« PreviousContinue »
CONSTRUCTION SITE PICKETING
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 1960
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met at 10 a.m., pursuant to recess, in room 429, Old House Office Building, Hon. Carl D. Perkins (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. PERKINS. The committee will come to order.
We have with us this morning Congressman Jonas from North Carolina, who has with him one of his constituents that he will introduce. We are mighty glad you have come over to the committee, Mr. Jonas, and you may proceed.
STATEMENT OF HON. CHARLES RAPER JONAS, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA Mr. Jonas. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee. We have with us this morning as your first witness Mr. Robert Patten, who is a constituent of mine, a resident of Charlotte. He is executive vice president of the Carolinas branch of the Associated General Contractors, and he has been for some 14 or 15 years. He is a witness before the committee this morning and I do not know what he intends to say but I am sure he will say it with clarity and in a way that will present his viewpoint to the committee.
He is a very fine citizen of the Charlotte community and I am happy to have the opportunity of presenting him to the committee at this time.
Mr. PERKINS. Thank you very much, Mr. Jonas.
Come around and take that seat, Mr. Patten, and proceed as you wish.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT PATTEN, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT OF THE CAROLINAS BRANCH, THE ASSOCIATED GENERAL CONTRACTORS OF AMERICA
Mr. PATTEN. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, as Mr. Jonas has told you, my name is Robert Patten. I reside in Charlotte, N.C., where for the past 14 years I have held the position of executive vice president of the Carolinas branch, the Associated General Contractors of America. Carolinas branch is the largest unit of the AGC in the Nation, being comprised of approximately 400 general contractor members and more than 1,200 associate members, most of whom are subcontractors in one category or another.
Prior to accepting my present position I was identified with the construction industry of the Carolinas since the middle 1920's in engineering and contracting work. I, therefore, have had intimate knowledge of the construction industry in the Carolinas for more than 30 years.
Furthermore, I was authorized just this morning to advise the committee that I also speak for the construction industry of the State of Georgia.
I appear before you today in opposition to H.R. 9070 and other bills of an identical nature. My understanding of these bills is that they are designed to legalize common situs picketing on construction projects and by so doing would, of course, legalize secondary boycotts in the construction industry. My understanding of a secondary boycott is that it means that a union having a demand against an employer places force in the form of picketing against another and a generally neutral employer.
I believe it has been said that the enactment of this proposed legislation would bring about industrial peace in the construction industry. I say to you gentlemen, that the enactment of this proposed legislation would bring about chaos in the construction industry of the two Carolinas and in many other areas throughout the Nation.
North Carolina, in company with a considerable number of other States, has a law of long standing requiring separate specifications, separate bids, and separate contracts for general construction work, the electrical work, the plumbing and heating, and the air conditioning on all public construction projects. The effects of this law through the years have been to bring about the inclusion of separate contracts on a considerable portion of privately owned construction work in the area.
It can readily be seen that in cases as this, neither the general contractor, the electrical contractor, plumbing and heating contractor, nor the air-conditioning contractor has any jurisdiction or control whatsoever over what firm or firms will also be working on the same project. Consequently, none of these separate contractors has any control over the labor policy of other separate contractors.
I have many times seen construction projects where one or more of the separate contractors were operating on a union ship basis and the others were operating on an entirely open shop basis. Likewise, I recall many instances and situations such as this where the local unions would picket the job in an effort to force complete unionization from the top down. Without fail, this procedure has caused great delay and expense to all concerned. Fortunately, as far as my area is concerned, such disputes have generally resulted in a court injunction being obtained by the innocent party or parties and the work finally proceeding in an orderly fashion.
The enactment of legislation such as H.R. 9070 would mean that such injunctions could no longer be obtained and, as I stated earlier, chaos would be the result.
I recall one rather large private project: an office building for a major oil company built a couple of years ago, where the general contractor, by tradition, operated on an open shop basis. He happened to have one union shop subcontractor engaged on the job. A local union picketed the project thus bringing the entire construction operation to a grinding halt; and mind you, in no case did they have a dispute with their employer, but were attempting to get at another employer.
A temporary injunction was obtained ordering this particular local union to cease its picketing, whereupon a second local union promptly appeared with pickets and the job again came to a halt. Upon this second local union being enjoined to cease its picketing the Building Trades Council got into the act. They, in turn, received an injunction. Following this, still another local union placed pickets on the job. The superior court judge by this time was properly becoming quite irked at this sort of tactics and advised the unions that their activities were approaching dangerously close to contempt of court.
With this admonition, they finally dropped their picketing activities and everyone returned to work. "In the meantime, however, it had cost the hundreds of workmen involved many thousands of dollars in wages, it had cost the contractors great sums on account of delays and legal expenses, and it had cost the oil company owners several months of much needed occupation of the building.
