating employers a significant advantage in competitive bidding and negotiated pricing within the construction industry and creates a funding gap for state and federal governments, among other problems.

Media coverage here.

State, Feds raid Stamford mega-sites
Posted by NERCC on January 29, 2013 at 10:41 AM

The Connecticut Department of Labor was joined by the US Department of Labor, OSHA and local and state police in raids of at least four construction sites in Stamford last week in an unprecedented effort to crack down on payroll fraud. The Stamford Advocate covered the raids and published a column by Angela Carella calling for developers to clean up their businesses.

The raids targeted three sites being built by Building and Land Technology and another by Greenfield Partners. The sites have all previously been the target of numerous public complaints as well as demonstrations by union carpenters and other trades workers. The Harbor Point project being built by BL&T has also been the site of numerious enforcement actions. More than 34 "Stop Work" orders had been issued at the project prior to last week's raids.

Investigators talked to more than 200 workers, according to media reports, and will sort out possible violations in the coming weeks after reviewing those interviews.
 

Clean sweep in New England
Posted by NERCC on November 07, 2012 at 10:39 AM

To all staff and local unions:

Yesterday was a good day for union carpenters across New England. Amazingly, all of the Council’s endorsed candidates won election. Obama swept the six states, including winning swing-state New Hampshire by a larger-than-expected margin. In the critical races -- Warren in Massachusetts, Murphy in Connecticut, Hassan/Kuster/Shea-Porter in New Hampshire, King in Maine, Cicilline in Rhode Island – our picks were all winners!!

There is no doubt in my mind that some of the credit for these outcomes belongs to all of you and our members. We worked as hard as we ever have in an election season. We used all the tools available to us – new and old techniques – to educate and mobilize our members. And they responded. Door knocking, phone banks, rallies, visibilities, robo-dials, tele-Town Halls. We had a good story to tell…and we told it well and often.

But it’s important to keep a clear-eyed perspective on where we stand the morning after Election Day 2012. In many ways, we “held serve”. We helped fend off the right wing Republican assault on the middle class. There should be a clear message to the nation’s anti-union forces that their philosophy is not welcome, that the voters do not buy an agenda that favors the wealthy over working families. Yet we still have a divided Congress; we still have a Republican Party that attacks unions. We have some new articulate champions but we also have some old foes. Paul Ryan is still chair of the House Budget Committee and there are no signs yet that the House leadership is prepared to move forward in terms of solving our country’s problems as opposed to scoring political points.

So, as much as all of us deserve to take a deep breath and feel a justified sense of pride in our efforts, we will need to remain vigilant. The economy will not fix itself; it will require more federal and state action to invest in jobs and people. And it will require our continued involvement. Our members need to work; that’s why we endorsed the candidates who understood that the best social program is a job.

Thank you all for your efforts these past weeks and months. It was worth it. Congratulations.

Mark Erlich
Executive Secretary-Treasurer
New England Regional Council of Carpenters
 

Mass Senate race comes to the Carpenters Center
Posted by NERCC on October 12, 2012 at 10:41 AM

 

United States Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren visited the Carpenters Center recently to speak with members about issues of specific interest to union carpenters. She took questions from members and spoke individually with members before and after the event. Thank you to Elizabeth Warren for coming by and thank you to every member who cared enough to come out and get involved.

Carpenters prepare for election push
Posted by NERCC on October 11, 2012 at 12:47 PM

More than 75 carpenter stewards in Connecticut from Locals 24, 43 and 210 gathered last night to talk about upcoming elections in the state that could have a significant impact both locally and nationally. A United States Senate race between Congressman Chris Murphy and second-time candidate Linda McMahon of the WWE wrestling company is one of a handful of races in the country that could tilt the balance of power in the Senate. Members are also active in other races in the state.


