MO IUPAT Accepts New Contract, Pay Raise
After several days of striking, last week 600 members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Local 2012 in Kansas City, Missouri, voted to accept a new contract offered by local nonprofit commercial construction employee group, The Builders’ Association.
According to reports, the strike was the first painters’ strike since 1968. The new contract was approved by union members in a two-thirds margin after just eight days.
IUPAT Local 2012 Strike
When members of IUPAT Local 2012 first announced they were going on strike, Kansas City's KSHB 41 News reported that members attributed their collective decision to answering calls to work during the height of the pandemic, and although they’ve continued working still, were not having successful pay increase negotiations.
IUPAT represents several different tradesworkers, including industrial, commercial and residential workers. Local 2012 is reported to be the largest of those within the District Council 3, noting that its workforce is “well trained in the latest techniques and to the highest safety standards.”
Proud to support my brothers and sisters in Local 2012 of the Painters Union who went out on strike today against the Builders Association pic.twitter.com/GoxGebCxPW— Kevin O’Neill KCMO (@KOneillkcmo) April 12, 2022
According to a study in 2020 that tracked the results of more than 730,000 COVID-19 tests out of Los Angeles between August and October, construction workers had the highest positivity rates for asymptomatic COVID cases of any occupation.
The data found that construction workers had a positivity rate of 5.7% for those who were asymptomatic and 10.1% for those with symptoms. While some considered the results unexpected because of the natural state of personal protective gear and safety on worksites, others say it’s actually those very reasons why the spread isn’t worse.
The dynamic between COVID-19 and the construction industry centers around jobs: both how it impacts getting and keeping a contract as well as the practices once a company is onsite.
When the union first announced the strike, the news station suspected that workers would be seen striking at the Garmin construction site in Olathe in hopes to negotiate better pay with The Builders’ Association. IUPAT officials and members of the Kansas City council were also expected to join strikers in support the Mark Twain Building.
“The Builders’ Association has engaged in federal mediation to determine the specific wage percentage increase and remains committed to pursuing the collective bargaining process in good faith with the goal of reaching an agreement,” the association said in a statement.
In early discussions, The Builders’ Association was reported to have offered to increase hourly rates for work to more than $32 per hour, along with other benefits, on behalf of the strikers. However, according to reports, this amount would have only amounted to a pay raise of just 1%.
Given the economic inflation and rising consumer prices—8.5% in the 12 months ending in March—the offer would have meant a 7.5% cut in workers’ real income.
Speaking to ABC affiliate KMBC News, Renee Adams, a striking painter, said, “We’re not even getting a cost-of-living wage. It’s a slap in the face to us. We feel disrespected.”
Frank Carpenter, Business Manager of IUPAT Local 2012, added, “You can’t just sit back and take it all the time. You’ve got to actually do something about it. This is the most peaceful way to do it.”
Despite the effort, the strike was reported to only last eight days, as the union was seeking to isolate the strike and end it as soon as possible. On Sunday (April 17), IUPAT District Council 3 announced on its Facebook page that it would be ordering a “stand-down” Monday after supposed progress in negotiations.
The union wrote, “Contract Negotiations Committee is meeting Monday afternoon with management. Your pressure campaign is working. We are going to order a stand-down tomorrow. There will be NO STRIKE ACTIONS.”
New Contract, Pay Raise
Last week, members of IUPAT Local 2012 voted to accept a new contract offered by The Builders’ Association.
“These were tough negotiations and it's been a tough couple of weeks,” said Carpenter. “We appreciate the willingness of the contractors to come back to the table and their recognition of the value our members bring to their businesses.”
According to reports, the new contract includes a 2.5% to 3% wage increase for members (depending on the trade). It is also reported to be the highest wage increase the union has voted on since 2005. IUPAT removed an aspect regarding residential worker rates from the contract to sweeten the deal, according to Joey Flickner, Director of Servicing for the union.
“We understand the current uncertainty of the economic climate poses challenges for many in our region,” read a statement from The Builders' Association. “We look forward to continuing our work with our industry partners in building a better tomorrow and advancing the lives of people through commercial construction.”
Jessica Podhola, Communications Director of IUPAT Local 2012, added, “Our members collective action and solidarity led to the largest contract increase in 17 years, when workers fight together, they can achieve their goals – direct action works. We also wouldn't have achieved this contract without the solidarity from other trades and their commitment to their brothers and sisters in the IUPAT. We can't say thank you enough.”
For the month of February, the construction industry reportedly witnessed a 40-year high in terms of growth rates in both nonsupervisory positions and wage increases.
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, the construction industry added 60,000 jobs on net last month—marking the recovery of virtually all 99% of the jobs lost during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, construction industry employment (both residential and nonresidential) is 7.6 million, according to the National Association of Home Builders.
In taking a closer look at the February numbers, nonresidential construction employment increased by 29,400 positions, with all three subsectors experiencing growth, and is up 3.9% over the past twelve months. The residential sector added 31,000 and is up 4.5% since February 2021.
The number of unemployed jobseekers with construction experience shrank by 26% over the past year, from February 2021 to 677,000 in February 2022.
In a recent report by Business Insider, construction wages are up 6% higher than this time last year, further intensifying competition. According to AGC, the industry average of $31.62 per hour for such workers exceeded the private sector average by 17%, while the average for the entire private sector climbed even more in February—6.7% year-over-year.
Regardless of what appear to be positive outlooks, industry officials report that the progress is not enough, as the construction sectors will still need hundreds of thousands of additional experienced workers over the next several years to complete Bipartisan Infrastructure-funded projects, in addition to satisfying the continued demand for homebuilding and private nonresidential structures.
In March, for the first time in 40 years, the U.S. Department of Labor proposed a rulemaking for the Davis-Bacon Act and Related Acts to better reflect the needs of today’s construction industry and planned federal construction investments.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking was published by the department’s Wage and Hour Division in the Federal Register on March 11.
According to the DOL, the proposed changes would speed up prevailing wage updates, create several efficiencies in the current system and ensure that prevailing wage rates keep up with actual wages. The department adds that over time, the changes would generate higher wages for workers.
“Federal dollars should be used to create good jobs in local communities all across our country,” said Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh at the time. “These proposed regulations are good for workers, good for building high-quality infrastructure and for ensuring we have a strong construction industry, as we rebuild America.”