Then another case only a very few years ago involves the construction of a large plant for one of the major dairy firms of the country.
a The general contractor, operating on a union basis at the time, had a plastering subcontractor who was nonunion.
The electricians and the plumbing, heating, and air-conditioning men who were working for other prime contractors, not for the general contractor involved, went out on strike in an effort to completely unionize the job. The job was shut down for more than 2 weeks with resulting loss to the contractors, the workmen, and the owners. It finally resulted in a superior court injunction to cease and desist in picketing. This broke up the strike but the final losses and delays remain to this day.
Then to move from the Carolinas to two of the Nation's most vital defense installations, I should like to quote a letter dated February 19, 1960, from the J. A. Jones Construction Co., based in Charlotte, N.C., signed by Edwin L. Jones, Jr., vice president. The Jones Co. is of worldwide stature and operates on a union shop basis.
DEAR MR. PATTEN : We understand that you are going to Washington next week in connection with the current effort being made to legalize common situs picketing on construction jobs.
We wish to advise you of some of the unfortunate experiences that we have had with this problem in the past. The best example that we can offer would be our experience at Redstone Arsenal which, as you know, is a vital link in our national defense effort. On August 12, 19958, the Electricians' Union placed pickets at all the gates leading into the Redstone Arsenal. They were protesting the awarding of a contract by the Corps of Engineers to the Baroco Elec. tric Co. of Pensacola, Fla., for the construction of substations and distribution lines. We, of course, had no connection with the Baroco Co. or the work they were to perform since we had a prime contract with the Corps of Engineers. There were also sereral other general contractors on this job at the same time who, like ourselves, were not involved in the work that was to be performed by Baroco. It was impossible to get any union workmen to cross these picket lines, and, as a result, for 32 days the only work that was performed was that being done by the Baroco Electric Co. whose men did not belong to the Electricians Union.
During the course of this secondary boycott type of picketing the contractors were able to secure an injunction against the union which limited the picketing to one gate. This, however, did not solve any problems since the union workmen still refused to work as long as a dispute existed. Our company made every effort to get the unions to return their men to our work; we contacted the union representatives both at the local level and in Washington all without success.
The picketing effort was apparently intended to bring pressure on the Corps of Engineers to cancel the contract that had been awarded to Baroco, but the Corps of Engineers remained firm and when it was apparent that there was nothing to gain the union took down their pickets on September 24 and work gradually began to resume. We, as an innocent third party in this matter, suffered financial loss as well as loss of production.
As a matter of fact, there have been three other incidents of this same type of illegal picketing at Redstone Arsenal during the past 5 years.
We also experienced the same type of situation in three separate incidents at the Cape Canaveral construction program at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.
When we began work at the cape in early 1956, we found that water distribution systems were traditionally being installed by open shop contractors, not only the Cape Canaveral area but throughout Florida. We awarded a subcontract for this type of work to Constructors of Florida. On October 1, 1956, as Constructors of Florida was nearing completion of their subcontract, the plumbers union placed pickets on the job, protesting the presence of the Constructors of Florida and the fact that they did not use union workmen. This work stoppage continued until October 15, at which time we canceled the subcontract of Constructors of Florida and took over the work ourselves in an effort to get the project underway again. The financial loss to our company in the loss of production, nonproductive overhead, and settling with the subcontractor exceeded $100,000.
It is our feeling that giving unions a legal right to picket all contractors on a construction job where a dispute may only exist with one of the contractors is nothing less than legalized extortion. What we need is to put more teeth into the present law so that when a situation develops such as a Redstone Arsenal and and injunction is secured that the workmen of contractors not involved in the dispute can be ordered to return to work.
That is the end of the Jones Co. letter.
Without secondary boycotts being declared completely illegal, such irresponsible antics will be daily occurances in the Carolinas and in many other areas of the Nation.
It has been said that the workmen in our area desire to belong to unions. I seriously question the accuracy of such statements. The mere fact that virtually no elections have been called for in the contracting industry in the Carolinas would indicate to me that the majority of the construction workmen have no desire to belong to unions. Had they such a desire, they would certainly have called for more union representation elections. Of the few such elections that have ever been held in the Carolinas, I recall only one that has been won by the unions. Again, I say a desire to be unionized simply does not exist among the construction workmen of our area.
In the city of Charlotte, where I reside, a rapidly growing city of about 200,000 population, there are approximately 70 licensed general contractors. Of this number, to my knowledge, there are only five who operate on a union basis and these only do so in a somewhat spasmodic and certainly limited manner.
In connection with assisting the U.S. Labor Department in the administration of the Davis-Bacon Act and other related acts we have had occasion through many years to make numerous wage surveys in every corner of the two Carolinas.
Except in the case of a few small housebuilders we find that the overwhelming majority of open shop contractors are paying the so-called union wage rates, or higher, and have no desire to pay lower scales. That being the case, the workmen apparently simply feel that they would have nothing to gain by assuming the obligation to pay union fees and dues.