There have been some obstacles as construction unions forming the National Construction Alliance try for a formal launch, now set for May 1.
The main stumbling blocks appear to be conditions of membership and which unions are in or out. On Feb. 14, the laborers’ and operating engineers’ unions announced that they were quitting the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Dept. and forming the breakaway group with the carpenters, teamsters, ironworkers and bricklayers (ENR 2/27 p. 12). All of the unions are unhappy with declining union membership and the seeming inability of AFL-CIO and BCTD to deal with it .
But things have changed. Only the laborers, operating engineers and carpenters now are fully committed to NCA, and there is a “working relationship” with other unions, said Michael D’Antuano at the annual convention of the As-sociated General Contractors, held March 19-22 in Palm Springs, Calif. The former president of Parsons Constructors Inc. now is assistant to NCA Executive Director Ray Poupore, who also runs the National Heavy and Highway Alliance—the model for NCA.
AGC and other sources say that one condition for NCA membership is that unions quit BCTD. But ironworkers’ union President Joe Hunt says, “We’re in both.”
The confusion also is spreading in contractor ranks. One New York contractor at AGC’s meeting noted that market recovery plans of top union leaders are not being communicated to the local level. “There is a big gap between the upper echelon and the ground,” he said.
Of great concern is the move by some unions to take on new duties. “We will face pressure” to have laborers perform concrete finishing, said one contractor. AGC staffer Denise Gold warned, “Don’t enter into collective bargaining contracts with overlapping jurisdiction. There may be legal consequences. You don’t want to pay twice, es-pecially where only one union is doing the work.”
D’Antuano said these problems will be worked out. He is setting up a West Coast NCA office and Poupore an East Coast one.
Both will meet with contractors and local unions, but there may be different solutions, depending on union relationships. “We don’t want to have one system throughout the U.S.,” D’Antuano said. He also will meet with owners and help develop an NCA project labor agreement. Above all, he wants to hear from contractors. “Shame on you if you don’t start attacking me with issues,” he said.