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Union Business Agent Solves Labor Dispute1

Updated on May 22, 2014


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

Saturday :

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

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


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    • JON EWALL profile imageAUTHOR

      JON EWALL 

      4 years ago from usa


      Today , 2/17/14 , the hub is 2 years old and public sector unions are triving with the help of the 2009 stimulus $787 bill passed by the SUPER MJORITY Democrat Congress.

      The big news of the day was the UAW losing a vote to unionize the Volkwagon plant in Tennesee .

    • JON EWALL profile imageAUTHOR

      JON EWALL 

      7 years ago from usa


      ''Are UNIONS THE ANSWER to the problems we face in our country today?'' check out this link

      StosselUpdates John Stossel Updates

      Unions (Fox News Special, Sunday 8pm ET)

    • JON EWALL profile imageAUTHOR

      JON EWALL 

      7 years ago from usa


      A reply to a previous response to NELSON

      You said ‘’Union membership is down to about 11% of the workforce. The middle class declining. I’m not to sure about that. Public sector unions and private sector unions are different .The government has increased their workforce about 20%.The private sector unions are hurting, what are their percentages today?

      ‘’Business are making money and not paying taxes.’’ That’s a vague statement in today’s marketplace and economy. Unemployment is 9.8%, that means labor is not making money, hence no taxes being paid. Over 50% of the people do not pay any federal taxes, the 1% bracket pays over 50% of the taxes and what is left is the middle class, the unemployed and employed.

      Poor people don’t buy tax exempt public/government bonds ( funds to supply the cost of working capital to pay for those union jobs , their healthcare and their pensions.)The middle working class and business taxes also support governments.

      ‘’We need unions or something like them more than ever‘’ Please, can you elaborate on that issue. Remember the mottos of the past, ‘’look for the union label’’, ‘’made in the USA’’ and buy American’’. Now it’s ‘’made in china’’, ‘’made in mexico’’,made in India’’.I could go on and on, where and what forced those jobs out of the country?

      Unions fight for a working wage, living wage and other fringe benefits. As you can see today they demand more than a living wage more than the worker who pays ( indirectly to the government for them to pay the union members ).Is that right and fair, not really.

      The government wants their cut out of the program ( taxes ).US companies have the highest tax rates in the world ( lower taxes is an advantage for foreign countries )

      Government regulations increase the cost of production in the US ( another disadvantage )

      Lastly the consumer buys a lower priced product ( in some instances a better built product ).Market competition controls the prices in a capitalistic economy.

      Today the world is smaller, the US can’t compete with other countries who have less regulation and cheaper labor.

      Are UNIONS THE ANSWER to the problems we face in our country today?

    • JON EWALL profile imageAUTHOR

      JON EWALL 

      7 years ago from usa


      There is a huge difference in the private market than in the public sector unions.The unions have basically bought the politicians in the public sector, the private market negotiates a more fairer contract.There is competition in the private sector.

    • JON EWALL profile imageAUTHOR

      JON EWALL 

      7 years ago from usa


      The small guys don't have chance with them. The different trades are united so as to protect the trades of each other. When one goes on strike, a job could be shut down. The sad part of that kind of actions hurt the workers more than union management. With the stimulus money Obama helped the public sector unions with truck loads of money. The private sector union members should be pi-------ed, they got unemployment checks up to 2 years.

      Thanks for stopping by

    • poorconservative1 profile image


      7 years ago

      Another good one Jon. A good example of how unions try to dictate what gets done and how things get done with no real business world experience. Always delaying things and causing them to cost too much.



    • JON EWALL profile imageAUTHOR

      JON EWALL 

      7 years ago from usa

      Harvey Stelman


      1979, I was the project manager for St. Stephen Terrace Apts on Western ave and the Eisenhower expressway. A $10million FHA project for low income locals. The preacher got a 100% loan to develop the project. I HAVE MANY INTERESTING STORIES OF THAT PROJECT.

      one of the payments to the company for a month was over $ 550,000 (biggest one in the co. when I had my own co. the biggest for 1 month was OVER $641,000

      When I deposited it the banker vp asked me if I had just robbed a bank?

      give me more info on uncle, do u remember the hotel?

      be careful of what u write too

      Just finished FAA General Contractor Dispute of the O’Hare air traffic control offices

    • Harvey Stelman profile image

      Harvey Stelman 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Jon, I'm not from Chicago originally, it's been over 30 years. Since you have so much union experience, I have a question for you.

      I had we'll call him an uncle in Chicago. Founder and CEO of a top 100 Illinois Company. He invited me (and a frind) to a big time dinner affair at a downtown hotel. It was 1979, and he had two tables of CEO's from major companies in his party. He introduced my friend and I, calling me his nephew. All the CEO's came over and shook my hand, not my friends.

      I recognized all the Union leaders I had seen on TV, and they all came over to him. Each one said, please don't get up and took his hand. Then they all shocked me by saying to him, is there anything I can do for you? He wasn't Italian, he was Jewish, like me. His business wasn't even union.

      Do you know of any union leaders in Chicgo doing this, or what he had going with them? I've been confused for decades. H

    • JON EWALL profile imageAUTHOR

      JON EWALL 

      7 years ago from usa


      I’m writing a continuation of the story, look for it soon. I have experience dealing with them for a loooonnnggggggg time. The unions today are being run by radicals determined to change the country. they own the Whitehouse and the public sector employees, sad to say.

      Check the link ’’ union labor ’’ thanks for stopping by


      You sometime speak of the old times in Chicago so I started to think about my escapades with the Chicago area unions. I hope you and other hubbers will enjoy my stories about some of their very best. I worked in the industry as a labor, bricklayer, bricklayer foreman and job superintendent and up to a construction manager for various general contractors. Started a family commercial general contracting business in the 80/s up to 2000. A long time filled with many stories of labor union negotiations and debates. In America, if you work hard it’s possible to enjoy a better way of life.

      I just hope that my stories will be enjoyed and in someway be humorous to some.

      Nice hearing from you!

    • Harvey Stelman profile image

      Harvey Stelman 

      7 years ago from Illinois

      Jon, that's why we're a tot-alin town. H

    • profile image

      Dick Rowland 

      7 years ago

      Where on earth did all this information come from? Surely the union did not volunteer all this. It just gives more fuel to the fire of the stupidity of the system.

      It does remind me of the time I spent in Port Arthur, Tx when the union was out on strike for 6 months over a choice of multiple flavors of pie in the cafeteria.


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