Bryan Bouchard, who serves as Business Manger of Local 1996 in Vermont, Regional Manager for Northern New England and a member of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters Executive Board has announced his retirement, effective March 11. Bouchard is a 36-year member of the UBC.
Executive Secretary-Treasurer Mark Erlich is appointing John Leavitt to fill Bouchard's unexpired term on the Executive Board as well as his role as Regional Manager for Northern New England.
"Bryan served the members on staff for the Carpenters Union for 26 years," Erlich said. "He has been a quiet but effective leader who always carried himself with dignity and integrity. He will be sorely missed by his members and the Council. We wish him a long and happy retirement."
The American Institute of Architects is confidently projecting strong growth in nonresidential construction this year and next, with increase of 5% in 2013 and 7.2% in 2014. Commercial construction is expected to lead the way in growth, followed by industrial work, while institutional construction will grow at a slower pace. The AIA is basing its predictions on a comparison of its own "Architecture Billings Index" with forecasts from six different industry groups. The consistency in forecasts leads them to believe they will be very reliable.
John Leavitt, the Business Agent for Local 1996 in Portland hit the airwaves this week to promote the union and help a disk jockey fill time as he stays on the air for four consecutive days. The Mark-a-thon is an annual event held by WCYY's Mark Curdo to raise money for the Center for Grieving Children. CYY is one of the radio stations on which NERCC and the New England Carpenters Labor Management Program place ads to promote the union and industry standards. They also carry radio broadcasts of New England Patriots games, on which the union advertises. Leavitt was on air with Mark on Tuesday afternoon at 3pm.
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.
New England Regional Council of Carpenters
Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters announces the union's endorsement of former Governor Angus King for United States Senate. The text of his entire statement is below.
"My name is Mark Erlich and I’m the head of the New England Carpenters union.
"We’re proud to have close to 20,000 members in Maine and the region’s other five states under our umbrella. And if anyone thinks they all look the same, act the same or think the same, I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. They don’t even sound the same. But there is a core set of beliefs -- the desire for decent wages, quality benefits and safe jobsites. Our members hold a variety of views on social issues, but they all know that “the best social program is a job”.
"We believe in partnerships. We know that in order for our members to succeed, our employers have to be competitive. We invest in training to ensure that quality and productivity offers a higher value for project owners. We provide contractors flexibility in hiring. And we have created a culture where hard work on the job and involvement in the community and our democracy is expected, not just suggested.
"Frankly, we’re pretty proud of the way our union is able to balance different interests in our industry. We look for the same in politics.
"We value the kind of independence and balance that Angus King represents.
"He’s been an entrepreneur, a fan of capitalism, but recognizes our system is not always perfect. Angus King knows that some regulation can go too far and shackle our economy. But he also knows that the abuses we saw four years ago in the financial system are unacceptable and have left a legacy of destruction in our industry and its workforce.
"Angus King has written critically about some of the trade agreements that the United States has negotiated. He has called for fair rather than free trade so that local workers and businesses that play by the rules are not undercut and subjected to unfair competition.
"Angus king is a fair and thoughtful man whose experience and independence are unquestioned. At a time of gridlock in our nation’s capital where scoring political points has become more important than salvaging our economy, Angus King will stand out as a voice of reason. Angus King knows that government can and must provide needed checks and balances.
"Like our union, Angus King is committed to solutions, not slogans. For all these reasons, the New England carpenters are proud to support Angus King as the next senator from Maine.
Congratulations to union carpenters who recently completed construction on the expanded Portland Jetport. The building, which is receiving rave reviews, opened this weekend. It will greatly expand the capacity for travel to and from Maine. New England Cable News reported on the project:
The Portland Phoenix continues to confirm what most suspect: Maine Governor Paul LePage isn't really a policy wonk who pours over issue papers and carefully crafts his own legislation and plans of action. Trouble is, they've confirmed that his staff doesn't really work their fingers to the bone with those messy details, either. Turns out what they're really good at is CTRL+C, CTRL+V (copy and paste).
"In most cases, language from the industry and lobbyist's memos was copied word-for-word into LePage's reform proposal, suggesting the governor and his staff made little effort to analyze or shape policies themselves."
The article reveals that legislation LePage ended up submitting didn't even match up with his own positions. The investigation of how LePage does his job is troubling, according to some.
"Directly photocopying from lobbyist's wish lists is problematic in the message it sends on how seriously he takes his job and how much he is weighing different interests," says Ron Schmidt, head of the political science department at the University of Southern Maine. "I would think that would make a lot of citizens uncomfortable."
