By Seth Daniel
Concerns are running high amongst some Everett residents and officials as the union workforce ramps up at the Wynn Boston Harbor site, but very few on the workforce right now are from Everett.
That is being tempered by many, including some sentiments of Wynn Boston Harbor – which has no say in union hiring, that the project is in its very earliest stages and in the midst of specialized work. That work, they said, is not something where there are a lot of Everett residents who qualify.
At this point, Wynn Boston Harbor reported that its compliance numbers for about 300 workers on site are at 5 percent for Everett residents on the worksite. That works out to about 12 residents of Everett. For Wynn-specific operations positions – which the company has more authority for hiring – they are at 20 percent Everett residents.
“A lot of the work that has been happening has been quite specialized work,” said Jennie Peterson, a manager for workforce at Wynn. “The slurry walls Trevi has been doing and the site work by Derenzo are very specialized crews. What we have heard about labor in Everett is there are a lot a painters, carpenters and laborers. Those jobs will be coming later in the project. We haven’t seen a lot of operating engineers from Everett, which is what is on the job now…With these specialty trades, it is difficult because there are only so many people who have the skill set to operate a slurry bucket. It’s very detailed work.
“There has been 100,000 hours of work done on the project right now, and we estimate there will be 10 million work hours required by the time it’s finished,” she continued. “We are at about 1 percent of work being done. There’s a lot more to come. Yes, things are going now, but there is so much more ahead.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria said he understood the early work was technical, but he certainly expected to see more Everett residents in the coming months – without excuse – as he supported the project based on the jobs.
“This foundation work (they have just completed) was highly technical and performed by specialized subcontractors with specific crews expertly trained to perform the slurry and excavation work,” said Mayor DeMaria. “This work represents only 1 percent of the workforce that will be deployed on site as the project progresses, and I look forward to soon seeing many Everett residents working every day onsite as ironworkers, plumbers, carpenters, electricians, laborers, and so many more. As the work continues and more job opportunities open up, I am leaving no stone unturned, working hard to get as many Everett residents employed on the job as possible. That is why I fought for this development, because it offers Everett residents the opportunity for jobs that provide a living wage for families and good benefits.”
But some in Everett are worried about what lies ahead and whether the early signs could be a longer-term problem where “best efforts” are made to hire Everett residents, but few will be found to hire.
That’s rubbed many locally the wrong way due to the fact that a great deal of the hubris around the Wynn Boston Harbor coming to Everett was the promise by trade unions and the developer that thousands of construction jobs would be up for grabs – and Everett would get most of those grabs.
Councilor Michael McLaughlin said he feels that the powers that be in Boston could be moving in to fill the jobs at the expense of Everett residents, and it could quickly become a slippery slope.
“I truly feel this is a slippery slope that we are heading down and if it is not stopped now, we can’t be sure of what the final outcome will be of the 4,000 construction jobs that were promised to Everett residents,” said McLaughlin. “We, as residents and volunteers in the city of Everett through numerous meetings, events and two ballot questions, we have campaigned on the fact it was Everett jobs for Everett residents first. Everett was told it would have first preference on the job site of the 4,000 construction jobs and later the 4,000 permanent jobs. Although Wynn Boston Harbor has lived up to its promise of hiring Everett people first, it is very disheartening and frustrating to see the unions have not done so. We have more than 300 jobs filled and only 5 to 6 percent are actual Everett residents on the construction site, which is 10-12 employees.”
The Independent contacted Brian Doherty of the Boston Building Trades last Thursday, but did not hear back in time for this story.
Meanwhile, McLaughlin said he has called for Doherty, who has sway over union hiring for the job, to appear before the Everett City Council to explain what was happening. He said Doherty has not returned any of his calls.
“He agreed in person to discuss this matter, but unfortunately has not kept his word and we have yet to receive any communication from him, which again is disheartening,” he said. “I now have put in a motion for a meeting for the first Monday in November to invite all parties involved… I want everyone to come to the table and have an open dialogue about how we fix what I see as a major problem on this project. Everett residents should get Everett jobs first. End of story.”
He said he has invited Doherty, Wynn Boston Harbor, Steve Tolman of the AFL-CIO and Mayor Carlo DeMaria to speak about the low numbers of Everett residents on the job site right now.
One of the traditional problems that seems to be playing out is the barriers to getting into a trade union, which are significant. Much of the Everett resident preferences for trade union construction jobs was based on the assumption – given the boom in construction that is going on in Greater Boston now – that there would be a lot of new union members from Everett getting into the union training pipeline early so that they can benefit from the Wynn jobs when they came to fruition.
That, Peterson said, is why they held seven job fairs with many of the unions present recently. It’s also why they held huge events, such as one at Everett High School last year, that helped steer residents to the training programs unions offer.
However, the process is confusing and most unions don’t widely publicize their “open book” periods and most also don’t accept applications online.
“One of the barriers we’ve seen is just getting the information about where to go and when,” she said. “Only two trade unions accept applications online and the rest are paper applications in person. Some only open their books once a year for a brief time in January.”
Peterson said Wynn signed a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) nearly two years ago that included strong language about having a preference for Everett residents in job selection.
That language from the PLA read, “…the contractors and unions will work in good faith, legal and non-discriminatory manner to give preferential work opportunities to qualified union Everett residents and qualified union residents of surrounding communities…”
She said Wynn and its general contractor, Suffolk Construction, has met with labor unions that will be on the site and requested that information for members residing in Everett be provided. In addition, Peterson said they have included strong language in almost all of their bid documents that calls for all subs to preferentially request Everett residents when requesting workers from various union halls.
“It’s literally four degrees of separation for us from the hiring,” said Peterson. “It doesn’t take us off the hook, and that’s why we have included strong language in all our bid documents for Everett preference. We’re really excited when we can start interviewing and hiring for the operational jobs. We have more control and that’s exactly why the staffing we have now in operations is at 20 percent Everett residents.”