Unions Want Officeholders to Obey Wage, Records Laws

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The president of the Western Reserve Building and Construction Trades Council, Don Crane, spent Wednesday speaking to elected officials here and in Lisbon about making sure the contractors pay their laborers prevailing wage, regardless of whether they belong to a union and that such payments are documented.

Crane began his day in Lisbon addressing Columbiana County commissioners and ended it speaking to City Council.

One of the 18 unions that belong to the Western Reserve Building Trades, Local 125 of the Laborers International Union of North America, last month sued the city of Youngstown in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. The union claims the city awarded bids to contractors and then could not produce records that the employees were paid prevailing wage and that they in turn paid income taxes due the city based on their compensation.

The case has been assigned to Judge John M. Durkin.

In the brief time allotted those who want to address the seven legislators at the beginning of each council meeting, Crane wanted to inform them of the frustration that led Rocky DiGennaro, Local 125 business manager, to hire the Mangano law offices to sue the city. He also wants to ensure that NYO Properties pays prevailing wage as it renovates the Wick Building downtown and transforms the Stambaugh Building into a hotel.

In the suit, DiGennaro says he visited the Department of Public Works last Sept. 23 to inspect the certified payroll reports for RJS Dean Enterprise work on the 2014 Road Resurfacing Project.

A clerk informed DiGennaro the department did not have them, that the Youngstown Area Development Corp. on Belmont Avenue had possession.

So DiGennaro went to YADC to inspect the records only to learn from its director, Bill Carter, that the Department of Engineering had them. The Local 125 business manager told Carter he had been at Public Works.

That led Carter, according to the suit, to telephone Yvonne Mathis for the records. Mathis, owner of The Mathis Group, was designated contract compliance manager to ensure that contractors doing city work paid their employees prevailing wage, deducted and paid their city income tax, were qualified to perform the work and otherwise met the contracts arrived at through collective bargaining.

Mathis did not produce the records in her possession until Sept. 26, a violation of the law that requires such records to be available during normal business hours.

Crane said Wednesday that Mathis kept the records in her car when the city should have maintained the records and they should have been kept on city property. Paragraph 36 under Count Two of the suit alleges that Carter “by design, neglect, or otherwise, permitted Mathis to maintain certified payroll reports … in her automobile, even though she was ‘out of town.’ ”

While the city law department denies any wrongdoing or improper handling of certified payroll records, it has agreed to have the city, either the Department of Public Works or the Law Department, post the records and keep them within City Hall once the city contract with YADC expires March 31, Crane and DiGennaro said yesterday.

That still does not ease their concern that all other projects are abiding by the contracts awarded by the city, they said.

It’s frustrating, Crane and DiGennaro said, and told of contractors paying their nonunion employees in cash at one-third the prevailing rate. Prevailing rate applies to all construction laborers, not just those who belong to a union.

They cited Vallourec, Youngstown State University and the Youngstown Business Incubator, who have benefited from city assistance and pay prevailing wage, deduct city income taxes and forward the funds to the city. Others are Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Museum for Science & Technology, the county courthouse and Home Savings and Loan Co.

In addressing Columbiana County commissioners, Crane asked Tim Weigel, Mike Halleck and Jim Hoppel to follow the example of Mahoning and Trumbull counties and adopt “a project labor agreement.”

A third of the skilled tradesmen represented by the Western Reserve Council live in Columbiana County, Crane said, roughly 1,800. Such a policy should give preference to companies that employ county residents, that a thorough check of the bidders be performed to ensure, among other things, that they’re current in paying their workers’ compensation insurance and have no major OSHA violations.

“It’s not a union-nonunion issue,” Crane told commissioners as business agents from the Laborers, electricians, painters and operating engineers unions sat behind him.

“Our biggest concern,” Crane continued, “is out-of-town companies using out-of-town workers. Southern companies come in with undocumented workers” paid less than prevailing wage.

The commissioners listened silently, said the matter really fell to county engineer Bert Dawson, with Hoppel saying, “Ninety-five percent of the people who work on public projects are union workers. I think that’s a pretty good record.”

Afterward, Hoppel was asked to elaborate on his remarks. Despite Crane’s contention that a project labor agreement isn’t a union-nonunion issue, Hoppel insisted, “It is a union-nonunion issue. And what he wants are things we have to check out anyway.”

Crane also pointed out to the commissioners that when they appointed Brian Kennedy of Salem last month to take his seat on the board of the Columbiana County Port Authority, it left the CCPA without a member of organized labor.

“This isn’t politics. This isn’t about Kennedy,” Crane stated. “But for the first time in 37 years, no labor representative is on the port authority board.”

The port authority was formed in 1978.

Copyright 2015 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

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