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3 construction unions to get raises in new contracts for southeast Wisconsin

Carpenters, laborers and cement masons in the southeast corner of the state will all be getting annual wage increases under agreements reached with contractors represented by the Associated General Contractors of Greater Milwaukee.

The AGC of Greater Milwaukee, a trade group composed of more than 340 contractors and subcontractors in southeast Wisconsin, sent out a newsletter Tuesday announcing it had reached agreements with three union groups: the North Central Regional Council of Carpenters, Local 599 of the Operative Plasterers’ and Cement Masons’ International Association and Local 113 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.

A fourth group – a bricklayers’ local – has meanwhile seen its negotiation deadline extended to June 13.

Under the three-year contract reached with North Central Regional Council of Carpenters, union carpenters in southeast Wisconsin will get 3 percent raises in each of the next three years. The increases will come to $1.58 an hour this year, $1.79 in 2018 and $1.85 in 2019.

The two-year contract reached with the cement masons Local 599 will provide a 3 percent raise ($1.68 an hour) this year and a 2.75 percent raise ($1.59 an hour) in 2018. And the laborers Local 113’s two-year contract will provide a 3 percent raise ($1.47 an hour) this year and a 2.5 percent raise ($1.26 an hour) in 2018.

Beyond the wage increases, which took effect Monday, unions and contractors managed to come to terms on various other contract provisions. These included the adoption of protections against possible violations of Wisconsin’s right-to-work law – which was passed in 2015 –  as well as the establishment of a Statewide Substance Abuse Testing and Assistance Program and of Mandatory Journeyman Upgrade Training.

Representatives of the AGC of Greater Milwaukee and the affected unions could not be reached immediately for comment.

Many of the collective-bargaining agreements used in Wisconsin’s construction industry were scheduled to expire this year at the end of May. Contractors and unions have spent the past few months at the bargaining table trying to hammer out new terms. In cases in which the contracts have expired without new deals being put in place, workers have continued working under the old agreements.

Although this year’s negotiations have been about many of the usual subjects – wages, benefits and leave – there have also been various new wrinkles. Beyond seeing the adoption of Wisconsin’s right-to-work law, this year is also the first in roughly eight decades in which prevailing wages have not had to be paid on local projects.

Labor representatives have argued that prevailing wages had made it easier for union contractors to lock themselves into long-term contracts. Because pay on public jobs could not be less than prevailing wages, union companies did not have to worry as much about being bested by nonunion rivals who – because they do not have labor contracts – might be able to submit low bids simply by take advantage of their ability to reduce workers’ pay.

About Dan Shaw, dan.shaw@dailyreporter.com

Dan Shaw is the associate editor at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at dan.shaw@dailyreporter.com or at 414-225-1807.

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