In contrast to the likes of Scott Walker, John Kasich and Rick Scott—Republican governors who have clear personal engagement with their extremist agendas—LePage is almost buffoonish, a weapon rather than a warrior in the corporate war on the environment and workers. But the damage to a state is the same, regardless of whether the governor came up with the ideas himself or just cut and pasted them as directed by his corporate masters.
John Leavitt, Business Manager for Carpenters Local 1996 recently wrote an editorial piece published in Mainebiz regarding the recent Executive Order issued by newly elected Maine Governor Paul LePage eliminating the state’s Task Force on misclassification. The Governor claimed the work the Task Force was doing was “a bad direction for the state, so we are going to try to reverse that.”
The Task Force was established by an Executive Order in 2009 by then-Governor John Baldacci after studies showed the state was losing as much as $36 million a year in tax revenue due to misclassification. As in other states, the Task Force was given two goals: clarify language regarding employee status and eliminate barriers to information sharing and cooperative enforcement among government agencies. Because misclassification involves issues of workers' compensation, unemployment and taxes, there are usually multiple agencies involved, each with concerns about sharing personal information collected during investigations. Task forces in many states have been effective in finding ways to accommodate those concerns while opening lines of communication and enforcing all of the laws and regulations involved.
Leavitt’s letter was published in the ‘Perspectives’ section of Mainebiz, where he points out that “this new executive order promotes poor business, not good business, and is a major step backward for Maine people.”
NERCC and the New England Carpenters Labor Management Program are at the Mainebiz Momentum Convention in Augusta, Maine this week to talk about how union carpenters and contractors are the best joint venture in the cosntruciton industry. While there, they got a visit from Maine Senator Susan Collins. Collins was interested in what the Carpenters union has been up to and is scheduling a meeting to have more detailed coversations after the elections.
If you're in Maine, stop by the show and visit with us at Booth #316. Pictured, from left to right are: Molly Walsh of the Communications Department, Maine Senator Susan Collins and Maine Local 1996 Business Agent John Leavitt.
Congratulations to union contractor Turner Construction and union carpenters in Maine. A groundbreaking was held today for the $75 million expansion of the Portland Jetport. The project will involve several phases that will add three gates, double the size of the existing terminal, add to baggage handling capacity and update and upgrade de-icing and security capabilities, among other improvements.
The project will add scores of construction and permanent jobs without cost to the city. Funding is coming from existing fees being charged to passengers as well as stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Pictured at the groundbreaking, below, from left to right; Charlie Buuck of Turner Construction, John Leavitt, Business Manager for Carpenters Local 1996 and Pete Hamill of Turner Construction. Also at the groundbreaking were, below from left to right: Portland Mayor Nick Mavadonis, Portland City Councilor Dan Skolnick, Leavitt and Congressman Mike Michaud.
The amendment authorizes the Executive Director of the Workers' Compensation Board to issue a stop-work order after an administrative hearing if a contractor has (a) failed to provide workers' compensation coverage and (b) there has been at least one previous notice of a non-coverage violation, or the contractor has cancelled or failed to renew a policy. The stop work order will be stayed if the contractor shows that coverage has been obtained and will be maintained for its employees or subcontractors or for independent contractors whose status as employees is in question. It also extends the notice of hearing provision from 48 hours to 3 business days.
Last June, LD 1456 was signed, which was an act to ensure that construction workers are protected by workers’ compensation insurance. At the time, stop work order language was removed from the bill to make certain the bill would pass. The recent signing of the Stop Work Order amendment is the missing piece that is needed to ensure enforcement of the laws.
To view a PDF of the recently signed amendment click here.
The New Hampshire Senate voted yesterday by a 14-10 margin to expand gaming to six locations, which would include existing race tracks and new casinos.
The bill will now head to the House, where it will face a stiff challenge.
In addition to the many construction and permanent jobs that would be created, expanded gaming is expected to have a huge financial benefit for the state. The licenses for slot machines could generate an initial $200 million. License fees for facilities that want to offer table games would generate an additional $10 million each. Other area businesses would also receive a direct benefit of additional visitors.
The following article appeared in the York County (ME) Journal Tribune.
By KRISTEN SCHULZE MUSZYNSKI City Editor/ Journal Tribune Revisions are underway on a new law that was created to enforce tax laws but has unintentionally made it difficult for some independent contractors to work in Maine.
