TAUC Summer Summit: Tackling the Big Issues in Cincinnati (Part 4 - Brent Booker)
Aiming for the Gulf
Brent BookerIf you haven't heard about international unions' efforts to gain new market share in low-union density regions of the country, then chances are you've been living under a rock for the past couple of years.
Led by President Sean McGarvey, North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU) is on a mission to convince owners in the energy-rich Gulf Coast region that unionized labor can provide them with a highly-skilled, safety-conscious workforce. The stakes have never been higher. Billions of dollars in energy-related infrastructure projects are on the line - not to mention the economic viability of union construction.
Brent Booker, Secretary-Treasurer for NABTU, has been at the forefront of this effort, meeting with owners and working hard to establish a base of operations in the Gulf Coast. He gave Summer Summit attendees an exclusive look at NABTU's new Gulf Coast Agreement - a customized PLA aimed squarely at this emerging energy market. NABTU believes the agreement will give contractors and unions the edge they need to compete with the well-entrenched non-union contractors in the region.
"This is a very unique and creative agreement that will allow contractors the flexibility and creativity you need to go out and capture work," Booker told the audience. Amendments can be negotiated by NABTU and the employer to meet the needs of a particular project. It's designed to promote efficiency and the timely and economical completion of work - specifically, private sector capital improvement and maintenance and repair of industrial, operating and manufacturing facilities in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Florida and Arkansas.
Other flexible components of the agreement include the ability to:
- Utilize composite crews
- Transfer existing employees from one project to another
- Name the foremen and require foremen to work with tools
- If a local union can't supply the needed manpower within 48 hours, the employer can hire from any source, but must be paid the agreement's wages and fringes
Other components of the agreement include: no overtime until after 40 hours worked; the ability to negotiate special shift configurations; and a prohibition on strikes and lockouts (if employees participate in such activity, they are not eligible for rehire for at least 90 days).
The PLA also requires unions to agree not to honor picketing. Booker highlighted another aspect of the agreement he dubbed "Truth in Referrals." It works like this: the employer tells the labor union how many workers are needed; the union then has 10 days to advise the employer how many workers it will actually be able to refer. The idea is to cut down on overblown promises from locals. If a local assures a contractor that it can supply 200 employees for a major outage project, but only 160 show up, the contractor has to scramble to find the extra manpower.
"We need to have an honest conversation between the local union and employer," Booker emphasized.