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Union Business Agent Solves Labor Dispute1
THE CHICAGO-O’HARE FAA OFFICE EXPANSION
A True Story of THE CHICAGO-O’HARE FAA OFFICE EXPANSION built in 1978 at a cost on $900,000.The project consisted of adding new offices and radar controls, all built 22 feet under ground adjacent to the existing control tower and next to the Hilton hotel. Passing through the site were telephone communication lines to the existing control tower of which there were no back up in case of it being damaged by the new construction. Since there was no back-up for the phone piping system, a representative of the phone company was present at all times should there be a disruption occur during construction.
The excavation of the site required experienced contractors due to the type of earth that had to be excavated and hauled off site. The material was a moist blue clay that had seams of silt that would bleed when expose creating the possibility of the banks collapsing. Trucks going up and down a ramp 22 feet from grade was dangerous because the ramp had to be curved to make the steep incline in the restricted area.
The concrete foundation work had to be closely coordinated as not to interfere with the trucking operation. Concrete with re-bar reinforcing wall construction some 16 feet high had to be formed during the week so that the walls were poured on Friday. The FAA inspectors required a minimum of 48 hours before the forms could be taken off the walls after a wall pour. Because of the tight working schedule it was necessary to work overtime as to meet the rigid forming schedule.
LABOR dispute # 1 A Claim to be paid for Saturday overtime work
Due to the tight working site the plumbing contractor had to work on Saturday .The company’s superintendent was on site with a laborer who was performing clean up. The plumbing back hoe operator excavated to install a sump basin, which was deeper than the existing grade. When he reached the necessary depth to install the basin, water gushed up and started filling the hole. In order to stop and control the water flow, the operator installed a 50 gallon drum into the hole and installed a 3inch electric pump, which kept the water from flooding the site. The banks of the excavation, 3 feet deep x 5 feet wide x 5 feet were beginning to collapse, if not supported would have created a much larger hole. The actions by the plumber and the company’s staff to shore up and apply plywood to hold up banks was necessary to stop further damage to the pit.
On Monday morning the foreman for the company noticed the plywood, so called framing around the hole and questioned the superintendent as to what occurred over the weekend. The union job steward wanted to know who did the work over the weekend and why wasn‘t a carpenter called to do the work in question. After a short discussion the men went to work.
About 10:00 am the carpenter union business agent ( B A ) showed up. The story was told to him as to what occurred on Saturday. The B A demanded that someone had to be paid for Saturday work because of the use of plywood framing material that was used to stop the banks from caving in. When he called the work ‘’ framing and forming’’, the joke of the day, he was told that the conditions were an emergency operation to curtail any damages to the excavation. The B A was not happy when he was told that no one will be paid as he requested. End result of the discussions was that no one was paid for Saturday work.
LABOR dispute # 2 A Union Job Steward Layoff
The project had a very tight working schedule due to limits on the use of the lower terminal roadway, wall framing and concrete wall pouring. The FAA field inspector held operations to strict working rules. The home office could not provide additional help to install the foundation wall forms, so it was necessary to work the crew overtime daily to be able to pour walls on Friday. Friday was a target day because the F AA would not allow forms to be taken down until Monday, reason being to allow proper curing on the freshly installed concrete.
The men were making extra money at a 1.5 per hour pay rate. A typical union work ploy began by the job steward and his friend when they began to come in late for work on Mondays . Two weeks of pours went by, overtime hours increased to maintain the tight schedule. On Mon of the 3rd week, the steward and his friend failed to show up for work. They didn’t bother to call the job, so later in the day the foreman contacted one of the workers by phone. He was told that they did not have cars available (in 2 families )to get to work. The contractor’s supervisor directed the job foreman to advise the men via a phone call that they were being terminated for not showing up for work.
On Tues morning the two arrived a half hour before starting time, first time on time in months. They didn’t go to work but just hung around waiting for their B A TO ARRIVE. Shortly thereafter a meeting was held in the field office with the company’s job foreman, carpenter B A and the job superintendent. The laid off men waited outside while the meeting commenced in the field office.
The B A demanded a full days pay for the two on the basis that pay-off requires payment at the time of lay-off. The company foreman ( a union member ) agreed that the men should be paid as the BA had requested. The next move by the supervisor was to explain the reasons and decisions that were made to lay-off the men. The discussions lasted almost an hour when the two laid off men entered the office. They asked the B A if they would be paid 8 hours for the day for showing up for work? The BA told them that the contractor would not make payment as demanded. The discussion was heating up between the BA and the two workers. The two workers demanded that their BA support them getting at least 2 hours pay for show up time.
The supervisor stated that the men were not asked to appear for work hence took a position that no show up payment would be made. In order to calm the situation, the supervisor told the workers to go to work. To meet the workers demands for pay it made sense that they would have to work for their payment. They being very angry asked the supervisor ‘’how long would they be able to work.’’ The reply was’’ as long as it took time to get their checks from the main office. Their immediate response to having been told the above, they angrily both said ’’ I quit’’. Because of their quitting, witnessed by the BA, the company now had no obligation to make a payment until the next regular payday.
The BA witnessed the workers quitting , therefore under the union agreement, the men will have to wait until Friday to get their 2 hours pay. To save face for the BA, the supervisor called the office for their checks to be brought to the field The steward and the worker left the office in a huff, didn’t go to work but just hung around the site until the checks arrived. They were paid for 2 hours which was about the time they were on the jobsite awaiting for a decision if they were going to be paid.
My mistake was that I should have called for their checks on Monday. Losing the two men did disrupt a tight schedule but in the end the work was completed on time and ahead of schedule.
Just another union labor story showing that it is possible that management and union BAs can solve problems together in a fair and reasonable way.
Your author Jon Ewall
Jon's website http://chicagoconsultant.com
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