The law, "An Act to Enforce the Misclassification Law for Construction Workers," became effective Jan. 1 and incorporates a new 12-part test to determine whether a construction worker is an employee or an independent contractor.
It was created to crack down on employers who have been avoiding paying for worker's compensation insurance and some federal taxes by mis-labeling employees as independent contractors. The law goes hand-in-hand with federal efforts that began this month to increase enforcement and regain the taxes that are lost each year to misclassification.
"It's a huge concern, not only in Maine but nationally," said Paul Dionne, executive director of the Maine Workers Compensation Board.
According to a 2005 Harvard Law School study, an estimated 3,213 construction workers in Maine were misclassified between 1999-2002. Income tax revenue is lost from these workers, costing the state an estimated $2.6-4.3 million annually, the study states, and up to $6.5 million of worker compensation premiums are not paid annually for these workers.
The governor's task force on worker misclassification submitted its first annual report Thursday, citing progress in increasing education about the issue and improving inter-agency communication.
Unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, health insurance and other employee benefits are not available to those who are misclassified as independent contractors, the task force report states.
Misclassified workers are found in several fields, but the practice is more prevalent in the construction industry. The task force report notes that the Maine Department of Labor reviewed unemployment audits and found that the misclassification of employees occurred in 29 percent of employers audited across all industries in 2004; 39 percent in 2005; 43 percent in 2006; and 41 percent in 2007.
"It's been running loosey-goosey and now it's become the norm," said John M. Leavitt of Saco, business manager of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. "It's unbelievable that it got this unraveled."
Task force members heard testimony from various people who have been negatively impacted by worker misclassification, as noted in their annual report: One worker told the task force about hospital bills he couldn't pay because he had been misclassified, while a Maine taxi company told the force about being driven out of business by competing cab companies who misclassify their employees.
An amendment to the new law is currently being considered that would allow the state to shut down work on a construction site until the insurance is purchased and prohibit the contractor from taking on any public projects for three years.
That change would be a "real attention-getter," said Leavitt. Those workers who avoid paying worker's compensation insurance will always be able to bid lower than those who follow the laws, said Leavitt an estimated 30 percent less.
"It is a great expense (to purchase insurance), but there is an expense to running a business," he said. "There's a responsibility to the employees and the industry. It's not a matter of fair or unfair, it's illegal. People who say it'll hurt their business, that's not a business, that's a guy who's beating up his workers to make a profit."
Problems have arisen, however, for independent contractors who have found that the new law requires them to re-apply for their status each time they get a new job or new employer.
"It's been very difficult for independent contractors to apply for a number of jobs," said Dionne. "If they get 40-50 jobs a year, they need to apply each time if the insurance mandates it." In response to concerns from contractors throughout the state, the Labor Committee of the Legislature has been reviewing the bill in the past few months for revisions.
"It's a difficult situation," said Rep. John Tuttle, D-Sanford, who is chairman of the Labor Committee. "In the weeks ahead, we hope we can work something out." Along with the proposed penalties, a shorter application form has been developed to determine independent contractor status and it will be made an annual request, said Dionne. The approval will also be made portable between employers.
"What we're trying to do is simplify the process for everybody," he said. Dionne stressed that the form is not mandated by the state or the workers' comp board, even though insurers such as MEMIC have been requiring employers to show who is an employee or an independent contractor, to determine premiums.
Tuttle said the bill was originally intended to address the concern that some workers have no worker's compensation insurance, and to protect those employers who follow the laws.
City Editor Kristen Schulze Muszynski can be contacted at 282-1535, Ext. 322 or email@example.com. The Journal Tribune is located in Biddeford, Maine.
Union Carpenters were given a public pat on the back last week for work they're doing with area residents to winterize their homes. A woman who was the recipient of the good will effort wrote to the Portland Press Herald to give an enthusiastic thanks.
Members in Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine last night voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement negotiated with contractors working in the three Northern New England states. More than 88% of members voting cast a ballot to accept the three-year agreement, which will provide a $3.90 increase in the total wage and benefit package.
The financial increase is proportionally equivalent to those negotiated in other new agreements throughout the New England Regional Council of Carpenters this year. They will cover anticipated increases in benefit costs over the next three years.
Each year of the agreement $1.30 will be added to the total package, with increases coming in October and April. An immediate increase of $0.65, will be added to hourly pension contributions and $0.02 will be added to wages. The remaining $0.63 from the first and year will be added to hourly health benefit contributions on April 1, 2010. The increases of $1.30 in the second and third year will be divided and allocated by members at a future date.
