The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, August 04, 2000

Irritated Western ABC offers tips to halt union incursion

By The Building Tradesman

Sometimes, it's satisfying to know you're getting under somebody's skin - especially when the epidermis belongs to the ABC.

In a June 20 memo to members written under the headline, "UNIONS ARE AT IT AGAIN!!" Associated Builders and Contractors Western Michigan Chapter Executive Vice President John Doherty wrote that he is getting more reports from the field that "local union reps are becoming more visible and active."

Doherty wrote, "Consolidation of unions in Western Michigan has brought more 'business-like types' of business agents. The 'I'm here to help you' sort of guy." He continued, "more union resources are being spent on organizers and political activity."

The "problem" of project labor agreements has arrived in Western Michigan, Doherty wrote, on the U.S. 131 S-Curve Project through downtown Grand Rapids and the Southern Energy Plant in Zeeland.

"The unions are able to convince the contractors that they can provide the large number of skilled workers necessary to complete the project on schedule and promise no labor problems," he wrote. "Merit shop contractors need not apply!"

Coopersville-based Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 174 Organizer Kirk Stevenson said "this is the first ABC publication I've seen that is absolutely true. I'm proud to have contributed to the effort that caused this memo to be created. It's things like this that invigorates all organizers to keep the pressure on the ABC contractors and keep John Doherty squealing like a pig."

Under the heading, "Thrown off jobs," Doherty wrote, "We hear from ABC members working in Lansing and Battle Creek that they were asked to 'leave, go union, hire some union guys or do your work at night.' The requesting party was generally a union general contractor or CM with some prior history of union agreements. They like our member's bids going in, but at the first hint of trouble (picketing) the ax begins to fall."

Under the "Roving bands of organizers" heading, Doherty wrote: "a group of organizers, generally from the electrical union (IBEW), just walk on projects, find the employees of the electrical contractor and talk union. Someone finally realizes they don't belong there and sends them on their way. In the meantime, they leave propaganda and cards. PRIMES: You need to have 'no trespassing' signs posted on each job and have your superintendents keep unwanted visitors out! It starts with you and that is where the system is breaking down…no one is stopping them!"

"Stripping and salting" were also mentioned as concerns in the memo. Doherty wrote, "Many of the unions will soon finish negotiations on new contracts or have scheduled wage increases coming. Some already have them. As a result, they are hanging these new packages out in front of members' employees to persuade them to leave, or become what we call 'union plants,' and they call 'salts.'

"Some members are losing people to the unions, so it is something to be aware of. You need to present your wage and benefit packages in a complete form so that employees can do a comparison when confronted with the union's info. Often when an employee leaves, they return with only broken promises to show for their decision. Be ready should stripping, salting, or an organizing drive begin soon."