Union Business Agents solved a Dispute with the General Contractor
A True Story of how Union Business Agents solved a Dispute with the General Contractor
The ST. Charles Recreation Center in Illinois was built at a cost of $2.5 million. The project consisted of 5 indoor tennis courts,3 handball courts, indoor Olympic size swimming pool with a high dive, bleachers in addition to locker rooms and a whirlpool. The facility would be attached to a new high school all being constructed on a 40 acre site in the town of ST. Charles, IllinoisThe general contractor that I represented was a large construction company from Naperville, Illinois.
The John B. Norris Recreation Center
John Baker Norris Recreation Center , built in 1975, was another gift of the Norris family to the community and is named for the youngest son of Dellora & Lester Norris who was killed in a car accident in 1957.The Norris family owns Texaco Oil and has donated $ millions to the St Charles community.
Labor union disputes on the job can disrupt the progress of a project if not settled by the parties. Union business agents represent the interests of the members of their labor union.
The general contractor had local union agreements with the carpenters, laborers, engineers and cement finisher unions. Generally when a project begins construction activities, the union labor BA ’s from all the unions will introduce themselves and check out the list of subcontractors. Should a contractor on the list not be a union contractor, the main office of the general contractor would be contacted. The field superintendent’s job is to manage the project from ground breaking to customer occupancy.
When problems occur on site generally it is because one or more union workers complain to their BA s about working conditions, local- out of local manpower or working hour disputes ( overtime pay ).The project moved along as scheduled and progress with all the trades working together was an asset.
The general contractor had a concrete crew consisting of 1 apprentice,1 foremen and 1 other cement finisher ( CF )( all out of local jurisdiction).The carpenter crew consisted of 1foreman, 2 carpenters ( out of local ) and 3 local carpenters. The general laborer crew consisted of 1 foreman, 2 laborers ( out of local) and 3 local laborers. The union BA s generally don’t make noise unless local tradesmen complain about an unwritten agreement that outside contractors will hire on a 50/50 basis. At the time the firm because of crews moving into and out of the job created an unbalanced workers 50/50 percentage.
A meeting with the employers staff, BA s and a couple of union big guys ( for intimidation support) was held in the field office .After explaining to the BA s that each crew is made up of local and non local workers. To split the workers from the crews isn’t efficient to the company’s operation. The main problems were with the concrete crew. The BAs didn’t like the company having a out of local apprentice working in the crew. The young man working was a local laborer who requested the company to sponsor him to an apprenticeship cement workers program. Take note that the local union refused the laborer an apprenticeship in the local union prior to the GC granting the young worker a cement finisher sponsorship.
The meeting with the BA s went as well as expected in resolving the labor dispute matter. We all agreed to meet again to try to resolve their insistence that the company release some of the out of local workers and replace them with local workers to maintain a 50/50 ratio. They attempted to intimidate as usual and were not happy with our position of not agreeing to make the demanded changes. In my many travels in the industry, similar situations have occurred when I have had disagreements with labor union business agents. Sometimes one could consider their actions as unprofessional and threatening.
We decided to meet for lunch at a local restaurant to try to mediate a solution to the dispute. Prior to the meeting I obtained a list of all the company employees, for all labor trades. I highlighted all the local workers and found that in all trades, the local representation in the company were 60%+/- of the company’s work force. I was now ready with important information for the meeting. During lunch, I tried to solve the manpower problem. The local BA s insisted that the 50/50 ratio had to be fulfilled. Now it was time to spring the trap, I gave each of them a copy of the employee list. Requested them if they recognized the workers on the list, they responded with a yes. We counted the totals and divided the local workers and found that the local’s out numbered the non locals by 10%+ or more in the employment of the company.
The next move for me was to request them to advise me which local workers that we should keep and which ones should be released to get to the 50/50 equation on the company roster. I reminded them that they insisted upon a 50/50 ratio. I can’t tell you how quickly their attitude changed when they were confronted with reality. They told me that everything looked OK now and that the situation was resolved.
I guess telling them that I would advise the local help that they were being let go was because the company had to keep a 50/50 ratio on the workers as the BAs demanded.
The story has a happy ending. The business agents haven’t been heard of since the luncheon meeting. They just don’t get it that all union workers have a right to work, where ever the company needs them. When it comes to local jurisdiction they don’t care, even when they are union brothers.
The project finished ahead of schedule and I believe that the company is well respected in the local unions jurisdiction. It was possible that management and unions could somehow work together back in the 70’s. The unions today have changed in the way that solutions to disputes sometimes end in a strike or a protest if the unions don‘t get their way
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Your Author Jon Ewall
Jon's website http://www.chicagoconsultant.com/page1.php
Your author is a online marketing consultant of products offered on the internet. Jon’s website blog contains a variety of interesting subjects and articles that he has written