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Union infiltration

Posted: Thu Aug 04, 2005 7:04 am
by Tom_in_CA
Just wondering what the climate is elsewhere in the state/country, on the union forcing their way into your business?

In central/northern CA, sweeping was a non-union field, since time began. If you were ever on a fed/state/city project, where prevailing wages were required, you just paid "cash in-lieu of benefits". Then about 1997, the Operating Engineers Union started telling the paving contractors that they were required to find union sweepers. The union paver's own contracts required them to "use union sub's, unless none are available". At first, this was easy: since there were no union brooms north of Los Angeles area, the union was forced to back down. But they kept the pressure up, finding a few small companies or individual operators, who gave in to the promise of "unlimited work, no matter what your price is". In other words, it didn't matter how much that union broom charged, or how lousy his quality was, the signatory paver would be forced to use him! (there's your taxpayer dollars hard at work, eh?)

You can guess what happens: When a company sees he's loosing work to this union broom, he's pressured to join. And so on and so forth, till all the geographic areas have union brooms. If someone refuses to sign up, the union simply forces the paver to find brooms from other cities. I actually saw a broom come from 2 hrs. away, to do a 1 hr. job. Another time, a company which was coming from an hour away, and taking all my paving work, broke down, and held up a line of hot-asphalt trucks. They call me in the middle of the night to back this clown up, and yet...... the next day..... he's back at work on the job! Eventually I had to make the tough choice: join the union, and price myself out of the private market (mobile home parks, industrial yards, non-union paving, etc...), or join up and keep the other half of my work (the highway type stuff). The union gets their way, and skims a buck an hour off the top of all hours worked by my guys. Is that anything short of legalized extortion? Sounds like the Godfather movie, eh? ("give me a piece of the action").

Any other experiences on this out there?

Re: Union infiltration

Posted: Fri Oct 03, 2014 10:35 pm
by Jerk
how lousy his quality was, the signatory paver would be forced to use him! (there's your taxpayer dollars hard at work, eh?)

Re: Union infiltration

Posted: Mon Jun 27, 2016 10:53 pm
by asphalt
I hear you loud and clear. Only in Canada the cost of wages are probably a bit higher due to our seasonal operations and there is the unions 10% retirement fund to boot. Just for example a unskilled labourer that cost me $20.00 an hour will cost me $32.00 then there's all the government taxes and employers contributions. I already pay for a great benefit plan for the guys even better then the union offers and I cover them through the winter months up here when we are not even turning a wheel. If I need a new employee I need to pull from the union and there is not a good selection of skilled paving men to choose from in the labour's union or the operator's union.
The math has been done and I can not foresee charging an extra $600 on every driveway we install to cover the additional wage expense as we are already on the high end of the pricing spectrum. My salesmen would be just spinning their wheels and we would be lucky to get 1/3 of the jobs we are receiving now. So after 30 year and over 2 million dollars in branding a great reputation I can throw away all the valuable "good will" and profit associated with a business sell. So instead of retiring at a reasonable age I will be probably wearing an orange apron if you know what I mean.
I do not get on my paving jobs as I have a full infrastructure in place allowing me the freedom to run the road striping, power sweeping, tack coating, crack repairs and sealing operations. The paving crew signed union cards that were brought forward by one employee that use to work at a union job and for every card he got signed he received $100 from the union. So 11 men on the paving team through pure propaganda and harassment signed up I'm assuming. I have spent $60,000 on labour lawyers to fight this and so far I have serious doubts as to the outcome. The rules are that if I talk about closing if they unionize it would be a threat to their livelihood which would automatically unionize my operations. So just sitting letting the lawyers fight it out and possibly not getting the out come I hope for will mean the same thing for them. So your tong is tied and the men are unable to see what will happen. The crazy thing is the union does not want the commercial, institutional or commercial sectors of my business, only the residential. I can not run a business only on the commercial, institutional or commercial sectors as residential keeps us busy between those jobs and if the workers get a taste of the union wages they can refuse to do the work and only do residential work. We are primarily a residential paving company as we do not have a plant and three of my competitors do in a town with the population of 100,000 and 7 paving companies.
I know just how corrupt and unfair the union plays and so far it is for that reason I feel there is no other choice but to close down my operations. I could do an equipment sell but the new owner of the equipment would need a whole new crew because if one man stays on then the rule is "if smells like a duck and walks like a duck it probably is a duck" so then that new owners operation is automatically unionized.

