AGC Holds Basic Trades Forum and Multiemployer Pension Meeting
AGC held an AGC-Basic Trades Forum on October 11 in Washington, DC. About 50 AGC union contractors and chapter staff attended, along with representatives of six of the basic trades on the AGC-Basic Trades Committee.
The basic trade representatives included the general presidents of each of the three unions comprising the National Construction Alliance (NCA) – Doug McCarron of the Carpenters, Terry O’Sullivan of the Laborers, and Vince Giblin of the Operating Engineers – and officers or staff from the basic trades affiliated with the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) – the Iron Workers, Bricklayers, and Cement Masons. No one from the Teamsters attended. Bob Epifano, chairman of the Union Contractors Committee and co-chairman of the AGC-Basic Trades Committee chaired the event.
AGC-Basic Trades Forum participants listen as
Al Leitschuh, Chicago chapter executive, comments.
The big question on the minds of many participating contractors was the status of negotiations for NCA reaffiliation with the BCTD, following the BCTD’s election of a new president. That is “yesterday’s news,” Operating Engineers General President Vince Giblin told AGC. There is “no hope” of reunification. Giblin said that the BCTD has developed a “war plan to destroy the NCA” but is succeeding only in unifying the three trades in the splinter organization. Giblin said he does not personally know Mark Ayers, the new BCTD president, but showed little confidence in him, noting that Ayers is a 62-year old man in poor health. The BCTD lacks leadership and a proper focus, according to Giblin, and is wasting time engaging in “infantile” behavior. Meanwhile, the NCA is focused on growing membership and on giving contractors “the skilled workers they need” and a “return on investment.”
(L-R) Operating Engineers General President Vince Giblin,
AGC CEO Steve Sandherr, and Laborers General President Terry O'Sullivan.
Although O’Sullivan expressed a more positive attitude toward Ayers – stating that he has worked with Ayers on committees over the years and thinks that Ayers will “do better than Ed Sullivan” (the preceding BCTD president) – he indicated agreement with Giblin’s negative view of reaffiliation with the BCTD. Three issues that drove the NCA unions out of the BCTD remain unresolved to their satisfaction: (1) per-capita tax voting as opposed to a one-union, one-vote system (though O’Sullivan says that some progress has been made); (2) cessation of the Plan for the Settlement of Jurisdictional Disputes (a.k.a. “the Green Book”); and (3) a change in organizational structure. The structural change desired by the NCA is the appointment of an executive director to run operations in a less political manner. Still, the NCA “has never drawn a line in the sand” with the BCTD and will not do so now. The NCA will continue to work with the other building trades on appropriate matters, such as legislative initiatives and the Helmets to Hardhats program.
Walt Wise, general treasurer of the Iron Workers, expressed offense at some of the comments made by NCA leaders but seemed appeased when Giblin clarified that he had not spoken ill of Iron Workers General President Joe Hunt. Wise said that his union “is going to work with whomever will work with us.” What matters to the Iron Workers, he said, is “who can recruit, train, and deliver the workforce” needed.
Union Contractors Committee Regional Representives Mike Timura (L)
and Jim Clemens (R) Flank Carpenters General President Doug McCarron (center).
McCarron reinforced Giblin’s comments about NCA’s focus, stating, “My job is…to supply you with good, quality people and make you successful.” McCarron said his goal is to be “the best service organization” to contractors and that he is not afraid of competition. O’Sullivan added that the NCA is looking at low-density areas to develop a local structure and grow market share. Ray Poupore, executive vice president of NCA, said that NCA’s “objective is to grow market share, and we can only do that if your business grows.” There’s no “silver bullet,” he said, but we’ll work together to make progress.
AGC attendees brought up a number of contractor concerns, including the impact of subcontracting restrictions. McCarron boldly stated that, in his mind, a contractor is “not open shop unless you’re nonsignatory with the Carpenters, Laborers, and Operating Engineers.” He later advised one chapter representative complaining of problems with the specialty trades in the local area that he should sign with the Carpenters and not subcontract to contractors that are signatory with the “glamour trades” where those trades are causing trouble. O’Sullivan agreed that, while this tact may cause some problems at first, such a “realistic approach” is necessary for progress. Unions are “going out of business,” he said, representing only 13% of the industry.
One contractor raised the issue of distressed multiemployer pension plans as a deterrent to new entrants into the union sector of the industry. McCarron agreed with his concern and reported that he is advising his locals to bring their pension funds up to 120-percent funding.
The discussion also covered local challenges and successes with market share retention, workforce development, jurisdictional disputes, and project labor agreements. AGC representatives continued to espouse appreciation for the general presidents’ progressive attitudes but dissatisfaction in many cases with attitudes and practices at the local level. The general presidents suggested holding quarterly meetings with AGC and possibly holding them on a regional basis. The Union Contractors Committee leadership and staff plan to explore these possibilities for future meetings.
Following the forum with the trades, AGC held a separate meeting on multiemployer pension issues. Attorneys Rocky Miller of Cox Castle & Nicholson, Chuck Murphy of Ogletree Deakins, and Jack Widman of Susanin Widman & Brennan, served as expert resources in a roundtable discussion. The primary focus was on the mandates of the Pension Protection Act of 2006 and its practical impact on collective bargaining. The conversation also included discussion of fiduciary liability, accounting standards, conversion of defined benefit plans into defined contribution plans, and efforts to coordinate as strategy to deal with the critically funded Teamsters Central States plan. For information resources on multiemployer pensions, click here.
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