Sunday, January 20, 2013

Contract Update: Where is my Raise?

Where is my raise and why are we being kept in the dark regarding our contract?

That's the two most important questions asked on job sites throughout the city that fall on the deaf ears of the Bilello administration.

Carpenters have been working without a new contract since June 30, 2011. The last time carpenters received a raise was October 1, 2010, when UBC Supervisor Frank Spencer, decided to unilaterally delay for 90 days, our July 1, 2010 contractual raise, thereby giving contractors a multi-million dollar gift on the backs of hard working union members.

Spencer also unilaterally change the terms and conditions of our 2006 five-year collective-bargaining agreement when he gave back a $2.13 per hour raise schedule for January 1, 2011.

While we struggle to pay our bills and put food on the table, the Bilello administration, despite having thirteen months in office and claims of working "tirelessly," has failed to nail down a new contract. This inability to negotiate and implement a contract, has and continues to cost this membership tens of millions in lost wages and benefits!

On August 22, 2012, New York City District Council EST Mike Bilello, after months of dithering, flip-flopping, broke his campaign promise, and took a major step towards finally ending this seemingly never-ending labor saga that has left 8,000 carpenters without a contract, by reaching an agreement with the Association of Wall-Ceiling and Carpentry Industries that includes "full mobility,"ignoring the will of the membership, who soundly rejected full mobility last March.

Breaking another campaign promise, Bilello was against putting the contact up to a membership ratification vote, instead he sought only delegate body approval, which approved the agreement by a vote of 60 to 26.

Back in February, Bilello was in favor of the membership voting on contracts, “It's something I campaigned on. It's part of the transparency of the new district council, the desire for us to put control of the organization back in the hands of the membership, " Bilello said.

Bilello also said, "History was made when our members were given the power to vote on their labor agreements for the first time ever. Our goal is to continue to involve members in this process by bringing you all of the most current information regarding the contracts."

Because the "full mobility" clause represents a change to the hiring ratios (67% - 33%) mandated in a May 2009 federal court order, it will have to be approved by the court. The union's federal-appointed monitor, Review Officer (RO) Dennis Walsh, and the U.S. Attorney's Office must also approve the deal, which includes that the employers and District Council "must develop an appropriate compliance program."

So what is "the most current information" regarding the contracts?

Since the August delegate vote, their has been no updates on the councils website. Contradicting his previous statement of "bringing you the most current information," last week at the town hall meeting, Bilello said, "I don't spend a lot of time thinking about updating the website."

In other words, Bilello prefers to continue to abuse the membership by keeping the membership in the dark, this is what Bilello calls progress.

Below is an excerpt from the December 19, 2012 court conference, where RO Walsh gives Judge Berman an update on the status of collective bargaining, which you have the right to know.

THE COURT: So why don't we just start with the first item on the agenda is status of collective bargaining.

MR. WALSH: Your Honor, good morning. Dennis Walsh, the review officer in this matter.

The status of the collective bargaining includes, I think, an historic milestone for the district council. The benchmark agreement between the district council and the wall-ceiling association is, I believe, very close to  implementation. And that, of course, is with the court's consent.

The agreement was struck in the latter part of the summer or early fall. But its implementation has been delayed by the inability of the council and the association to agree upon the compliance piece and who actually is going to pay for the technology that is going to be needed to allow stewards to electronically enter the time for the job sites.

And I think the better part of a month was lost with both sides really ignoring I think the opportunity to sit down and meaningfully address that issue.

I asked Mr. DeLollis, John DeLollis from the wall-ceiling association, and Michael Bilello, who is the executive secretary/treasurer of the district council, if they would meet with me to try to work out that impasse. And I think that was a very successful meeting that was held within the last two weeks at the union.

It was agreed by Mr. DeLollis and Mr. Bilello that they would approach the labor management fund which is composed in equal parts of employer trustees and union trustees. The purpose of the LM fund is to foster union opportunities for the industry, for the carpenters union and for their signatory employers.

This week, I believe it was Monday, the labor management fund trustees met and they agreed that on an initial basis $400,000 would be spent by the LM fund to purchase approximately a thousand units, whether they be iPads or notebook computers, which will be distributed to stewards after they receive training in how to enter the data.

We received a very detailed presentation -- and when I say "we" I mean the union and the government, Mr. Torrance was at the union on the day the presentation was given -- from the vendor that's being used to develop the software.

The company is called Standard Data. I was -- and I have been very favorably impressed with the program that they wrote. It's as easy as going onto any popular website to make a purchase, whether it be

The steward logs on with his unique password and pin number. The job site that he is working on or she is working on is identified by number. The first screen that pops up after all that information is entered is prepopulated with the names of the carpenters on the job. Any additional carpenters who work during the day are entered by the steward along with their UBC numbers and, most importantly, the amount of time that they work in a given day.

That information is uploaded and automatically sent to a contact person at the employer. And they have a limited amount of time in which to either accept or dispute the time entered by the steward.

If it's accepted, it goes into the system and it constitutes an agreement as to the time that is logged for that job. If there's a dispute, it needs to be resolved expeditiously. I think the time frame they're contemplating is 48 to 72 hours. Significant disputes will have to go to arbitration.