After discussing issues of importance to union carpenters, the conversation turned to getting as many members active as possible. Stewards returned to jobsites today armed with information and schedules. The information is to educate fellow carpenters about the issues and the candidates, the schedules were for events at which members will reach out to even more members. Between now and Election Day on November 6, members will be participating in phone banks to contact registered members and talk to them about the importance of the election to their families, our union, the economy and the construction industry.
Members interested in participating in scheduled activity should contact their Local Union hall for dates and times.

Gov Patrick announces new college building $$
Posted by NERCC on October 03, 2012 at 08:27 AM

Governor Deval Patrick yesterday announced a boost to funding for new buildings on state college campuses, a positive steop to boosting infrastructure, education and employment in the construciton trades.

The announced investment of $2.2 billion financed through bond sales will lead to $20 million worth of building at Roxbury Community College and $607 million in construction at University of Massachusetts campuses will including:

--A new Physical Science Building at the University of Massachusetts Amherst currently estimated at $85 million that will accommodate enrollment growth and higher demand in science programs, helping achieve the University’s long term goal to improve all science facilities, increase retention and attract the highest caliber faculty and students;
--A new Management Building for the Manning School of Business (MSB) at the University of Massachusetts Lowell which leverages approximately $10 million in private donations to support the $35 million project; and
--A new academic classroom building at the University of Massachusetts Boston, estimated at $100 million to help address the demands of continued enrollment growth at the University and the drive to provide an academic setting in which cutting edge teaching techniques can be accommodated.

New England Carpenters Give Scott Brown A Failing Grade On Creating Jobs, Supporting Working Families
Posted by NERCC on September 13, 2012 at 02:54 PM

In new report card, Republican Scott Brown fails to support new jobs and Massachusetts’ middle-class

Today, the New England Regional Council of Carpenters issued a report card on Senator Scott Brown’s failing efforts to support job-creating programs and middle-class families across the Commonwealth. Senator Brown received an F on today’s report card for opposing numerous jobs bills that would have supported thousands of good-paying jobs in Massachusetts, opposing the extension of essential unemployment benefits, and failing to fight for fair wages for working men and women.

 

"Try as he may, Scott Brown cannot run away from his votes along national Republican Party lines,” said Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Council of Carpenters. “Whether it's unemployment benefits, jobs bills, or standing up for fair wages, Scott Brown is not on the side of working families right here in Massachusetts. The attempts to re-make his image cannot mask his record. He sides with huge corporations and Wall Street instead of the thousands of Massachusetts families still looking for jobs.”

 

Today, the New England Carpenters gave Senator Brown an “F” for failing to stand up for working families. The grade was based on the following key votes: 

 

 

Class

Score

American Jobs Act

-       Would have cut payroll taxes for 140,000 MA firms

-       Supported 11,100 MA jobs

 

Yes     No X

 

[Roll Call Vote 160, 10/11/11]

Rebuild American Jobs Act

-       Would invest $850 million in MA infrastructure including roads, bridges highway

-       Would not add to the deficit.

Yes      No X

 

[Roll Call Vote 195, 11/3/11]

Extending Unemployment Benefits

-       8 votes to extended unemployment benefits to tens of thousands of MA residents who were out of work

 

Yes      No X

 

[HR 4213 otes 48, 194, 200, 204, 209, 215; HR 4851 votes 116, 117, 3/10/10 through 7/21/10]

Prevailing Wage Protections

-       Effort to ensure construction workers are paid fair wages on federal transportation projects

 

  Yes      No X

 

[S. 223 vote 11, 2/3/11]

To Confirm President Obama’s NRLB Nominee

-       To nominate Craig Becker to the NRLB

 

  Yes      No X

 

[Roll Call Vote 22, 2/9/10]

 

MA Construction Unions support Warren's 'Rebuild Now' plan
Posted by NERCC on August 09, 2012 at 09:20 AM

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters, along with the Massachusetts Building Trades Council and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, officially announced their support of Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren's "Rebuild Now" infrastructure investment plan.

Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, and Frank Callahan, president of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council ,told reporters that the industry needs a boost and that a plan like Warren's has the potential to put its members back to work.

Read more online here.

Reaction to Supreme Court decision
Posted by NERCC on June 28, 2012 at 06:40 PM

Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters released the following statement regarding today's Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act.

"We are pleased that the Supreme Court did not strike down the ACA. When Carpenters work, we have great health insurance, but the costs continue to skyrocket. Too much of our contract increases have gone to fund health care over the years. The ACA has the potential not only to extend access but to control costs and we support efforts in that direction."

Rego uncovers potential mess at FRHA
Posted by NERCC on May 30, 2012 at 11:39 AM

Local 1305 member Dan Rego, who is a NERCC Organizer and Fall River City Councilor, is shaking things up in the Southeastern Massachusetts city. A few weeks ago, he raised concerns over issues with work being done by the Fall River Housing Authority. Since then, the sparks have started flying.

Rego spoke at a Housing Authority meeting and reported on conversations he had with workers on several FRHA projects in the city, some of which were receiving federal funding. Several workers had reported being misclassified as independent contractors, not being paid the legally mandated prevailing wage or not being paid at all. Rego told the Board that he had referred all of the allegations and evidence to proper state authorities.

 The Housing Authority went into immediate executive session, during which they appointed their own independent investigator. The story quickly hit the Fall River Herald News. The paper then followed up with a vicious attack on Rego, questioning not only his motives, but actions by Rego and the union in the past to protect industry standards. This in a city where legal violations on public construction projects are not unheard of.

This week, Rego spoke out in his own defense in the paper, reminding readers that his knowledge of and experience in the construction industry are a benefit to the city and its residents.

Please take a moment to read Rego's "Letter to the Editor" and consider weighing in with a respectful comment on the Herald News site.

 

CT DOL issues 13 "Stop Work" orders
Posted by NERCC on May 17, 2012 at 11:30 AM

The Connecticut Department of Labor issued “Stop Work” orders against 13 construction companies in recent weeks for misclassifying workers as “independent contractors.” The orders were issued in multiple communities where contractors were found to have misclassified workers for the purpose of avoiding their obligations to carry workers’ compensation and paying federal and state unemployment taxes, including unemployment.

One of the "Stop Work" orders was issued against NLP Contractors at the New London Plaza. Union carpenters have been protesting at the site, where renovations are being done and where North Carolina-based SandovalConstruction has already been issued a "Stop Work " order. (earlier post)

The Hartford Courant, New London Day, Republican AmericanDanbury Patch and Greenwich Patch reported on the story. Sites where contractors issued "Stop Work" orders were issued were located in Danbury, Greenwich, New London, Preston, Naugatuck and Simsbury.

“Stop Work” orders result in the halting of all activity at a cited company’s worksite, as well as a $300 civil penalty for each day the company does not carry workers’ compensation coverage as required by law.

According to a release on the "Stop Work" orders by the Department of Labor: “in the past 12 months the agency has inspected 167 construction projects and reviewed the records of 688 contractors. A total of 281 “Stop Work” orders have been issued during this time, with 116 identified as being issued to out‐of‐state contractors. Since October 2007, a total of 735 “Stop Work” orders have been issued with $285,000 collected in civil penalties for the misclassification of workers. Additionally, referrals have been made to the Department of Revenue Services and the Labor Department’s Tax Division audit unit for further investigation.”
 

This blog post was updated form a previous post on 5/16 to include links to additional media coverage and information about the New London Plaza site.

Rego targets possible problems in FRHA
Posted by NERCC on May 15, 2012 at 11:30 AM

Dan Rego, a union carpenter and organizer who successfully ran for City Council in Fall River, is starting to shake things up in the Southeastern Massachusetts City. At a Monday night hearing for the Fall River Housing Authority, Rego raised questions about the agency's awarding of construction contracts and the payment and treatment of workers.

