ORGANIZING OUR INDUSTRY BY JORGE RIVERA
The Organizing Department is going through transitions with a few of the organizers becoming Business Reps/Organizers. This is a testament to the department doing a great job evolving our representation and protecting our jurisdiction’s part of our union. Along with the slashers, we have acquired a couple of new rank-andfile members to get involved with the organizing aspect of our organization. I’d like to welcome Alex Colonna and Ryan Colon to the Organizing Department to help us with the labor movement.
Internally, the Organizing Department has begun talking to some rank-and-file members to start meetings with our CORE committees. These CORE committees are meant to activate and educate our membership so we can not only stay engaged with issues and concerns for our members but also have our members help us with organizing campaigns. Whether it’s a career day participation or talking to potential individuals who want to join our union, we want members to be active within our union or with their locals. These CORE committees are essential for us to stay engaged and to activate our members in organizing drives that we are working on.
Recently the Organizing Department and the servicing department combined efforts to try to capture some of the work in Somerville with Gilbane at Union Square. In the past, we engaged with Somerville Stands Together and leaned on the community to enforce the community benefits agreement that the developer and general contractor signed but were not fulfilling. We made an effort to engrain ourselves with the Wage Theft Advisory Committee, partnering with the Welcome Project community group and working with workforce development boards in Somerville. We set up an informational line to inform the community of Somerville, and together with city councilors and the community groups, we were able to bring Gilbane and the developer to the table to negotiate the rest of the work to go to DC 35 and to also bring work outside of Somerville to another one of our signatories. We were also able to get a verbal commitment on future work in Union Square. The pressure from the line and the community worked, and we are reaping some benefit hours from our joint efforts.
Our residential program is starting to gain momentum. There are nine projects listed for upcoming work where we have a mixed workforce of commercial and residential workers. The residential package gave us a competitive edge with these projects, and without it we would not have been involved in the conversation. Because we were able to get on the projects with a residential rate, we are now capturing hours that we never would have had. Currently combined between drywall finishers and painters we have 50 new members with the potential to increase that number to 100 or more members at the height of the projects going this summer. Looking at the Suffolk Downs project looming around the corner, our signatories are beginning to prepare for the upcoming work, and we are getting ready to make sure we man these jobs.
Along with working to organize new members to our union and our residential package, we are looking to bring in new companies so the union can capture new markets and diversify our pool of contractors. From Business Manager Chris Brennan’s organizing efforts and RISE Construction, we have been able to capitalize and sign Essential Finish Chris Grossman. Essential is signed to the whole agreement, focusing efforts on the residential market and bringing a workforce of painters and tapers to our union while chasing opportunities from Dellbrook and NEI.
Over the last couple of years, I have been working with two women- and minority-owned companies to help them capture some of the hours and put some of our members to work. Recently Zynergy, a woman-owned company, captured a project with Dellbrook for a job our signatories typically wouldn’t bid on. Zyngery is currently working and trying to succeed with the help of our members’ knowledge and support from our departments. These types of jobs are the reason we want to organize new companies to be able to capture new markets or bid with contractors that our regular signatories typically would not be involved in. The second company I have been working with is NCHI, which we have been helping get signed up with DC 35. NCHI comes with connections from open shop general contractors, allowing them to capture some work in areas we typically would not be involved in. We are working with them and educating them on how our membership works with training and other aspects of our union. This partnership seems to be moving in the right direction. Hopefully soon we will have another minorityowned business in our pool of companies. We have a very diverse pool of signatory companies already and we continue to support them and look for work opportunities for them as well. Recently we have been involved with entities such as the UMass Building Authority, Supplier Diversity Office, DCAMM, and some general contractors that want to diversify and increase their contractor pool. We are working with all of these agencies to figure out ways to bring these opportunities to our minority-owned companies in hopes to capture whatever work is coming out.
Along with these efforts, we are also bracing ourselves for the green energy wave heading our way, as the country and politicians start the transition to emissions-free green energy policies. We are working with policymakers, architects, and politicians to see this become a reality and ensure that we have a seat at the table to capitalize on hours for our members and our funds. We know this transition isn’t happening overnight, but the process will carry our workforce into the future and our glazing initiatives need to be at the forefront to capture these opportunities. We are ingraining ourselves with coalitions in the green energy and climate industries all through the Northeast, and we are meeting with energy secretaries for the state. We are holding a Green Building Forum with politicians, stakeholders, and workforce development groups to make sure we get the word out there that we are the leading organization in this type of work and that we have the potential to organize a workforce to be able to meet the demand.
WORKING IN THE WEST
We have been working with the Worcester Housing Authority to capture some other work with Boston Capital and we continue to move forward with the Curtis Apartment project. We also met with UMass Medical on its new patient intake hospital with Whiting-Turner. This project ended up taking more in-depth meetings with Kathleen Hylka, who is in charge of their divisional capital projects. Going forward we were able to get them to incorporate a mechanism to contact us for upcoming work so we can have a seat at the table on bidding opportunities. We are currently meeting with Shawmut for some upcoming work with WPI and Clark University, where the developers are looking to build student housing. This conversation will probably lead to more meetings with developers to try to capture some of this work and part of the conversation will be on the compliance end to figure out what opportunities there are for the local community. Some of the other work coming out is public and we need to double our efforts in bringing our signatory contractors to bid in this area. The NERB Project with Shawmut is moving slowly and steadily. Sweeney Drywall has four tapers keeping up with the carpenters, and two or three painters from M.L. McDonald are coming in and out of the job. The WUXI pharmaceutical job has not been awarded yet and is still up in the air. For the Carmel Street Project with Wood Partners, we are trying to lock it in with Universal at the wood frame rate. Originally we did not have any of our signatories bidding on this job, and now there is a chance that we will be on it at the residential rate with an opportunity to organize new members.
UMass Amherst is doing work and the relationship with Egan and DC 35 has secured us a lot of good hours in some projects and maintenance agreements. The UMass projects are full steam ahead and some of the other projects at Elm St. and DeBerry School are also at full throttle.