The agreement also includes language to cover tide work and offshore work, clearly defining shifts, wage and overtime requirements and working conditions for those areas of work.
Congrats to Beth Sturtevant of CCB for being named one of the 2009 Women to Watch by Maine Biz, the state's leading business publication.
CCB is a longtime union signatory contractor in the state and Sturtevant has done radio ads with the New England Regional Council of Carpenters to promote the partnership between contractors and the union. It's a commitment she didn't shy away from in her interview with Maine Biz:
The company prides itself on being a “self-performing” general contractor, meaning it employs much of its craft labor directly, rather than through subcontractors. CCB is also a union shop, one of few of its kind in Maine, an alliance that supplies the company with well-trained and certified employees, she says.
Sturtevant, in her role as a board member for the Associated General Contractors of Maine, has long advocated and lobbied in Augusta for “responsible contracting” practices, or limiting use of independent contractors in the regular work force, a tactic some companies use to avoid providing health insurance, access to workers’ compensation and other benefits.
She’s also dedicated to her employees’ safety, and says the company’s experience modification rate, an insurance calculation that reflects historical safety statistics, has remained below average for years. “Ultimately, the buck stops with me, and the culture and the attitude we have in this company is safety is the priority,” she says.
A rare bit of good news has come in for former employees of Wood Structures in Saco, Maine. US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced today that the Department of Labor is providing a grant of more than $600,000 for displacement services.
The State of Maine will administer the grant, which may provide "individual career counseling, skills assessment, and basic and occupational skills training," according to the DOL press release.
Bob Burleigh, an Industrial Representative serving Northern New England for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters said: "After two months of nothing but bad news, it is great to have something positive to tell the members affected by the plant shutdown and the bankruptcy. This grant will help these laid off workers get the training and other help that they may need to get back on their feet."
Wood Structures, a 40-year old company who's trusses and raw lumber have been used throughout New England and New York struggled with the collapse of the housing market. They attempted to reorganize their debt through Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, but were forced to lay off the final 50 or so union carpenters in mid-March. They are likely looking at Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which involves liquidation of the company's assets.
Wood Structures, Inc. the Saco, Maine based yard that sold raw lumber and manufactured trusses and other materials for lumber yards throughout New England, has closed and will be liquidated through Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings.
Wood Structures has been struggling for some time as the housing sector steadily declined. The company, more than 40 years old has had multiple owners, according to news reports. The current owner was listed as Roark Capital Group of Atlanta, GA. The final 50 or so employees, who were members of Carpenters Local 1996, were laid off on Monday.
Employees who belong to Local 1996 of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters will be owed a week's pay for every year of service, said Bob Burleigh, the union's industrial representative. Severance and vacation pay will be among the issues the union will seek for workers during bankruptcy proceedings.
Union workers earned wages ranging from approximately $15 to $25 an hour and received benefits, including health care, a retirement plan and paid vacation.
"They were very good jobs," Burleigh said.
In addition to being a well known name to lumber yards and contractors in the region, Wood Structures was a familiar site to any New Englanders travelling to Maine. Its property sat right alongside Route 95, with its yard and materials in full site of passersby.
Maine Governor John Baldacci yesterday signed an Executive Order establishing a Joint Enforcement Task Force on Employee Misclassification, making Maine the latest state in New England to take formal and serious steps to stop the practice.
The task force will include representatives from the Department of Labor, Workers Compensation Board, Office of the Attorney General, Department of Administrative and Financial Services and the Professional & Financial Regulations agency. The Executive Order assigned the group to coordinate information sharing among agencies; study the extent of the problem of misclassification, suggest legislative action that may be needed and work with interested industry groups and individuals to educate and assist them.
Audits performed by the Maine Department of Labor between 2004 and 2007 showed misclassification to be a quickly growing problem. In 2004, 29% of audits uncovered misclassification. Only three years later, 41% of employers were found to have misclassified workers.
Members did more than help candidates get elected to office on Tuesday. Brother Tom Wright is a carpenter who got himself elected. Wright ran for the seat for Maine Houser Representative in district 145. A member of Local 118, Tom has been a member of the UBC for 27 years. He served a single term as a State Representative more than ten years ago and also previously worked as an Organizer for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.
If you know of any members who were elected this week, drop us a line at NERCCUpdate@nercc.org.