The Fall River Herald News reported on Rego's questions in today's paper. The Housing Authority cut off Rego's statement and went into Executive Session, ultimately voting to begin an independet investigation of the allegations, according to the paper. Rego has already discussed improprieties he has found on FRHA sites with Fall River Mayor William Flanagan as well as the offices of Attorney General Martha CoakleyInspector General Gregory Sullivan and State Auditor Suzanne Bump.

Rego told the Housing Authority that he has found issues with projects that are valued at less than $10,000, which are done with very little oversight.

Northeast Interiors ordered to pay $30k+ for violations
Posted by NERCC on May 14, 2012 at 02:14 PM

Braintree, Massachusetts-based Northeast Interiors has been ordered by the state to pay $20,000 in fines and make restitution of almost $16,000 to twelve employees. The company cheated workers on three projects in Arlington, Swampscott and Salem.

Civil citations were issued against Northeast Interiors and owner Kevin Fish for failure to pay prevailing wages for work performed ($5,000), failure to submit true and accurate certified payroll records ($7,500) and failure to keep true and accurate payroll records ($7,500). Violations occured when the company was doing work at Arlington Menotomy Manner, Swampscott Thomson Building and Salem Rainbow Terrace.

The case was handled by the Fair Labor Division of the Office of Attorney General Martha Coakley. Workers who feel their employer has paid them less than what they are owed, in violation of previaling wage laws or other wage and hour laws (ie, overtime) may contact the New England Regional Council of Carpenters for assitance or may file a complaint directly with the Attorney General's Office using this page.

Warren visits UBC
Posted by NERCC on May 04, 2012 at 01:03 PM

Massachusetts Democratic Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren was in Washington this week where she visited UBC headquarters and met with General President Doug McCarron, Secretary-Treasurer Andy Silins, UBC Political Director Tom Flynn, NERCC Executive Secretary-Treasurer Mark Erlich and NERCC Political Director Steve Joyce.

 

Warren will be meeting rank-and-file union members at a Town Hall meeting next week. The event will be held Wednesday, May 9 at 5:30 PM at 1199SEUI's Union hall on Mount Vernon Street in Dorchester. All carpenters are encouraged to attend and bring their families to this important event. Warren will talk to members about herself and where she stands on issues important to us.

Our future is in our hands!

NERCC calls for harsher penalties for those not buying workers' comp
Posted by NERCC on April 12, 2012 at 08:34 AM

The New England Regional Council of Carpenters and other industry groups are calling on the Massachusetts legislature to make it a felony for employers to fail to purchase workers compensation insurance for their employees. Senate Bill 915, sponsored by Senator Katherine Clark (D-Melrose) and Majority Whip Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy) also has the backing of Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Operating without workers' compesnation insurance is currently a misdemeanor, punishable by upt oa year in prison or a find of up to $1,500. The new law would make the felongy punishapble by up to five years in state prison, two-and-a-half years in jail or a fine of up to $10,000.

NERCC Political Director Steve Joyce said that although union carpenters are always covered by workers' compensation insurance, they are still hurt by those who cheat.

"In an industry where work most often goes to whoever submits the lowest price, any contractor who does not purchase workers' compensation coverage has a competitive advantage right from the start over contractors who follow the law and have coverage," he said. "That negatively impacts any carpenter that works for a legitmate contractor. We're not looking to hurt all employers, we value the role they play in creating jobs. We just want everyone to comply with the law when they do it."

Even the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), a group that lobbies for businesses, support the bill. In a story by the State House News Service, John Regan, AIM's Executive Vice President described the current situation as unfair to too many.

"Their faliure to have that insurance in place means that if workers working for them get injured, the rest of the employer commnity pays the bill" and that making failure to have coverage a felony "reflects the seriousness of the issue, and conveys how important it is that coverage be in place."

According to the SHNS story, the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents has reported more than 1,000 cses costing the worekrs compensation fund $26 million in the last five years becuase their employer didn't have worers' compensation coverage. In recent years the department has routinely issued Stop Work Orders against more than 3,000 employer found to be operating without workers' compensation coverage.

