AVOIDING LABOR DISPUTES IN THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY
A contractor is often confronted with labor issues and labor disputes in a construction project. In order to avoid potential labor disputes, a contractor should make certain preparations both before and during the construction project.
Before the start of a construction project, a contractor should make sure that all applicable licenses and permits have been obtained. The contractor should also make sure that the requirements of all labor laws, such as the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act have been met. In addition, the contractor should make sure that there is a performance clause in his or her contracts with subcontractors. This clause obligates the subcontractors to perform in the event of a labor dispute and provides for termination if the subcontractors fail to perform their contracts.
In order to avoid labor disputes, a contractor should document and establish a plan regarding his or her personnel policies and practices. The plan should contain provisions regarding application procedures, hiring, and employment conditions. A well-documented plan will minimize labor disputes.
In order to avoid problems during labor disputes, a contractor should establish a plan for strikes, work-stoppages, and picketing. The plan may include provisions for access to the job site, such as reserve gates or separate entrances. The reserve gates provide neutral or non-union employees, subcontractors, and suppliers with access to the job site without crossing picket lines. The contractor must notify the union of the reserve gates. Although the union can post observers at the reserve gates, it is illegal for the union to picket the reserve gates. The plan should also restrict access to the job site and should provide for security at the reserve gates, such as the hiring of a security company and the use of video cameras.
During a construction project, a contractor should be aware of activities that may be conducted by a labor union on the project. The union may conduct "card checks," that is, the union may ask to see employees' union cards. The union may post observers at reserve gates. The union is only entitled to post one observer at each reserve gate. The observer may only stand by the reserve gate during working hours in order to observe the employees who are entering and who are leaving the job site. The observer may not picket, hold banners, distribute leaflets, or block the reserve gate.
During a construction project, a labor union may attempt to contact the owner of the project in order to threaten the owner with a boycott or with a shut-down of the project. A contractor should contact the owner and assure the owner that the union's activities will not result in delays or in a shut-down of the project. The union may also contact the owner and attempt to negotiate wage increases with the owner. If the union's activities during the construction project constitute harassment or a violation of the National Labor Relations Act, the contractor should file a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board.
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