May 3, 2012
The Carpenters District Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity is soliciting other local unions and St. Louis area construction associations to sign on to a call for the Metropolitan Sewer District to enforce workforce inclusion goals by trades rather than in aggregate on almost $5 billion of remediation work over the next 23 years.
The work was mandated by the April 30th settlement of a federal lawsuit filed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the state of Missouri and the Missouri Coalition for the Environment almost five years ago regarding 500 million gallons of raw sewage discharged into local rivers and streams between 2000 and 2006 in violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
Some association executives who received the request to participate were questioning the Carpenters' motives in crafting their position. The Carpenters have taken the position that goals set by the MSD board, based on a disparity study the utility commissioned, should be set by trade rather than in aggregate.
A knowledgeable source told CNR that the union felt that previous projects, such as the I64/40 construction, relied on higher inclusion totals within the carpenter and laborer ranks to buoy lower participation levels among other trades.
"It should be by trade on the project. The union wants to hold the (MSD) board's feet to the fire. This is just doing the right thing. There is time before these projects ramp up for (other contractor associations and trades) to do the groundwork to make it work."
The letter sent by the union to other unions and to construction associations stated, "It is important to note, when it comes to construction projects, past goals of the organization have been unproductive. Consequently MSD needs to clearly definite rules and penalties for violators. More importantly, we feel these goals should be mandates. For too long the "Good Faith Effort" concept has been ineffective when it comes to incentivizing the inclusion of minorities and women in MSD's projects. For the sake of diversifying the construction industry, MSD must take a more aggressive approach."
The draft statement to the MSD board by the Carpenters read:
"We recognize MSD's recent attempt to require participation of Minority and Female trade workers on their construction projects. However, to date, we believe MSD's good intentions have established unrealistic goals which lack defined rules and penalties for violators. Consequently, Minority and Female trade workers will continue to be marginalized on upcoming MSD construction projects. In the end, the workers and their families will be the most affected. Our Coalition believes MSD needs to invoke a plan of action in order to make the necessary changes that will get St. Louis back to work. Accordingly, we respectfully request that MSD seriously consider including the following changes to their current plan:
1) The percentages of Minority and Female workers will be determined by the MSD-sanctioned Disparity Survey to be presented later this year to the MSD Board of Trustees;
2) All construction project specifications include language that mandates inclusion of no less than the minimum percentages of Minority and Female trade workers, as established above, for each trade organization;
3) Each Contractor will be required by the MSD construction specifications to employ no less than the specified minimum percentages of Minority and Female workers, as established above, by each trade organization working on each MSD construction project;
4) MSD will monitor each construction project with MSD-employed Compliance Officers. These MSD Compliance Officers will ensure that the contractors meet or exceed the specified percentage of Minority and Female trade workers as established above; and
5) MSD's construction specifications will have strict and enforceable language with stringent monetary penalties imposed upon any Contractor that violates the related-specifications.
Our Coalition is committed to following and meeting the workforce participation numbers, by trade, as outlined by MSD's Disparity Study. Our organizations will see those percentages as more than a goal but as mandates and strongly encourages MSD to treat the new participation numbers as mandates. We look forward to working with the MSD Board of Trustees in order to be a part of the solution that includes Minority and Female trade workers in future MSD Construction projects."