Murphy winning favor among CT Carpenters
Posted by NERCC on January 12, 2012 at 10:39 AM

As he campaigns to move from the United States House of Representatives to the Senate this year, Connecticut's Chris Murphy has been renewing and strengthening his relationship with union carpenters. Murphy was recently endorsed by the Working Families Party and hit the streets to push for more infrastructure fudning.

Murphy recently attended an event in New Milford with union carpenters other trades workers and construction employers highlight the need to fund repairs to the structurally deficient Veteran's Bridge and other neglected structures. The project would provide an economic boost through job creation. It would also start to tackle major infrastructure deficiencies that are dangerous, stifle growth and lead to more costly repairs later.

Funding to repair the Veteran's Bridge in New Milford is in place, but proposed cuts could lead to eliminating commitments to many projects, including the Veteran's Bridge, according to an article by the Danbury News-Times.

Local 24 Carpenter and Representative Chris Bachant is quoted in the article supporting Murphy's efforts to fudn more infrastruture construction, especially if local workers can made the beneficiaries.

Chris Bachant, a Waterford resident and union carpenter who was one of several dozen people to attend the event, said "things are very tough right now" in the construction industry.

"It's fantastic what Murphy is promoting," Bachant said. "But I think we need to go one step further and make sure that local people are hired for these jobs."

A recent bridge construction project near his home, Bachant said, was awarded to a company from Minnesota.

The entire story can be read here.

New Year's resolution in New Hampshire
Posted by NERCC on January 09, 2012 at 08:27 AM

The Nashua Telegraph yesterday published a piece by Mark Mackenzie, President of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO calling for a New Year's resolution to help workers in 2012. The piece was a good summary of what workers want and deserve, but aren't gettingin today's America. Click through to read the piece and consider sharing it with others.

Globe goes beyond construction employment numbers
Posted by NERCC on August 17, 2011 at 12:00 AM

The Boston Globe this weekend ran a piece that scratched just a bit beyond the surface of unemployment in the construction industry. Local 56 Pile Driver Barry Beaudoin and Local 40 Carpenter Vionet Montano were interviewed for the article, as was NERCC Executive Secretary-Treasurer Mark Erlich.

Congress hears about hard work
Posted by NERCC on May 16, 2011 at 12:00 AM

Mike Rowe, host of the popular TV show "Dirty Jobs," testified before Congress last week. He spoke about the declining respect for hard work and skilled trades in the United States and why that's a bad thing for all of us.



For the last few years, Rowe has been championing the cause of craft training and encouraging young people to pursue a career of hard work in a skilled trade. Visit mikeroweworkers.com for more information on his efforts.

DOL crossing borders to root out pay scams
Posted by NERCC on April 07, 2011 at 12:00 AM

The United States Department of Labor’s district office in Hartford has announced an initiative to aggressively pursue wage and hour violations on construction sites in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

“Due to the competitive nature of the construction industry, some contractor and subcontractors cut corners with respect to wages, hours and employment conditions,” said Neil Patrick, the Wage and Hour Division’s district director in Hartford. “The Wage and Hour Division is developing new strategies to better identify and remedy widespread labor violations so workers are protected against exploitation and law-abiding employers are not placed at a competitive disadvantage when they play by the rules and pay fair wages.”

NERCC staff in the two states have been pushing for increased enforcement as harsh economic conditions in the construction industry have made it more tempting for project owners and general contractors to look the other way at violations. Several meetings have been held with state and federal enforcement agencies in the last year where multi-state investigations have been a main point of discussion.

Because so many general contractors and subcontractors move across city and state borders, coordinated efforts are essential to make a significant impact on contractors and the industry as a whole.

The DOL plans to look at general contractor and subcontractors on projects in Connecticut and Rhode Island to uncover patterns of cheating. The Wage and Hour Division conducted nearly 300 investigations in the construction industry in the last ten years, recouping $5.6 million for almost 3,300 workers.

