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Union, College Spar over Electrical Contractors

Patrick J. Lawlor, Editor in Chief

The recent construction on campus has gained momentum, advancing Merrimack’s master plan as it outlines growth for the next 20 years. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has requested Merrimack hire a union electrical contractor to perform the work on the current residence project and Volpe Expansion as well as any work the college decides to contract for the next 20 years.

According to college officials, they only received one bid from an electrical contractor chartered with Local 103 of the IBEW. That one bid was considerably higher than any other bids the college received, and a deal could not be met with said company, according to the President’s Office.

In a letter from Local 103 Business Agent Louis J. Antonellis to President Christopher  Hopey, Antonellis told Hopey the college should expect the production of banners, sign trucks, websites, iPhone Apps, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and billboards be sent out to guidance counselors, college ranking services, and parent teacher organizations.

Local 103 has already created a website, Merrimack Crime Exposed, that makes claims that Merrimack has a crime problem, and parents should think twice about sending their children there. The same organization has also started a Facebook page under the same name.

The college responded to Antonellis’s letter in October.

“We believe we did everything we could to provide the opportunity to an IBEW Local 103 contractor while balancing the needs of the college community,” wrote Felipe Schwarz, assistant vice president of external affairs, the President’s Office overseer of the master plan.

“At this point in the planning, it is simply not viable to become signatory to the IBEW for every yet to be determined project for the next ten to twenty years with the unfinished Campus Master Plan,” Schwarz wrote.

The college has repeatedly said they must act with fiscal responsibility through the master plan to avoid high tuition hikes and maintain competitive with salaries for faculty and staff.

“Being a respected institution of Higher Learning you would think Merrimack College would hire contractors that subscribe to the same sort of values in education and training,” Antonellis told The Beacon.

IBEW has launched several campaigns in the past that have protested the work of non-union electrical contractors. IBEW has attempted to stop construction Anna Jaques Hospital, leading a campaign against the hospital in Newburyport.

“Based on your correspondence and your actions at places like Anna Jaques Hospital, we assume that you will move forward with your overly aggressive and unproductive tactics,” wrote Schwarz.

“Other local schools that put their money where the mouth is, are Harvard University, Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern, & Umass Lowell and Boston to name just a few.  They see value in education and safety and it shows in their hiring practices,” Antonellis said.

Schwarz reminded Antonellis and his union the consequences of campaigns at Merrimack. “Merrimack College is private property and this letter shall also constitute notice to you that you and all members of your labor organization, and all others acting in concert with your labor organization, are forbidden from entering the property or buildings at Merrimack College,” Schwarz wrote.

Schwarz, in his letter to Antonellis reminded him of Massachusetts General Law 266, section 120 that they will be considered trespassers if found on the property.

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