Business Manager's Column

April, 1996

Ronald B. Nobili

Business Manager

Recently you have received a summary description of results of negotiations concluded on your behalf by The Connecticut Laborers' District council. Notice should be given to the fact that my signature has not been affixed to the new document, consequently the space for Local 665 was omitted, perhaps an effort to reflect what might appear to be an oversight as opposed to an embarrassment that at least one Local's representative rejected such irresponsibility on the part of The Council. You may safely assume that I was somewhat appalled by the terms settled and the way our new Agreement was negotiated. I was appalled for several reasons.

By way of illustration, it is interesting to note that as Business Manager of the Fourth largest Laborers' Local in the state, I was never notified of the location of negotiations or that negotiations were ongoing etc. In fact, you may be inclined to surmise because of the timing of the summary letter that negotiations had been ongoing for some time, coming down to the wire and just recently concluded ---- the fact is your contract was signed December 18, 1995 --- unprecedently early. In essence, not only was your contract "concluded" one hundred and five days prior to expiration, the District Council couldn't find the time prior to contract expiration to allow you the members who must work under the terms of the new Agreement for the next three years an opportunity to vote for or against the new Agreement. --- I think that is absurd and you are being taken for granted!

On Sunday, February 18, 1996 accommodations were made for 4,700 members of Teamsters Local 1115 employed by Sikorsky to ratify their new agreement which gave their members a 9% increase in wages over three years. There are less than 4,500 Laborers in the State of Connecticut who would have been eligible to ratify our Agreement. Recently, Operating Engineers statewide and Teamsters who work in Construction have had statewide meetings to discuss terms of their upcoming negotiations for a successor agreement. if they can

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be accommodated --- why can't Laborers? The fact of the matter is --- you can be accommodated but the CLDC Leadership gives little credence to accommodating you, the members whose interest they are supposed to represent. Apparently I do not stand alone in this belief. The Association for Union Democracy, a pro-union advocacy group wrote the following in their March 1996 Newsletter about your negotiations:

" Nothing in the new contract to boast about: No raise at all in the first two years (actually there hasn't been an increase since April 1991) then a .50 cent increase in the third year. No improvement in hiring procedures, and thereby hangs a tale:

To demonstrate how vigorously it is working for self-reform, the L.I.U.N.A. International office has adopted an elaborate set of procedures for referrals out of union hiring halls, but in Connecticut these rules are meaningless, because employers are not required to hire even a single laborer out of the union hall. In Connecticut, L.I.U.N.A. negotiators missed the opportunity to try to make a change. Or, did they seize the opportunity to avoid any change by rushing ahead three months early?"

Additionally, the March/April 1995 edition of The Laborer, page 17 in the words of L.I.U.N.A. General President Arthur A. Coia announces that "Local Unions or District Councils that are not exclusive halls must use their best efforts to include an exclusive hiring hall provision in new collective bargaining agreements "

Considering that this -representative "went to the mat" over the issue of hiring hall provisions attempting to put the brakes on wholesale mobility which escalated under the guidance of our then Regional Manager Arthur A. Coia and considering the very close relationship president Arthur A. Coia has with the Connecticut Laborers' District Council ---- a cloud of concern easily develops as to why the CLDC did not include this representative in the negotiating process and why the CLDC was not inclined to press for an exclusive hiring hall provision with 105 days prior to contract expiration.

" Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!"


It has been since April 1, 1991 that Laborers represented by the CLDC have received an increase in their wages. Money has been taken from their annuity, fees have gone up and carte blanc market recovery has become a fact of life. Clearly some adjustments were necessary, but an opportunity was sorely missed in the New Agreement. The Specialty Agreements aren't worth the paper they were printed on because those conditions had existed in the previous Agreement where Market Recovery Rates were implemented across the board on Non-Prevailing Rate work. Further, the market recovery wages don't adequately address a realistic wage structure in those segments of the industry they were intended to address.

With 105 days left till expiration it is difficult for me to understand

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why a settlement had to be reached that extended a no raise situation for Laborers in Connecticut for a seven year period, especially when one considers the information that was available to CLDC negotiators. Consider the following, The Connecticut Laborers' District Council subscribes to an influential Industry Newsletter--Cockshaw's ---Construction Labor News & Opinion--"The Authoritative Industry Advisory since 1971" The September, 1995 editions' Headline reads:

Industry Gets Good Economic News

New survey data reveals positive profit trends in net earnings, return on assets and returns on equity.

The article goes on to say, " In sharp contrast to the gloom-and-doom of recent years, construction's economic climate continues to improve.

