Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The good: Company touts training, benefits in going union

By Denis Paiste
New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
Sunday, Sep. 14, 2008

MANCHESTER - In an industry that relies largely on subcontractors, Spectrum Floors is trumpeting a new relationship with its workers, about 17 of whom are now members of Carpenters Union Local 118.

After about four months, Spectrum president Scott Richards, 48, said, "It's been a pleasant change."

Co-owner and project manager Jeffery Chandler, 37, said that, in the past, there was always a tug of war over money with subcontractors.

"Now it's not like that," he said. "We work as a team now as opposed to working against each other."

Carpenters Union Local 118 business manager John Jackson also is enthusiastic about the new relationship with Spectrum Floors. "They're a good company, and they've got some good people working for them," he said. "It's going to be a good relationship, so we're excited as well."

Being members of the Carpenters Union makes the Spectrum workers eligible for health insurance, a retirement program and extensive training programs.

"In talking to Scott and Jeff, that was one of the things they wanted to be able to do was to have a steady workforce and to provide them with things they felt their workers should have," Jackson said. "In New Hampshire, unfortunately, what happens way too often is the people in floor covering businesses are forced to work as independent contractors and, as such, they don't get benefits. They don't even get covered by worker's compensation insurance."

Journeymen make $23.10 per hour under the Carpenters Union contract, Jackson said. Local 118 has about 450 members. The local is part of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, which has 22,000 members.

There are business advantages for Spectrum through the union affiliation as well, Jackson said. "By being part of a health plan that's part of the union, they get the cost savings by being part of bigger plan." The plans covers employees at more than 1,500 contractors in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

"All these workers for us previously were subcontractors," Richards said. "We brought them in to become part of the union, and they're actually working, I consider, much more efficiently."

"It took us a while to come to this decision," he said. "For me, the turning point was seeing the training facility. To see what these apprentices have to go for, to do, before they can get their next level pay raise, it's pretty impressive."

In business since 1985, Spectrum Floors has a diverse resume of completed projects and has developed a specialty in flooring for health-care facilities.

During an interview at Spectrum's 1600 Candia Road offices in Manchester, Richards leafed through a photo album, stopping at a picture of a locomotive in Northumberland. "We did this black rubber floor in that locomotive," Richards said.

"This guy called me, he said, 'All I do is rehab locomotives, can you do it for me?' I was amazed," Richards said.

"How many people get a chance to do a train in their career? We did a helicopter for John Stabile. So there's been a few things," he said.

"We did all the work at Wiggins Air in Manchester. We did the work for FedEx corporate regional offices in New Hampshire," he said.

Spectrum is in the final phase of a project at Concord Hospital worth over $1 million and has been awarded a contract for Huggins Hospital in Wolfeboro worth about $750,000.

It has done projects for Memorial Hospital in North Conway, Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston as well as at the Legislative Office Building in Concord and numerous commercial office projects in Manchester.

Medical projects have higher margins, Chandler said.

Richards estimates there will be more than $1 billion of union construction in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont over the next year.

The union also offers safety and first-aid training. "They're doing everything in their power to make sure owners are getting the best people on the job," Richards said.

"When you hire a union contractor, you know that person has been trained in all aspects of flooring," Richards said.

Read the article on the Union Leader website.

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