From "Rough Carpentry: Local Carpenters Union wages an ongoing battle with Proffitt & Sons" TN (7/2/08) - UBC LU 40
The community is Hardin Valley; Murphy and fellow union member Shane Monroe are stationed on Hardin Valley Road a short distance from the Pellissippi Parkway interchange in front of The Village, an in-progress mixed-use residential/commercial development that will be anchored by a major grocery chain. Murphy and Monroe are seated in fold-out chairs on either end of a 5 foot by 15 foot banner that says, in big red block letters, “Shame on Jake Pinkston.” Pinkston is head of Pinkston Construction, the Village contractor.Charlie from UBCNewsroom posted a story about whats happening in New England "N.E. Carpenters Union Hits AvalonBay’s CEO, Fliers Target Developer’s Hiring Practices" (6/30/08):
Murphy says the union is protesting Pinkston’s use of drywall contractors Proffitt & Sons, for not meeting “area labor standards.” The union’s hope is that passers-by will call Pinkston Construction and protest their employment of the subcontractor.
According to Carpenters Union Director of Organizing Robert Helton, the union isn’t seeking an agreement with Proffitt & Sons, but merely to see the contractor improve pay and benefits packages for workers.
“They’re lowering standards for all carpenters in the Knoxville area,” he says. “We’d like to see them change their practices.”
Helton charges that Proffitt & Sons doesn’t pay what the union considers a fair wage, doesn’t pay benefits to many of its workers, and is engaged in using an inordinate number of 1099 independent contractors, rather than using full-time employees who are entitled to worker’s compensation and unemployment benefits.
“By law, you can’t use that many independent contractors on your site,” he says. “Somebody has to be an employee.”
Helton says the union’s efforts have been ongoing since January; in addition to the Pinkston site, he says they have picketed five other sites in the area, including one for the University of Tennessee (the sign for which says “Shame on John Petersen”) and for Blount Memorial Hospital in Blount County.
The New England carpenters union is taking aim at a national real estate investment trust and its $7 million-a-year chief executive, Hingham resident Bryce Blair, in an effort to expose what the union calls “the underground economy.”
While some people debate the impact of undocumented workers on construction sites, unions and government officials are going after the companies that they say pay their workers in cash and, in doing so, commit insurance and tax fraud.
Since May, members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters have been in Hingham handing out fliers with a photo of AvalonBay Communities’ CEO Blair.
“When you see Bryce Blair around town,” the flier states, “thank him for overbuilding the town, hurting the town by using contractors that practice tax and insurance fraud, and just being an unscrupulous guy.”
Carpenters Local 424 Business Manager Rick Braccia said the group has distributed 1,200 fliers in downtown Hingham and at the job site, Avalon at Hingham Shipyard.
“AvalonBay hides behind the fact that they tell their contractors they will not allow illegality, but the reality is, there is no oversight on the job by AvalonBay,” he said.
For example, in December 2006, OSHA reported that Shawnlee Construction, an AvalonBay subcontractor at its Newton and Danvers job sites, exposed employees to fall hazards.
In March 2007, Oscar I. Pintado, a 27-year-old carpenter from Ecuador, was killed when he fell at an AvalonBay project in Woburn. Union officials say he was being paid in cash and was working without workers compensation coverage.
In April, Eric Frumin of Change to Win, a partnership of seven unions, told a congressional committee on workplace safety that AvalonBay sites are unsafe.
The Virginia-based real estate investment trust, formed in 1993, manages 52,167 apartments. In Massachusetts, the company has 5,000 apartments. Most are in multifamily, wood-frame buildings.
In Hingham, AvalonBay is building apartments at the former shipyard.
After union carpenters built a clubhouse and one building on the site, carpenters union organizer Mario Mejia said he met workers from Mexico who were brought to Massachusetts from Virginia. Mejia said the workers are living in Devens and are being transported by their bosses in a van to work every day. They are paid $150 in cash each day, he said.
AvalonBay did not respond to a request for comment on Mejia’s statements.
Meanwhile, on the streets of Hingham, Braccia said public response has been “surprisingly in our favor.
“We do get people who think this is strictly a union issue, and think we aren’t getting the job, so we are angry,” he said.
“We tell them, ‘It doesn’t have to be union, but it does have to be legal.’ ”