Roof union pickets at White Hall

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تداول عبر الانترنت ‘ Since last Tuesday, a small group of members of Local Union 33 of the United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers, and Allied Workers have been picketing in front of White Hall in response to the school’s decision to hire a non-union company to perform maintenance on the building’s roof. The protesters, who have been assembling daily, have been wearing signs that say ‘Newton Roofing does not conform to community standards.’ Union member and protester Bill Cook, who said he has worked on about six buildings at Northeastern, said the school decided to hire Newton Roofing to replace White Hall’s roof without allowing anyone in the union to bid on the job. Cook said non-union companies cost about 20 percent less to hire because they don’t have to cover benefits for their employees. Vice President for Marketing and Communications Mike Armini said of the five roofing projects scheduled on campus this summer, each had at least five bids and represented a mix of union and non-union contractors. In each case, he said the school selected the best bid for the individual job and ended up with five different contractors working on the projects. Armini said he was ‘very comfortable’ saying the vast majority of the university’s construction jobs are done by union contractors, and that the university has been assured Newton Roofing does offer proper benefits to its employees. The protests continued Monday after a multi-ton stone cornice plummeted six stories from the roof of a Northeastern residence hall onto Huntington Avenue while a roofing company, Progressive Roofers of Haverhill, worked on a several-week project to replace the roof. The cause of the collapse has yet to be determined. An employee who answered the phone at Progressive Roofers yesterday declined to identify whether Progressive workers were union or non-union. Standing outside White Hall next to a large inflatable rat ‘- a representation of union slang for non-union workers ‘- union members have been picketing because Newton Roofing, the company working the job, ‘has proven to be substandard as far as area contracting goes,’ said Brian Brousseau, a business agent for the union. ‘They don’t pay their workers area-standard wages, they don’t pay comprehensive health pans, and they don’t pay pension benefits,’ he said. ‘We find that to be unfair competition for the work in the area.’ ‘ ‘ However, Vice President of Newton Roofing Shawn Bryan said the union’s accusations are ‘totally lies and falsehoods.” Bryan, who obtained an electrical engineering degree from Northeastern in 2006, said the union has been pursuing his company for about three years because it is one of the largest roofing companies in the greater Boston area and has some of the biggest jobs in the city. He said he chose not to join the union because he disagrees with some of its policies, including its rule against drug testing employees. Bryan said the average pay for his employees is $23.50 an hour and they receive health care, dental insurance, 401(k), profit sharing and gym membership reimbursements, as well as other fringe benefits. The company also hires Northeastern co-op students. ‘ ‘What they’re trying to say is we have undocumented employees working for us and we have illegal immigrants working for us, which is totally untrue,’ he said. ‘We have ex-union guys. All those guys on the picket lines are laid off union workers. We have not had a layoff in the last 16 years … ‘ We’re not afraid of the big bad wolf, which is the union.’ Brian Mahoney, a former union member who has worked for Newton Roofing for more than 6 years, described the company’s practices as ‘by the book.” ‘I bet I know half of [the picketers] because I spent a lot of time in the union myself, and that’s what they do,’ he said. ‘A lot of times the union, especially if you get jobs around the Boston area, they believe they are entitled to all of those jobs.’ Brousseau said while some of the picketers were laid off workers, many of them were also taking voluntary four hour shifts out of their jobs to join the picketers. Brousseau said he was ‘shocked’ Northeastern has yet to look into the Union’s concerns, and Cook said the picketers had no intention of giving up. ‘We’re going to stay until we can make some kind of an impact,’ he said.

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