Opinion: Standing Up For Good Jobs in Our Community

By Lou Antonellis, Harry Brett, Bob Butler, Peter Gibbons and Brian Kelly

Workers in Massachusetts are fortunate to have a number of excellent protections enshrined in state law. A great example of one of these protections is the prevailing wage law. Unfortunately, a loophole exists that allows unscrupulous contractors the ability to exploit workers and avoid paying them a fair wage for their labor. This loophole has allowed greedy contractors to skirt the law and lower standards for workers in a difficult and sometimes dangerous industry by utilizing off-site prefabrication facilities. By keeping the fabrication away from the construction site, these bad contractors are underbidding the law-abiding local contractors and cheating working people out of a fair wage.

The members of the union building trades, who we are proud to represent, are a well-trained, professional workforce who spend hundreds of hours training in state-certified apprentice programs. Many of them are trained right here in Dorchester and are qualified to design, fabricate and assemble products and equipment installed at the project site. Furthermore, our members are OSHA-trained and certified.

That’s why the union building trades are so deeply invested in fighting to close this loophole. Our members live in your community. We’re your neighbors, youth soccer coaches and karate instructors. We work, learn and play alongside you and your family everyday, and we're committed to our region's future. We don’t want to see these bad actors driving wages and standards down in our towns.

Thankfully, Representative Tackey Chan (D-Quincy) has proposed an excellent solution in the form of H.1599, known as the Off-Site Fabrication Bill, which would close this loophole and end a practice that allows bad contractors to undercut good ones.

We're calling on the leadership of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development to move H.1599 out of committee so the Legislature can consider it for a vote in this current session. Both California and New Jersey have enacted similar laws, strengthening worker protection and ensuring that standards for their communities are being upheld. We can’t let our communities fall behind and allow these bad contractors to continue exploiting this loophole.

By passing H.1599 our elected leaders are taking a stand to ensure the quality of construction for our public works projects, as well as the fair wages and working conditions for the women and men working on both the construction site and in fabrication facilities.

Everyone who works deserves fair treatment, a safe working environment and a fair wage for their labor. Passing H.1599 would ensure that workers in off-site fabrication facilities have the dignity they deserve. Let’s take a stand together for strong communities that value hard work. Let’s level the playing field for our local, law-abiding contractors. Please join our members and call your state senator and state representative today to urge them to move H.1599 out of committee and call a vote.

For more information or to join the fight to close this loophole, please visit www.smw17boston.org.

Lou Antonellis is the Business Manager of IBEW Local 103
Harry Brett is the Business Manager of Plumbers Local 12
Bob Butler is the Business Manager of Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 17
Peter Gibbons is the Business Manager of Sprinkler Fitters Local 550
Brian Kelly is the Business Manager of Pipefitters Local 537