HUDSONVILLE, Mich. – Proving once again that unionists jump to the aid of all workers – union or not – the Ironworkers are trying to find jobs for 280 non-union colleagues left high and dry without pay when a large non-union Michigan contractor suddenly shut its doors last month. And the union hopes they’ll eventually become members, too.
The crisis arose when Lamar Construction Co., a large, long-time nonunion contractor headquartered in Hudsonville in west Michigan , abruptly closed July 9, throwing about 280 workers onto the jobless rolls.
Lamar, established in 1938, shut down after a bank cut off its credit line, MLive reported.
The company employed about 170 workers in Michigan and also operated in Kentucky and Colorado. Lamar’s statement said it would continue operating its structural steel erection business, but nothing else. That prompted quick offers of help for workers from the Iron Workers International Union and the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors.
The difference is the Ironworkers contacted other contractors it works with to try to find immediate jobs for the Lamar Construction workers. Those contractors are unionized.
The Iron Workers, who had unsuccessfully attempted to organize Lamar, cited news reports saying the company closed without providing workers their last week of pay. That’s “a callous reminder of the disregard some contractors have for their work force,” the union said.
“The Ironworkers Union is working with solid contractors who have positions immediately available for these laid-off workers,” said Ironworkers North Central States District Council President Colin Millard. “These reputable contractors will guarantee their wages and provide real insurance benefits, training, pensions and fair conditions of employment so workers don’t end up experiencing the same kind of workplace issues six months from now that they had when working at Lamar.”
Meanwhile, Mlive reported the anti-union ABC started an online resume bank and job center for the Lamar workers. That raised a red flag with the Iron Workers. Millard noted ABC “was founded as a radical political organization for construction employers and has traditionally acted in the interest of business owners, often at the expense of the workers.
“ABC’s offer makes no mention of quality of jobs these workers may be offered. It would be a further injustice to the workers to have to, once again, endure substandard employment when there are many good contractors offering real benefits and opportunities for advance-ment with positions open for skilled, quality workers. These workers deserve quality jobs.”
The union’s late-July statement continued: “The ABC has a long history of opposing
efforts to improve worker health and safety regulatory improvements and attacking project labor agreements and prevailing wages, designed to ensure that government projects create good jobs and stabilize local economies.” And while the anti-union ABC gave Lamar an award for “‘Excellence in Construction Safety,’ recent news reports revealed the company has had over 100 safety violations (cited) by OSHA in the past 10 years.”
Lamar was among Michigan’s top 10 largest contractors, with $151 million in revenue in 2013. It was the 355th largest contractor in the U.S. Engineering News Record reports.
Lamar also was no stranger to labor strife or safety violations. In 2013, ENR reported, “striking former workers alleged that Lamar subjected them to discrimination, improper training, wage violations and unsafe working conditions. The workers, members of Workers Freedom Coalition (WFC), picketed Lamar jobsites, urging businesses to decline contracting with the firm.” Lamar’s president said the WFC was a front group for Iron Workers Local 340.
“Under Lamar, these workers have had to endure a contractor that stole from them through wage theft, cheated building owners through the use of fraudulent welding certifications and swindled the insurance companies through acts of worker’s comp fraud,” Millard said. “What the workers need now is fair employment that gives them a voice on the jobsite and guarantees their wages and benefits.”
Marty Mulcahy is editor of the Building Tradesman. This article was sent to peoplesworld.org by PAI, the union news service to which peoplesworld.org subscribes.
Photo: Union Ironworkers Facebook page