Monday, January 4, 2010

Carpenters Lay Off 58 Organizers

By Katie Drews, for ChicagoUnionNews

Though unions are usually fighting against job cuts, one Chicago union recently issued layoff notices to its own employees.

Effective Jan. 1, the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters laid off 58 organizers -– the majority of its full-time organizing staff.

The positions were eliminated as a cost-saving move for the union at a time when there's not much work to organize, according to Frank Libby, president of the council, a union consortium based at 12 E. Erie St. in Chicago.

"We still have the organizing department running, but there's not a whole lot going on out there. The residential field has hit rock bottom," Libby said. "With the lack of income coming in and the lack of jobs out there, it's a double-edged sword."

The layoffs could save the union well over $1 million, based on 2008 salary figures filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. However, Libby said he could not immediately provide financial details.

The role of an organizer is to find nonunion work sites and persuade the contractors and carpenters to join the union. Some workers fear that nonunion construction could increase because of the layoffs.

"It will be on the rise," said Randy Drogos, one of the laid-off organizers. "There's organizing work to be done out there, but if there's no money to pay you, what can you do?"

Libby, however, does not believe the amount of nonunion work will increase, saying both union and nonunion work has "flatlined." He also said the remaining union staff of around 140 can pick up the slack from the cut positions, which covered northern Illinois, eastern Iowa and southeast Wisconsin.

As for the organizers, most of them are also carpenters and could look for work back in the field. That's the case for Drogos, who said he plans to find a job with a contractor.

"You don't have a choice when they tell you the money is not there," said Drogos, a 62-year-old Des Plaines resident. "You pick up your shoes and you go looking for work elsewhere."

1 comment:

  1. at wages and bennies of $125k for an easy round number, that equates to a $7,250,000 dollar savings.


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