Union, Drywall Firm Locked in Dispute

An informational campaign by the local and regional Carpenter’s Union organizations against a Tulsa drywall subcontractor has the entities locked in a pay standards disagreement as it nears the two year mark.
In the last couple of months, the campaign has entered a new level of activity which has spurred the primary owner of Tulsa-based Green Country Interiors Inc. to begin his own public information efforts.
Starting with a bannering campaign at the downtown Tulsa Crowne Plaza Hotel in April 2007, the action by the local Union 943 of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and the Arkansas Regional Council of Carpenters has been largely concentrated on bannering and handbilling at a number of sites where Green Country is working or has worked.
The large banners and handbills, proclaiming “SHAME ON” the various businesses and charging them with “Desecration of the American Way of Life,” is part of an area standards campaign intended to notify the public that “the union believes that Green Country is paying inadequate and substandard wages and benefits for the Tulsa area,” said Jay Youngdahl, attorney for the local and regional carpenters union organizations and managing partner of Texas-based labor champion Youngdahl Law Firm, P.C.
“The ultimate goal is just frankly a publicity campaign,” Youngdahl said. “The workers are not on strike. It is a campaign to bring to the attention of the public the fact that Green Country, the union believes, is paying substandard wages and benefits and these substandard wages and benefits are having an effect on the living conditions and working conditions of people in the Tulsa area.”
“As a publicity campaign, the union does things at places where Green Country works, has worked or where the principals frequent because the point is to bring this issue to the attention of the public,” he said.
Those activities have primarily been limited to Green Country client locations, including the Crowne Plaza, Hillcrest Hospital, IBC Bank and the Mayo Hotel, but recently the union has expanded its campaign to include Green Country’s office, Hannagan’s residential neighborhood and Southern Hills Country Club, where he is a member.
“Two months ago they bannered Green Country’s offices with the same kind of sign and fliers saying, “SHAME ON GREEN COUNTRY,” and they began a personal attack on me, “SHAME ON DAVID HANNAGAN,” in front of my neighborhood and in front of Southern Hills,” Hannagan said.
In response, Hannagan has retained public relations firm Schnake Turnbo Frank to begin his own campaign.
“All we are trying to do is defend ourselves since this personal attack started on me,” he said. “We are trying to figure out how to get it out to the public and protect Green Country’s reputation and my personal reputation. I am a contractor and I don’t know how to do that, so we have hired someone to help us.”
No Common Ground
Green Country Interiors, 9727 E. 54th St., has been in business for more than 30 years and employs about 220. In the past year, prominent projects include the Mayo Hotel remodel, which is nearing completion, the Downstream Casino in Quapaw, the Boone Pickens Stadium remodel in Stillwater and the Cherokee Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Catoosa.
Hannagan denies the union’s contentions that the firm is paying substandard wages and benefits, but there appears to be no immediate means to bring the parties together to resolve the dispute.
“We have tried to get them to clarify what they say area standards are, they have said in response that it is not Davis-Bacon, which is prevailing wages and has always been the standard as far as the federal government is concerned,” Hannagan said. “We meet or exceed the Davis-Bacon wages in the Tulsa market. There is not any question. They have said its not Davis-Bacon … but they wont say what it is – they wont clarify it. It is hard to understand what they are tying to gain to me.”
Youngdahl said the union stands firm on its contention GCI is paying inadequate and substandard wages and benefits for the Tulsa area.
“In terms of benefits, it’s things like pension and healthcare. The are standards in this particular craft that include a very robust training component which the union has. Green Country does not offer those things to its employees. There are union companies in the area who do the same kind of work who do that, but Green Country is providing its employees with substandard wages and benefits,” he said.
The union has made that argument in the form of a letter to a number of area entities starting construction projects, including the Tulsa City Council, advising them not to use Green Country.
The letters start, “Re: Notice of Labor Dispute – Green Country Interiors
“It has come to our attention that Green Country Interiors may be currently bidding on one of your upcoming and/or working on one of your existing projects. Please be informed that the Carpenters Union has a labor dispute with Green Country Interiors. Green Country Interiors does not meet area labor standards – it does not pay prevailing wages to all of its carpentry-craft employees, including providing for family health care and/or pension benefits, on all of its projects.”
The letter then asks the entity to not hire Green Country, and clearly states that doing so may be subjected to the union’s “aggressive” campaign.
“… we are asking that you use your managerial discretion to not allow Green Country Interiors to perform any work on your projects unless and until it generally meets area labor standards for all of its carpentry craft work. We certainly prefer to work cooperatively with all involved parties rather than have an adversarial relationship with them,” the letter reads.
“We want you to be aware that our aggressive lawful public information campaign against Green Country Interiors will include highly visible banner displays and distribution of handbills at or near the premises of property owners, developers, general contractors, and other firms involved with projects where Green Country Interiors is employed. It may also include lawful picketing and demonstration activity at Green Country Interiors’ jobsites.”
Action on Hold
In response, Green Country’s attorney, P. Bradley Bendure of Conner & Winters LLP, wrote Mayor Kathy Taylor and the City Council, asserting that the claims were untrue.
“Contrary to the Union’s assertions, GCI does not pay substandard wages or benefits. We have reviewed GCI’s wages and benefits, and can assure you that the wages and benefits offered by GCI to its employees compare favorably to the area specific rates set by the federal governement. Since April 2007, GCI has written to the Union numerous times proposing that GCI and the Union select a neutral third-party to review GCI’s wages an benefits in comparison to the applicable mandated wage and benefit levels established by the Davis-Bacon Act for all federally funded projects in the area. In response, the Union has repeatedly rejected the company’s suggestion that Davis-Bacon rates are an appropriate measure of area standards. At the same time, the Union refuses to disclose the basis for it determination of the applicable area standard wages and benefits for like jobs. Further, the Union has repeatedly declined the company’s offer to retain a neutral third-party to resolve the dispute.”
The dispute has generated a number of charges filed with the National Labor Relations Board from both sides of the issue, but the NLRB is holding any action in abeyance.
Daniel Hubble, regional director for District 17 of the NLRB, said the law is unsettled in respect to the labor laws as they apply to bannering or picketing, or, alternatively, whether it is a constitutional right of free speech.
“So the labor board and the U.S. circuit courts are in somewhat of a disagreement with respect to what law should apply to that activity,” he said.
“What we are essentially doing, pursuant to instructions from the general counsel, is we are holding these matters in abeyance, basically just holding them in limbo, until the board or the courts give us guidance as to how we should analyze the legal implications of these cases,” Hubble said.
He said most of the cases that have been filed have to do with charges filed against the union for “engaging in this activity,” but there is also a case alleging employees of Southern Hills Country Club interfered with the union’s rights by hosing down union employees as they bannered outside the club’s entrance.
“We are likewise recommending that it be held in abeyance, also because of the unsettled nature of this case,” Hubble said.

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