“These numbers how that we need to change industry behavior across the board, not simply on an employer-by-employer basis,” Patrick said. “Paying workers the proper wages is the employer’s responsibility. We particularly want to encourage general contractors to require and ensure Fair Labor Standards Act compliance by all of their subcontractors.”

LePage channels Robert Irsay
Posted by NERCC on March 28, 2011 at 12:00 AM

The mural celebrating the history and advances of Maine workers was removed from the state's Department of Labor office over the weekend, sparking memories of the Baltimore Colts middle-of-the-night move out of town to Indianapolis.

TAGS: Maine, Government
GOP not united against labor
Posted by NERCC on February 22, 2011 at 12:00 AM

Though conservative efforts to limit or eliminate the activity of unions is underway in several states this year, Republicans in Congress are running into opposition to some of their labor-related efforts from within their own party.

Twice in the last week a significant block of Republicans broke party ranks to support union positions on two significant votes. The first was an amendment to a spending bill that would have prohibited Davis Bacon prevailing wage requirements for any federal projects this year. Forty-eight Republicans in the House of Representatives joined every voting Democrat in opposing the measure, which was soundly defeated 189-233.

Republicans Charlie Bass and Frank Guinta of New Hampshire were the only New England Representatives to support the amendment. Roll Call vote results.

In a clear message to House Speaker John Boehner that he had over-reached, 60 Republican members of the House of Representatives also broke ranks last week to vote with Democrats on a bill amendment regarding funding for the National Labor Relations Board. The amendment would have de-funded the agency, which governs elections for union representation and rules on complaints of unfair labor practices by workers or management. Conservatives have complained that appointments to the Board by President Barack Obama have pushed the body to make more worker-friendly decisions.

Republican Frank Guinta of New Hampshire was the only New England Representative to support the amendment, which was defeated 176-250.

Split federal gov't may not mean total gridlock
Posted by NERCC on January 18, 2011 at 12:00 AM

The first two years of the Obama administration have been presented as a failure for the labor movement by some. The biggest legislative initiative sought in Congress--the Employee Free Choice Act--never had any momentum and virtually disappeared from policy discussions. The stimulus package morphed from an aggressive jobs-creating effort to a defensive stop-gap to save state and local budgets and provide tax cuts to assist struggling companies or investors. The grand finale was said to be the 2010 elections, where Republicans swept to a majority in the House of Representatives, weakened the Democratic majority in the Senate and started calling for President Obama to compromise more and move his agenda to the right.

On some issues, the administration has and may continue to do that. But on labor issues, they haven't retreated as much as changed tactics and strategies. Obama himself has continued to support unions publicly and has a Secretary of Labor who's mission has been to do more for workers without new laws.

In the Washington Post today, Seth Borden takes another look at how the administration is working with existing laws--and the power of the Executive Branch--to help workers in a way Republicans can't block them.

Cheating at CT hospital not a surprise
Posted by NERCC on July 21, 2010 at 12:00 AM

To union carpenters and honest contractors, it’s an all too familiar story, even if it’s not reported in the press often enough. A job goes out to bid and several union and nonunion contractors put in bids. Costs will be the same for materials, equipment, insurance and other items. But when the bids are opened most of the bid prices are clustered together, while one or two are dramatically lower. The owner looks only at the bottom line on the bid and grabs the rock bottom price.

More often than not the result of the lowball bid is one of two things: the contractor missing something in the bid, which will result in back-charging the owner or labor costs being illegally lowered on the job because subcontractors will be misclassifying workers or not paying workers at all.

The second scenario was likely in Norwalk, Connecticut and led to a state-ordered shutdown American Cancer Society's C. Anthony and Jean Whittingham Family Building, which was reported in the Norwalk Hour.

