Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local Union 40
100-A Old Forge Road
Rocky Hill, CT 06067 p 1-860-529-2616. 1-800-201-5840 (CT Only)
info@smwlocal40.org
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Support Community Wage and Labor Standards

 

We, the organized and affiliated Sheet Metal – HVAC Workers and contractors of Local 40, would like to present a question – a challenge, even - to our fellow citizens of this great and prosperous state :

What type of community standards should guide our work and protect our workers here?

We hear much discussion about certain slogans, that over time, have lost their meaning. In the old days, I had a school-teacher in class who, whenever we kids asked what something meant, would simply point toward the dictionary on the shelf in our classroom, and say “look it up!”

Let us remember, that no matter how the forces opposed to working men and women cast things, we must protect and never stop fighting for the basic and fundamental economic rights that we feel our members and all workers in communities across Connecticut deserve.

 

Have you read lately about the declining standards of living in the United States? And the growing gaps, not just in terms of income but also opportunity?

If you feel that we all deserve the same opportunity to work, and build successful families, and communities, than I invite you to discover our role , on the pages of this site

 

In the building trades, we also lose meanings in the jargon of technical language (“shop talk”), or we “lose the forest for the trees” in a barrage of statistics, points / counter-points, studies and talking points.

 

Therefore, we would like to clarify what we are for and what we feel the community is for in the 21st Century : community labor standards.

 

Things get funny names sometimes. Take the so-called Right to Work.

 

Under the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights the right to work means something quite different than a “right to work law” we hear about. It in fact means what organized workers in the United States have been fighting for since the beginning of the last century, through-out FDR's New Deal, and into this century : economic self-determination and equal access to opportunity.

Specifically :

The right to work is the concept that people have a human right to work, or engage in productive employment, and may not be prevented from doing so. The right to work is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law through its inclusion in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, where the right to work emphasizes economic, social and cultural development.

How different this is from “Right to Work Laws”, which seek to lower wages earned by the working men and women in the Sheet Metal – HVAC craft, not to mention the overall community wage and labor standards in every state where it's enacted.

Here in Connecticut, we have seen the same anti-worker propaganda that drove this legislation in formerly strong manufacturing states like Michigan and Indiana.

We must be very careful, as citizens, not to be drawn in and seduced by promises of an "easy fix" to our lingering economic challenges.

Specifically, right to work laws suppose that construction costs, by which we mean : the cost of the skilled labor required to construct and maintain Connecticut's buildings and infrastructure, is artificially high - due to, quote, “Big Labor's” selfish interference and meddling.

 

We at Sheet Metal Workers Local 40 feel it is important to remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who spoke directly on the issue and identified clearly and eloquently the menace that this kind of legislation poses to all workers in Connecticut, trades people, affiliated and non.

 

In 1961, Dr. King notes :

 

We must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”Dr. Martin Luther King

 

Economic Fundamentals :

Affiliated CT sheet metal – hvac contractors all run successful businesses bound by the same market forces as any other. Our contractors' solution to this challenge is to provide exceptional value, and return on investment (ROI) to Connecticut's general contractors, developers, and project managers. We do this through a pursuit of consistent excellence and skills-building in our chosen craft. This is never more necessary than today, in which our entire energy and transportation infrastructure is being rebuilt and upgraded.

“Right to work” and anti-community wage standard laws in fact artificially suppress the wages of tradesmen and women who have devoted years to develop the necessary skills and safety training required to perform necessary energy upgrades and safe energy work.

Anti-worker, anti-fair wage legislation, whether in Wisconsin or here in Connecticut is the attempt of a few well-connected businessmen to get certain naive legislators do their bidding, in order restrict workers' and tradesmen and women's basic economic rights.

Right to work laws sole appeal is a well-known reliance on fear and worker insecurity. The aptly named “race to the bottom.” Its proponents will naturally tout it as a “jobs creator.” It is, in fact, a “wage suppressor.” Every day we read more and more stories about the devastating impact of wage inequality is having on ordinary families and workers in Connecticut and the United States. Is this the legacy we wish to leave our children? Both the Connecticut Sheet Metal Workers and all workers in the communities around us share this responsibility

I urge you to reject these scare tactic which are as old as the hills and run counter to everything American workers have struggled and given their lives for over the last 100 years.

Community Benefits :

All of us benefit when Connecticut's buildings are constructed and maintained by those who are properly trained to do so are compensated adequately by a fair, livable wage. What is fair? This needs to be negotiated between those who perform the work and those who hire them, of course. Whatever is arrived at through the normal bargaining process will be far better any outside-funded legislation.

Let us never forget that better wages stimulate our economy. What Connecticut business – of any kind – does not benefit from workers with actual disposable income to spend? Economists term this well-known impact of livable wages the multiplier effect. Avoidance or confusion of these basic economic facts, no matter how much the “fake steak sizzles” - is pure fantasy.

And...what of the social benefits of having our fellow citizens being “productively employed.” What would this do to lower the stress many workers feel, and create a sense of opportunity and self-determination again. I wonder.

 

The dictionary definition of our human “right to work” is “productive employment.” Surely this means the men and women who perform the work, as well as their employers.

I realize there are some non-affiliated firms in Connecticut who want to provide excellent training and care deeply about the safety of their workers. To these firms we extend our hand : join us! Any race to the bottom in our trade and industry will adversely impact your business as well.

And to our customers, the building owners and tenants who use our affiliated contractors' services everyday, we urge you to become knowledgeable The safety of the buildings you work in or manage is jeopardized by substandard work, not to mention the increased energy operating costs and worker illness associated with inefficient heating and cooling systems.

 

Just because something is priced lowed doesn't mean it costs less. We know that it can, and will, ultimately cost us much, much more. When safety is compromised, and jobs are short cut, workers and the community suffer.

We in Connecticut know only too well the consequences to our trade and citizens when short-cuts are made.

And so back to our question, our challenge, to our members, to our communities, to each other : what standards will guide us in the 21st Century. Which one will we hold ourselves to?

Please browse the pages below and get in touch with us with your questions and comments.

 

Sincerely,

 

David Roche
Business Manager
On Behalf of SMW Local 40