And the wall-ceiling association and the union have also agreed to clarify and put on paper the terms of what grievance and arbitration proceedings may be brought by the union in the event of a material breach of the compliance component. Any cheating on the job. And Mr. Bilello has indicated that he was very much in favor of that, that it would level the playing field because obviously all those employers want not to compete against people who cheat, who pay cash or try to obscure hours from proper reporting.

The bottom-line is that the arbitrator will be empowered to remove the full mobility component from the employer's tool kit. They will then be forced to take 50 percent of their employees from the out-of-work list at the union. There will be no requests. It will be a straight 50/50. Company men versus union men.

The downside for the employer is that not knowing what he gets from the out-of-work list -- and there are very many talented carpenters on that list, but it is unpredictable as to what one might get. He still has to pay full wages. So that when the contract is actually implemented that first $2.13 will1 go into the pockets in the first paychecks. And by the end of year five with the raises contemplated in the agreement, the hourly package paid to district council carpenter will exceed $99 per hour.

Now, the plan, as I think it is currently envisioned, is to report on the results of a pilot program which has been ongoing.

I understand, having spoken to the EST, Mr. Bilello, and to the inspector general, Scott Danielson, that they are very favorably impressed with the results of the pilot program; that the stewards are understanding how to use the system, they are entering the time, the time is going into the computers that it's supposed to go into, the e-mails that are supposed to be generated are being generated.

There have been some employers, apparently, who have considered this very much an exhibition game and have not fulfilled their end. But they will have to understand that when this goes live that they will be at risk of violating the agreement and perhaps even the court order if they don't comply with the measures that are in this system.

So, I believe that what can be done is perhaps a stipulation can be prepared with fulsome facts, perhaps offered by declaration, from the union. And I'm happy to weigh in as necessary in that application.

I think that the roll out will have to be in phases. I think we have to be absolutely certain that once this is live -- we will have redundancy. There will be paper records generated so if there's a system failure we will not be at a loss.

THE COURT: Is that what happens now? Paper records?

MR. WALSH: It's all paper records, right. And they have used for decades the paper steward reports which are delivered down to the union typically on Thursday mornings when the stewards meet with the business representatives So, the contractors want the benefit of mobility. The rank and file want the raise. I've even seen some delegates in the delegate party meetings who had previously opposed mobility who questioned EST Bilello as to when they were getting the money.

So I think the perception on the part of the members is that enough time has been wasted, that they really want the money. Perhaps it doesn't hurt that we're at holiday season.

THE COURT: So do I understand you to say that -- so the agreement is not implemented yet until this issue is resolved? Is that --

MR. WALSH: Well that issue as well as the fact that currently the wall-ceiling agreement with the union is subject to Judge Haight's order of May 2009 which fixes the hiring ratio at a maximum of 67 percent of the members being selected by the employer. This obviously is a change. This goes to one hundred percent of the employees being selected by the employer with the exception of the shop steward will be selected by the district council.

So, the association accepted this well over a year ago when they were still under supervision by the UBC and Mr. Convoy was representing them.

So, the thought is that there's absolutely got to be a court order to address that issue but also to make certain, as the court observed some months ago, that this program actually reduces the risk of corruption and it does not really leave it at any status quo level, although I don't think there is corruption right now between the inspector general's office and my office operation, the tips line, and the hotline.

Most of the calls I get are in the nature of 311 calls, fellows who have problem with their benefits or some administrative difficulty with the list and the amount of calls has drastically dropped off to between twelve, fifteen with the maximum of twenty in the last six months.

THE COURT: So what's the timeline? This gets solved first and then a proposed amendment to Judge Haight's order?

MR. WALSH: Your Honor, I think the -- it is entirely realistic that a stipulation could be presented to the court for consideration by the middle of January. That may be overly optimistic, but I intend to push the parties to realize this.

The technology works. They are, as we speak, looking for the best deal on the iPads with the necessary carrier service so they can access the internet from remote locations.

So I think at some point in January there ought to be a stipulation, certainly drafted for comment by the parties. But I am optimistic that it can actually be presented to the court for consideration in the month of January.


MR. WALSH: Now with respect to the other major associations, there have been quite a long period, over a couple of months where not much was happening. But that has changed in the last couple of weeks.

There have been meetings scheduled with all of the major associations such as the GCA, the BCA, and the cement league, which had previously been stalled, particularly with respect to the BCA and the cement league.

EST Bilello announced at the last delegate meeting that he was optimistic that the other associations would recognize that the wall-ceiling contract is the benchmark contract so that all of the other associations, rather than getting the give-backs of fifteen to twenty percent that they had requested would, in fact, have to meet the rate increases that the wall-ceiling association has given to the district council in exchange for full mobility with the caveat that there be a compliance program with the electronic entry of the time.


MR. WALSH: If counsel has more to add, Mr. Murphy from the district council, or any clarification if I misspoke, I would recommend that he be heard, your Honor.

MR. MURPHY: I have nothing to add at this time.

THE COURT: So the next topic is the special election for president.   


  1. There I go again, I may be brought up on charges by posting information.

  2. keep up the good work john


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