Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Union carpenters reject work-rule changes

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Carpenters turn down several contracts negotiated with contractor associations last year—a blow to the builders pressing for more hiring flexibility.

By Erik Engquist

Members of the carpenters union have soundly rejected four contracts negotiated with contractor associations last year—a blow to contractors because the deals included a number of work-rule changes that they have long coveted.

The primary one was “full mobility” provision that would have enabled contractors to select any member of the union to work for them; the current system compels them to hire at least one-third of their workers via union referrals.

Voting results were revealed to members of the New York City District Council of Carpenters Tuesday. Agreements with the Building Contractors Association, Cement League and Wall, Ceiling and Carpet Industries were all rejected by nearly 2-to-1 margins, with nearly 2,400 votes cast on each, according to the union. A deal with the Greater New York Floor Coverers Association was defeated 123-94.

A single contract was approved, with the Hoisting Trade Association, by a 74-29 count, union officials said.

The carpenters' deals were negotiated by leaders who have since lost power. The new executive secretary-treasurer of the 25,000-member carpenters union, Mike Bilello, had argued against “full mobility” during his election campaign but did not take a formal position on the deals, except to say they deserved a vote.

“There were some unpopular things [in the agreements], in particular the full mobility,” Mr. Bilelo said. “It was really a referendum on full mobility.”

Another clause that some members disliked would have allowed two-person jobs without a shop steward. But the prospect of turning over all hiring to contractors was the primary issue for many rank-and-file members.

One carpenter, Demian Schroeder, said: “By giving the contractors 100% control over hiring, and no work-referral system, carpenters would be less likely to make complaints about noncompliance with the contract, labor law violations and safety violations. I voted against all of those contracts because they are profoundly antiunion agreements that eviscerated the fundamental union principles of our organization.”

Mr. Bilelo said he expected to begin negotiating agreements within a week. The contracts expired June 30, 2011, but an “evergreen clause” keeps them in effect for one year. The pressure is now on the union to get a new deal in place by June 30, 2012.

“We have got to come up with a contract that works for both sides,” Mr. Bilelo said. “We have to go fast. It cannot linger.”



  2. I was glad to see that you guys voted down that 100% mobility bullshit. McCarron pushed that on us [local 279 formerly local 11] ten years ago, and the local companies have evolved into a series of closed shops. I asked a foreman friend of 20 years if he could get me on, and he said he was powerless to help. He said that the boss has his own list of guys, and when he gets a job, he starts at the top of that list and works his way down. He doesn't want any new faces, and never calls the hall for any personnel. Call up the "computerized" dispatch system and put yourself on the "out of work" list, and your hair will turn gray waiting for a call. I asked where I was on the list and how many people were on it, and was told that: "We're really not keeping track of that sort of thing anymore". Up here in Westchester, the UBC stands for the United Builders and Contractors...and here I thought that it was supposed to be for the better welfare of the constituency. So I applaud you guys for your rejection of this disastrous policy. I only wish that we were afforded the right to vote on this crap all those years ago. I remember. Everyone was against it.


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