Carpenters protest v. non-union workers

Local union carpenters are up in arms about a construction job allegedly being staffed by out-of-state workers. Nick DiGiovanni, a representative from the New England Regional Council of Carpenters (NERCC), said a new four-story, mixed-use building on the corner of Washington and Derby streets is being worked on by New Hampshire contractors Dulac Concrete and Opechee Construction.

Representatives from NERCC stood outside the worksite at the former Salem (MA) Evening News building for a couple days in late May, handing out fliers to passers-by.

The building is owned by Somerville developer Resource Capital Group (RCG), which owns and manages much of downtown Salem.

“How could RCG award this project to contractors in New Hampshire, why not locals?” DiGiovanni asked. A representative from RCG declined to comment on the subject.

In coming weeks, the NERCC is planning to picket outside the building to protest additional subcontractors expected to arrive from New Hampshire who, DiGiovanni claimed, are “less than reputable” contractors who misclassify their workers. Up until now the NERCC was simply leafleting, but the upcoming activity is being planned as a full picket line.

“It is our mission to alert the public when these kind of contractors come to town,” he said. “It hurts the union and non-union workers as well as the communities.”

NERCC currently represents 24,000 workers in New England states, offering them training and benefits. The organization often goes to bat over common union issues. When a union carpenter is hired, DiGiovanni said, a developer can count on the project being completed on time by skilled craftsmen who are being protected by health and injury insurance.

Often, he said, construction jobs are awarded to non-union companies able to offer cheaper rates because they are dodging the workers compensation benefits required by law by classifying workers as independent contractors.

“When we’re bidding head-to-head with responsible contractors who are using payroll to take care of their employees fair and square, we’re okay with that,” DiGiovanni said. “The problem we have is when we bid against non-responsible contractors. We don’t have a chance because we bring a higher range for employee benefits.”


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