Open Shop Contractors Discuss Labor Developments at AGC Convention
AGC's Open Shop Committee held an active roundtable discussion at a meeting during the Annual Convention on March 17. Contractors and Chapter staff from across the country shared recent experiences regarding labor relations and labor-related government affairs in their respective areas.
Participants from several areas, including Atlanta, East Tennessee, New Mexico, Dallas, and Portland, Ore., talked about apparent area standards and corporate campaigns by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, especially targeting drywall contractors. The campaigns often involve bannering, blow-up rats, letters, handbilling and picketing. Instead of at the offices of the owner or general contractor, the activity in some cases is taking place in those companies' officers' neighborhoods, children's schools, and other locations that are not work-related, reported meeting attendees. Last August, a federal judge in Atlanta upheld a $1.7 million jury award to an interior contractor against the Southeastern Regional Council of Carpenters for illegal secondary boycott activity.
A member from East Tennessee reported that the Carpenters' bannering campaign there was followed by legislation providing a five percent preference in procurement for companies that meet certain labor standards.
Several participants said that they had been told by Carpenters locals and others that the bannering and corporate campaigns were being directed and funded by the international. Also, several participants observed that the campaigns were not having a positive impact for the unionized sector. The approach is not an effective road to market recovery, asserted one participant, as it is giving owners a bad impression of unions and making them want to avoid union contractors. It does not seem to be resulting in actual organizing of open-shop companies or increased hiring of union companies.
Atlanta participants also relayed that the Bricklayers union has caused the Georgia legislature to turn its attention to illegal immigration, after the union allegedly uncovered the employment of an illegal work force at a county courthouse job site.
Another topic of conversation was increased enforcement activity by federal agencies, such as the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Wage and Hour Division, the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Internal Revenue Service. Staff associate Denise Gold reported that the Wage and Hour Division last year hired about 250 new investigators to monitor such practices as overtime, min wage, prevailing wage, and child labor law compliance, and that the Labor Department's budget request for fiscal year 2011 includes funds to hire at least 350 new employees, including 177 investigators and other enforcement staff. It also includes $25 million to support a joint initiative with the Treasury Department to combat such the misclassification of employees as independent contractors - a hot enforcement issue right now, particularly since it is a revenue-producer for Treasury.
Some meeting attendees expressed frustration that Labor Department auditors seem more interested in playing "gotcha" with employers than they do with helping to ensure compliance.
Gold noted that AGC is working to help members stay informed of enforcement initiatives, such as via reports in the Human Resource & Labor News, and stay compliant with the law, such as via a recent webinar series on Davis-Bacon and an upcoming webinar series on worker misclassification. The latter series will cover misclassification of non-exempt employees as exempt employees as well as independent contractors as employees. Details and registration are not yet available but will be announced soon on AGC's Web site and in other media.
AGC members and Chapter staff can share information about open-shop labor matters throughout the year via the Open Shop Contractors e-Forum, an e-mail-based discussion group. To join the e-Forum, send a request including full contact information to Crystal Yates at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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