Guidelines to Prevent Union-backed Prevailing-wage Claims on Public-works Projects in Washington
Lane Powell Shareholder Eileen McKillop authored an article for the Associated General Contractors’ online construction news section titled “Guidelines to Prevent Union-backed Prevailing-wage Claims on Public-works Projects in Washington.” In the article, McKillop discussed the recent increase in public works construction projects, which has led to an alarming hike in prevailing-wage claims and lawsuits filed by nonunion employees of drywall and painting subcontractors, which are all being funded by the District #5 International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. She also provided tips on how contractors can protect themselves from potential wage claim and liens on their retainage and/or payment and performance bonds.
After five employees of a drywall subcontractor filed a claim of lien for unpaid wages against a general contractor’s retainage and public-works bond on a Thurston County project, it was discovered that District #5, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, was funding the lawsuit for these non-union workers through a law firm in Tacoma, Washington. Since at least 2010, the union’s organizers have been actively tracking the Department of Labor and Industries’ website of approved prevailing-wage intents and affidavits for drywall applicators and tapers. If a non-union drywall or painting contractor has filed an Intent to Pay Prevailing Wage affidavit, a union organizer shows up on the project site and tries to obtain the drywall subcontractor’s workers’ contact information. Several months after the workers have finished their work on the project, the union organizer calls the workers into the Union’s office and induces these workers to retroactively create time cards to support excessive wage claims. They then refer the wage claims to the union’s attorneys to file a claim of lien against the general contractor’s retainage and payment/performance bond. The claim of lien is used to threaten and coerce the general contractor and/or drywall/painting subcontractor to enter into an agreement with the union or force the contractor out of business.