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Carpenters union attacks wage fraud

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Articles - September 2011
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
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Later in the afternoon, Sanchez checks out a job site in Lake Oswego where his union has a dispute with the drywall subcontractor. His conversation in Spanish with the employees there is tense and terse.

“They are hard-core employees,” he says as he heads to the job site trailer. “They feel loyal because they are happy to have work.”

“See you on the picket line,” says the project manager with a grin.

Sanchez maintains an easy rapport with most of the people he speaks to, but not everyone is a fan of his union’s tactics. Months before Nagy pled guilty, demonstrators routinely gathered in front of the offices of Portland contractor S.D. Deacon to declare him guilty, with a huge poster showing Nagy’s mug shot. And these demonstrators were not necessarily union workers, since the carpenters union hires day laborers for political work, including homeless people who are not union members. That tactic does not sit well with some union members. One commenter at Oregon Business’ website, oregonbusiness.com, responded to a news story about the campaign by charging that the carpenters union had mob ties and “recently closed all Locals and tossed all delegates who were elected by the membership out of office and installed hand-picked yes men.”

Those charges are not as outlandish as they sound. The carpenters union does have documented historic connections to organized crime (in New York) and the Pacific Northwest Regional Council did recently replace local delegates in a major restructuring following charges of financial impropriety. The carpenters are not members of the national AFL-CIO union coalition or the local building trades council, and have quarreled with both groups over organizing tactics and strategy.

John Mohlis, executive secretary of the Oregon State Building & Construction Trades Council, says: “There is a bit of friction [between the carpenters union and others in the building trades], but we try our best to have a working relationship with them, because we’re signatory partners and our members work the same job sites as theirs do... It definitely complicates things.”

Jimmy Matta, the top official of the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, based in Kent, Wash., offers no apologies about the aggressive tactics his union employs. “We are passionate about cheaters,” he says. “We are passionate about crooks.”

Matta led a hard-nosed campaign against underground construction labor in Seattle that pointed fingers at a development company owned by billionaire Paul Allen, among other targets. He says one goal of the recent restructuring is to replicate those tough tactics in Portland. “We built a strong track record in Washington, and we’re going to do the same thing here,” says Matta.

Sanchez echoes that sentiment as he returns to the Portland office at the end of another day of watchdogging job sites.

“Some people say we’re bullies,” says Sanchez. “They say we just want our way. But we are fighting for what is right. And we are not going to stop.”



 

Comments   

 
Donny1020
0 #1 ReallyDonny1020 2011-09-06 13:11:18
No doubt that some of the work that the Carpenters perform is of value but it needs to be pointed out that:
the carpenters not only shut down one Local in Portland but all Locals throughout Oregon, Washington, Montana, etc.. There was a claim of finical mismanagement with our Portland Local but these charges were never substantiated and were simply an excuse to throw Pete Savage out of office. If those charges were true why did the Carpenters fail to turn the information over to the Department of Labor as required by law?

As for paying workers in cash, if one looks at the PNWRCC's LM2 reports you will not find one of people hired to protest listed as required by law. These employees of the Regional Council are required under the Landgrum Griffen Act to be report, the only way around that is to pay them in cash.

Over the past five years the Regional Council has been the only labor group cited by the Department of Labor for failing to pay their employees minimum wage and overtime. The Regional Council also settled out of court with Hoffman Construction for unlawful coercion and intimidation. The Carpenters also settled out of court with another Northwest developer in Tacoma Washington for more than $10 million for illegal intimidation and coercion. This is money that came directly out of the members pockets to pay for the mistakes of hired staff such as Tweedy,Little, Prindle, and Matta.

The Regional Council routinely cuts sweetheart deals behind the backs of the membership with employers allowing employers to circumvent the standard area agreement. The majority of these workers are Latino and looked on as second class members in the Regional Council.

Most recently the Carpenters, and their partners the Operators, developed a scheme in conjunction with high profile employers to break the Longshore Union's strike in Longview Washington. The Carpenters and Operators are planing to use this favor to Kewit/General to out maneuver and minimize the Cement Finisher and the Laborer in next years negotiations with the AGC. The Carpenters master plan is eliminate all other groups leaving the Carpenter as the exclusive organization in the construction field.

The members no longer have a say, we no longer have the right to vote on Business Representatives and when we turned down our contract, Doug Tweedy and John Little were at this meeting, we were told that our vote didn't mean anything and that "leadership" would be telling us what's best from now on.

So this is the real story, you won't get the truth from the staff because truth is no longer in their vocabulary.
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freddie
0 #2 Give us a break UBC HYPOCRITSfreddie 2011-09-07 08:58:37
Most of us in the carpenters union are not working and you mention in this article about your passion.Where is your passion for the membership? Why do you guys give deals different to our agreement to other cheater employers that hurt our signatory companies? Why have you abandoned your employers and your membership? We are tired of guys like Sanchez acting like he actually cares when all he cares about is taking orders and keeping his job. We are tired of guys like Matta saying he is passionate about cheaters and crooks when off the record he would cut a deal with them in a heartbeat. We are tired and our numbers are growing. Even though our union, which really isn't a union anymore, has taken the democracy away from us we have options. The option many of us have been talking about is the option that our brother's and sister's in New York and Jersey have done, start are own carpenters union. We are not proud union carpenters anymore and we are ashamed of our leadership. This article makes us sick.
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Short Nailer
0 #3 Carpenter Union a jokeShort Nailer 2011-09-07 10:06:29
Interesting comments above. The Carpenters union will gladly hold out their hand for my union dues and they have no work, dont promote themselves and are just "pre-vail" [blocked]es. Always want a prevail job..... pathetic.

Dont forget Eric Franklin.... clueless in Seattle. The article is typical "media" BS just look behind the scenes and connect the dots. They should interview carpenters who aren't suck-asses !!!
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Squished Like A Pancake
0 #4 Wage and Hour SteamrollerSquished Like A Pancake 2011-09-19 13:45:12
Not pertaining to the union or prevailing wage, there appears to be a lack of supervision into the investigative practices of the W&H Division. In my opinion, employers are guilty until proven innocent. If it is a small business, especially in these troubled times, most likely cannot afford to hire an attorney to prove the company is innocent. As a state agency, the bureau employees are public servants. Yeah, right. Again, in my opinion, W&H employees are on a money-hungry power trip and are rude, ruthless, and out of control. One, and only one, person employed there was civil and actually listened. This person told me, in regard to the investigations unit authority to issue a formal complaint, "(they) are supposed to have investigated the claim first." , There is more, MUCH more. Once again,it is my opinion th system has run-amok.
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