The 13,000 square foot building was less than a month from its groundbreaking when the Department of Labor visited the site and found workers being paid in cash and having no contributions made to workers’ compensation on their behalf and no state or federal taxes being paid. There were also discrepancies in the way the workers and the company identified workers on the job.

Local 210 Business Agent Glenn Marshall told the Hour he had conversations with other bidders on the job and suspected there would be problems on the job based on the winning bid.

"I talked to the other contractors and they said they didn't know how you could (construct the building) at that price," he said.

Herald's Woodlief on Brown, unemployment
Posted by NERCC on July 12, 2010 at 12:00 AM

NERCC ES-T Mark Erlich is quoted in a piece by the Boston Herald's Wayne Woodlief, who cautions Senator Scott Brown not to insist on the perfect if it's the enemy of the good.

TAGS: Government
Unemployment benefit expansion: the heartless, the clueless and the confused
Posted by NERCC on July 07, 2010 at 12:00 AM

An interesting perspective from Paul Krugman's Op-Ed piece published in the New York Times over the weekend.

Punishing the Jobless
New York Times
Paul Krugman
July 4, 2010


There was a time when everyone took it for granted that unemployment insurance, which normally terminates after 26 weeks, would be extended in times of persistent joblessness. It was, most people agreed, the decent thing to do.

But that was then. Today, American workers face the worst job market since the Great Depression, with five job seekers for every job opening, with the average spell of unemployment now at 35 weeks. Yet the Senate went home for the holiday weekend without extending benefits. How was that possible?

The answer is that we’re facing a coalition of the heartless, the clueless and the confused. Nothing can be done about the first group, and probably not much about the second. But maybe it’s possible to clear up some of the confusion.

By the heartless, I mean Republicans who have made the cynical calculation that blocking anything President Obama tries to do — including, or perhaps especially, anything that might alleviate the nation’s economic pain — improves their chances in the midterm elections. Don’t pretend to be shocked: you know they’re out there, and make up a large share of the G.O.P. caucus.

By the clueless I mean people like Sharron Angle, the Republican candidate for senator from Nevada, who has repeatedly insisted that the unemployed are deliberately choosing to stay jobless, so that they can keep collecting benefits. A sample remark: “You can make more money on unemployment than you can going down and getting one of those jobs that is an honest job but it doesn’t pay as much. We’ve put in so much entitlement into our government that we really have spoiled our citizenry.”

Now, I don’t have the impression that unemployed Americans are spoiled; desperate seems more like it. One doubts, however, that any amount of evidence could change Ms. Angle’s view of the world — and there are, unfortunately, a lot of people in our political class just like her.

But there are also, one hopes, at least a few political players who are honestly misinformed about what unemployment benefits do — who believe, for example, that Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, was making sense when he declared that extending benefits would make unemployment worse, because “continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work.” So let’s talk about why that belief is dead wrong.

Do unemployment benefits reduce the incentive to seek work? Yes: workers receiving unemployment benefits aren’t quite as desperate as workers without benefits, and are likely to be slightly more choosy about accepting new jobs. The operative word here is “slightly”: recent economic research suggests that the effect of unemployment benefits on worker behavior is much weaker than was previously believed. Still, it’s a real effect when the economy is doing well.

But it’s an effect that is completely irrelevant to our current situation. When the economy is booming, and lack of sufficient willing workers is limiting growth, generous unemployment benefits may keep employment lower than it would have been otherwise. But as you may have noticed, right now the economy isn’t booming — again, there are five unemployed workers for every job opening. Cutting off benefits to the unemployed will make them even more desperate for work — but they can’t take jobs that aren’t there.

Wait: there’s more. One main reason there aren’t enough jobs right now is weak consumer demand. Helping the unemployed, by putting money in the pockets of people who badly need it, helps support consumer spending. That’s why the Congressional Budget Office rates aid to the unemployed as a highly cost-effective form of economic stimulus. And unlike, say, large infrastructure projects, aid to the unemployed creates jobs quickly — while allowing that aid to lapse, which is what is happening right now, is a recipe for even weaker job growth, not in the distant future but over the next few months.

