Curbing non-union labor in Connecticut

Construction workers representing the Connecticut Laborers' District Council picketed at the Brunswick Upper School renovation site yesterday morning to protest Turner Construction Co.

The informational picketing at the Maher Avenue campus will continue through the week. Council members allege that Turner hired a subcontractor, BN Construction Group of Milford, Pa., that is not registered to work in Connecticut and so does not pay state taxes, an allegation Turner says is not true.

Union workers said that gives BN Construction an unfair labor advantage. BN Construction is performing masonry and concrete work at the school, according to the council.

"Hopefully, it'll get corrected. We'll keep doing this as long as we need to," said picketer Peter Perez of the Local 246 in Norwalk, representing about 900 general construction workers.

Lynn Mason, the business manager representing Green-wich employees of the Laborers' International Union of North American Local 136, was one of eight picketers around by late morning at the site, where Brunswick is undergoing a major renovation of its Upper School facility.

"I'm here to support our fellow union guys," Mason said. "We all pitch in."

Perez said he expects dozens of council members to picket today, representing one of several protests around the state this week at various Turner construction sites.

The council represents seven construction locals for a total of about 7,000 members in the state. Some members protested at Turner's headquarters in Milford last week because of Turner's use of non-union contractors. Turner uses union contractors in other states but only uses union workers in Connecticut if the project labor agreement specifies to, according to the council. The council alleged last year that Turner used a subcontractor that hired undocumented workers.

Turner spokesman Chris McFadden said the company had no comment on the protests. McFadden said that BN Construction Group is registered with the Connecticut Department of Labor, contrary to the union's allegation.

This week's picketing represents more than just Brunswick's project, council members said. Perez said he's concerned about what type of workers will be hired for the Glenville School construction, another Turner project. The project is supposed to begin next school year.

"That's a major concern," Perez said.


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Labor group to protest at Stamford construction site

STAMFORD - A labor group has targeted Turner Construction Co. and is protesting at its construction sites in the state, including near the RBS construction site in downtown Stamford.

The group, Connecticut Laborers District Council, says subcontractors hired by Turner violate pay and workplace safety standards. Turner is based in New York City but has corporate offices in Milford.

"When contractors like Turner, who use substandard subcontractors, undermine standards and conditions in the industry, my signatory contractors are not competitors in the workplace," said Charles LeConche, business manager and secretary-treasurer of the council, which represents construction unions in the state.

The RBS work site near the Stamford train station received attention in the fall after a steelworker for a subcontractor twice found nooses near his station. The noose is a symbol of racial hatred and the steelworker, Taron Huckabee, is black. Huckabee said he reported the nooses to his bosses, but they did not notify Turner or deal with the problem.

The council's campaign will continue until the company tightens its standards for subcontractor hiring, LeConche said. The group has said Turner subcontractors hire day laborers without checking their immigration status.

Such practice is typical for Turner subcontractors, the council said, pointing to a Connecticut Department of Labor Wage and Workplace Standards Division investigation it found that J.R. Contracting and Environmental Consulting Inc., a New Jersey subcontractor on renovations to the West Hartford police station and library, a Turner project, was paying employees less than the prevailing wage, was not paying them for all of the hours worked and was not paying overtime.

Gary Pechie, director of the division, said he routinely checks projects on public buildings, where laws require contractors and subcontractors pay the prevailing wage for such jobs. Companies are required to supply the state with payrolls and compliance statements, Pechie said.

"This was a little more serious than normal," he said about the J.R.
Contracting case. "When you're not paying hours, it looks like you're trying to cheat somebody."

The council also points to McCarthy Concrete, a subcontractor on Turner projects, whose owner, Anthony McCarthy, was given a one-year suspended prison sentence for threatening protesters with a loaded shotgun, according to news reports.

Turner spokeswoman Shannon Eckhart said in a statement that the company follows the law.

"Turner is a significant employer in the state, a substantial contributor to Connecticut's economy and a good corporate citizen," Eckhart wrote. "Turner verifies the employment authorization status of our employees as required by law. Turner is committed to utilizing quality subcontractors."

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