Re: Union infiltration

Posted: Tue Jun 28, 2016 3:24 am
by Tom_in_CA
asphalt, your post was a breath of fresh air !

"The paving crew signed union cards that were brought forward by one employee that use to work at a union job and for every card he got signed he received $100 from the union"

That is just so classic, eh ? They think you are just filthy rich, and so *certainly* you are making money hand-over-fist to afford to pay the expensive union scales, while at-the-same time getting the bid awards to you, as the lowest bidder, eh ?

The rules are that if I talk about closing if they unionize it would be a threat to their livelihood which would automatically unionize my operations.

Oh this is SSEEOOOO familiar. When a bunch of us sweeper co's got together in the late 1990s, to see if we could stand-in-solidarity to not-sign (so that the union would hopefully just leave our industry alone), we heard the same dire warnings. Exactly as you were told, that we can't tell our employees that we'd be forced out of business, or whatever.

Because to do so, would be deemed to "threaten" them, blah blah. So even though you could rightly mathematically figure out that you'd loose 80% of your business , YOU ARE FORBIDDEN TO TELL THEM THAT. But the union , on the other hand, can go out to your guys and spell all sorts of rosy pictures of bliss and wealth and higher wages, etc.....

This is nothing but legalized extortion at its finest. Straight out of the Godfather movie, eh ?

In our company's case, we ended up benefitting in the long run. But only because we can now force non-union sweepers off-of signatory Company jobs. So I have a sort of protection that I'll get certain jobs, that my non-union competitor's can't. Since the signatory pavers can't technically use them (unless I weren't available). So I hate to say it, but I'm sort of "on the gravy train".

This drives up the cost of work done for the govt., out of tax-payer's pockets. So the EXACT SAME STRETCH OF ASPHALT (on a foot per foot basis, for instance) of a parking lot made for Uncle Sam, will cost XX % more than the EXACT SAME STRETCH of asphalt laid for a private individual.

I particularly feel for you, in that you are not at liberty to simply pass on the costs to your up-line like I was. In your case, working for residentials, you are at the whims of supply and demand. And your customers can simply go get a lower bid elsewhere. That bites !

Re: Union infiltration

Posted: Wed Jul 20, 2016 7:16 pm
by asphalt
Thanks Tom Eh! I feel it is good to let others know how the Union works and their scandalous angles how be it there are many more stories I could tell but it will really not change my current situation.
If you know of anyone that wants a compete paving operation (equipment, marketing and training) but not the name feel free to contact me. I have a complete equipment list all priced at current Ritchie bros auction and auto trader prices, so this is a good deal for a complete package priced at at $450,000. It would take doing some serious auction hunting to find all the necessary pieces to put together this and would probably cost more. All my trucks and sales vehicles are matching in royal purple. We are know as the "Purple Paving People" The training and marketing material alone is thrown in and worth a small fortune as the developed system we have used over the past decades make serious money but not enough in my small market to combat the union.

Re: Union infiltration

Posted: Tue Jul 26, 2016 3:10 pm
by Tom_in_CA
Asphalt, I used to think we had it bad, when we were forced to sign on the dotted line. But after reading your story, I realize there are those that have it worse. In your case, you can't simply pass on the cost to the customer. Because you're not doing prevailing wage jobs. You're in the private sector. On prevailing wage jobs, at least .... *in theory* ... it's a level playing field. But in your case, your customers can simply tell you to take a hike.

Good luck on your sale of equipment.

You should put your story, with all the economic tentacles it involves, in print sometime. And submit it to a trade publication type paper/periodical. Then I betcha a lot of business owners in your shoes, would print that out to show their employees, eh ? Or wait, would that be construed as "threatening them" ? Aaaarrgghhh.