But won’t extending unemployment benefits worsen the budget deficit? Yes, slightly — but as I and others have been arguing at length, penny-pinching in the midst of a severely depressed economy is no way to deal with our long-run budget problems. And penny-pinching at the expense of the unemployed is cruel as well as misguided.

So, is there any chance that these arguments will get through? Not, I fear, to Republicans: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something,” said Upton Sinclair, “when his salary” — or, in this case, his hope of retaking Congress — “depends upon his not understanding it.” But there are also centrist Democrats who have bought into the arguments against helping the unemployed. It’s up to them to step back, realize that they have been misled — and do the right thing by passing extended benefits.

TAGS: Government, Media
The Nation discusses the “new sheriff”
Posted by NERCC on April 05, 2010 at 12:00 AM

If you think the Obama administration isn’t doing enough for unions and workers in the United States, you might want to take a look at The Nation. Esther Kaplan has an informative piece on Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and the work she and her team are doing to reinvigorate the department.

“During the Bush years, the Department of Labor became a cautionary tale about what happens when foxes are asked to guard the henhouse. But since California Congresswoman Hilda Solis became labor secretary last winter, she has brought on board a team of lifelong advocates for working people--some of whom come from the ranks of organized labor--and has hired hundreds of new investigators and enforcers.

President Obama calls Solis part of his economic team, but the truth is she's not part of the daily huddle at the White House with Summers and Geithner and Orszag. She's tapped instead as a lead voice in the "jobs, jobs, jobs" choir, advocating for Obama's latest stimulus package. She has tiptoed into the realm of financial regulation, organizing a joint hearing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on the abysmal performance of target date retirement funds during the market crash, and she doles out hundreds of millions of dollars in job training funds, a decent chunk of which she has used to shape policy by channeling it to green industries. But Solis understands that her real influence lies in her power to enforce the nation's labor laws--the primary mission of the DoL. It's a role she embraced with relish at her swearing-in, where she announced with a grin, "To those who have for too long abused workers, put them in harm's way, denied them fair pay, let me be clear: there is a new sheriff in town."

Solis and her team are using techniques and personell that have been tested and succeeded on state levels, such as the crackdown on employee misclassification that was wildly successful in New York. The piece is an interesting look at the difference with a change of attitude.

Feds building for agressive push on misclassification
Posted by NERCC on February 19, 2010 at 12:00 AM

The NYTimes' Steve Greenhouse sums up the problem, what's being done by some states and what the Obama administration is preparing to do about it. Nice piece to share.

Companies that pass off employees as independent contractors avoid paying Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance taxes for those workers. Companies do not withhold income taxes from contractors’ paychecks, and several studies have indicated that, on average, misclassified independent workers do not report 30 percent of their income.

One federal study concluded that employers illegally passed off 3.4 million regular workers as contractors, while the Labor Department estimates that up to 30 percent of companies misclassify employees. Ohio’s attorney general estimates that his state has 92,500 misclassified workers, which has cost the state up to $35 million a year in unemployment insurance taxes, up to $103 million in workers’ compensation premiums and up to $223 million in income tax revenue.

“It’s a very significant problem,” said the attorney general, Richard Cordray. “Misclassification is bad for business, government and labor. Law-abiding businesses are in many ways the biggest fans of increased enforcement. Misclassifying can mean a 20 or 30 percent cost difference per worker.”
--
The Obama administration plans to expand investigations by hiring 100 more enforcement personnel. The I.R.S. has begun auditing 6,000 companies to see whether they are in compliance with the law.
--
The administration also plans to rewrite a three-decade-old I.R.S. rule that lets companies indefinitely classify employees as independent contractors — even when the government knows they are misclassified — so long as the company once had a reasonable belief that the workers were contractors.

Page
of 2
Submit Story
Submit Story