So reveal new data from the Construction Financial Management Association. It's just released 254-page survey report is the most comprehensive profile available of U.S. contracting operations.

One of many positive trends CFMA's seventh annual study uncovered was significantly improved contractor profitability ratios..."

The Article goes on to say "Construction's top financial executives expect the brighter economic picture to prevail for awhile."

Further in the same edition of Cockshaw's an analysis is provided of Wage Benefit Hikes that were achieved in bargaining in 1995. The Construction Labor Research Council (CLRC) in an analysis of 310 agreements negotiated in the Construction Industry in 1995 revealed that wage fringe settlements averaged $.72 (2.8%) in the first year and $.79 (3.0%) in the second year. The CLDC achieved for you absolutely zero for the-same time period. That's pretty shabby when you consider that the average for 40 newly settled Laborers' Agreements covering 57,660 workers in the Industry garnered a .75 cent increase the first year and .81 cents in the second year of their new settlements or 3.5% and 3.5% respectively for each year.

A more timely issue of Cockshaw's, the February 1996 edition further. exacerbates the irresponsible position pursues by your negotiators. The lead article in that edition reads:

Construction's Low Wage Problem

Current skills shortages are a result of wages - fringes which are not competitive.

"Since we've been warning this industry about a potential "crunch" since December 1988, current skills shortfalls are no surprise. But what DOES surprise us is that so many in this industry still do not grasp the key reasons for the shortages!

There should be no "mystery" why this industry has great difficulty attracting----and retaining qualified workers.

That's because as we've often noted, construction pay no longer compensates tradesmen adequately for an occupation that is viewed by many as unsafe, dirty, cyclical and unstable."

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Consequently, I take serious issue with the statement that "These negotiations reflect the responsible efforts of The Connecticut Laborers ' District Council and our affiliated locals,"... not when members representatives aren't even allowed to participate or at least witness negotiations and certainly not when members don't even get a chance to vote on their contract and must absorb exorbitant fees for others to act as custodians of their hard earned money. The figures alluded to previously become even more difficult to digest when one considers that our members live in the highest per-capita income state with one of the highest standards of living. More difficult to comprehend about the second-class status Connecticut Laborers have been positioned as a result of these irresponsible negotiations is that our members will continue to lose ground to Massachusetts and Rhode Island Laborers who historically have been able to and will continue to earn substantially more than Connecticut Laborers.

Attached hereto is a copy of that portion of a newsletter written to members of Laborers' Local 665 1n April 1996 voicing displeasure over the Job your union negotiators did regarding your new three year Collective Bargaining Agreement. You will notice that the fact that you did not even get an opportunity to vote on the new Agreement even though it was finalized 105 days prior to expiration was especially irritating.

The Union negotiating committee for this Agreement consisted of three persons; Charles LeConche, Business Manager of the Connecticut Laborers' District Council and part-time Business Manager of Laborers' Local 230 whose initials appear with Construction Industries Association President, Marvin Morganbesser at the bottom of each page of Memorandum of Agreement, both Building and Heavy and Highway, Sean Cashman, Business Manager of Laborers' Local 611 who was appointed Special Field Representative to the Connecticut Laborers' District Council by LeConche, and Armand Sabitoni, New England and parts of New York Regional Manager and Vice-President of L.I.U.N.A..

The old way: The new stage is something for the near future, but meanwhile some daily routine runs along the old ruts.. The Connecticut Laborers District Council signed a new contract with employers on December 18, 1995. According to reports we received, there was no membership discussion in advance of the negotiations and no membership ratification before the agreement was signed by the officials. That's not unusual because that's the way it has been done. But something was odd: the former contract, which was to expire on March 31,1996 still had three months to do. What's the hurry? Nothing in the new contract to boast about: No raise at all in the first two years, then a 50 cent increase in the third year. No improvement in hiring procedures, and thereby hangs a tale:

P.S. What may be of particular interest is the fact that the combined positions of Business Manager, Secretary-Treasurer and Field Representative of the Connecticut Laborers' District Council, the positions held by Charles LeConche and Sean Cashman, the two Local negotiators of your most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement have realized combined salary increases in excess of 48%, $89,204 to $132,000 during the period you have received a zero to 20% decline in wages v1z a viz Market Recovery.

When news of the negotiation leaked out, some rank and file members complained that they are ignored, that no one seems interested in their suggestions. Worse, they say, they have never had the right to vote on contract ratification They ask whether, under the terms of the consent agreement, they might hope for a small dose of democracy that would give them the right to vote on contracts.

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