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New England Carpenters Raise Red Flag on Developer with RI Properties

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

 

American Wire, Pawtucket, RI Brady Sullivan

A developer who works throughout New England is under fire in New Hampshire — and workers unions and environmentalists are now asking the EPA to investigate all Brady Sullivan projects throughout the region, including Rhode Island.

Developer Brady Sullivan is currently the subject of a lead contamination lawsuit at Mill West in Manchester, NH, and a petition has been sent to the EPA with over 20,000 signatures that is seeking for the federal agency to monitor all of the developer’s properties throughout the country. 

“The subcontractor involved in the NH case (Environmental Compliance Specialists Inc) preformed the same work at the Tourister Mill in Warren,” said Abby Godino, who is the spokesperson in Rhode Island for the New England Regional Council of Carpenters (NERCC). “I made a complaint to the DEM air quality unit after a site visit where I saw they did not have the proper containment and debris was blowing into the surrounding area. I am unsure what became of that complaint.  We also know that IPS was recently performing work the on Eagle Square site. I can say with certainty ESCI, and Brady Sullivan both have had violations.” 

The NERCC noted that Brady Sullivan projects in Rhode Island include: Lofts at Pocasset in Johnston; Lofts at Anthony Mill in Coventry; Harris Mill Lofts in Coventry; Slater Cotton Mill in Pawtucket; American Wire in Pawtucket; Grant Mill in Providence' Eagle Street in Providence; and Tourister Mill in Warren.

Issues in Worcester

Kevin Ksen with the Carpenters Local #107 in Worcester said labor issues in Massachusetts in part prompted the appearl for multi-state action. 

“We had some experiences with labor issues at Brady Sullivan properties in Massachusetts,” said Ksen.  “Our main concern is when property is developed, are they hiring quality workers, and doing legitimate work.  What happened in [New Hampshire], another contractor wouldn’t get away with that. So when that lawsuit moved forward, that’s what moved us to do the petition with Clean Water Action and Public Citizen.”

“We're saying here's some more information now, and we think that an investigation needs to happen at all the properties. They're getting taxpayer money to do all this, and they're getting a lot,” said Ksen. “We’re paying them to do this. Lancaster Mills in Clinton, Pacific Mills in Lawrence, New Home Sewing in Orange, and both the Junction Shops and Worcester County Courthouse are all getting historic tax credits.”

Brady Sullivan did not respond to request for comment on the EPA petition, or labor issues cited by the carpenters.

Labor at Core

Ksen, along with David Minasian, and organizer for the NERCC, spoke about the labor issues with Brady Sullivan in Massachusetts. 

Ksen cited the finding by the Commonwealth’s “Joint Enforcement Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification” that ruled in November 2014 that contractors were misclassified at Brady Sullivan’s Junction Mill Shops in Worceseter, with stop work orders being issued, and an administrative violation filed for the corporate office having the the wrong address on file. 

“In Clinton [at Lancaster Mills], the contractor who works for Brady Sullivan — Interior Partition Systems — hadn’t paid a number of employees, so [the workers] came to us, and the Connecticut Department of Labor had to step in, since that’s where the contractor’s from,” said Minasian.  “In a matter of days, the works were paid, but they still had to come to us.” 

“[Brady Suliivan] is not just the own developer, they oversee the contractors and they do the hiring. They have a direct responsibility,” said Minasian.  “So what we’re seeing is they’re blaming someone else, and that’s a little harder to do in this case. We just want to ensure that the standards are there, and the workers are safe, they're paid, and they go home with money in their pocket and all their fingers and toes, immigrant, non-immigrant, union or non-union.  Unfortunately our enforcement agencies don't always to their jobs.“

As GoLocal reported in April when the City of Worcester reached an agreement to sell the former Worcester County Courthouse for $1.2 million to  Brady Sullivan Properties, LLC, the City Council voted unanimously to approve the sale. Brady Sullivan proposed 115 high class residential apartments and a 3,000 square foot retail space to occupy the old Courthouse.

Leo Miller, Business Manager of Local 96 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Vice President of the Worcester-Fitchburg Building Trades Council, spoke at the Council meeting in April. Miller said, "We want to call upon the construction component of this economic development initiative and the concerns that we have for the current and past failures of Brady Sullivan to responsibly parent the construction piece which plays such a critical role in ensuring safe, code compliant homes."

Petition Wants Broader Look

The petition, which garnered over 20,000 signatures, is urging the EPA and state environmental regulators to “undertake a full audit of Brady Sullivan’s many converted mill properties in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island and levy appropriate fines against Brady Sullivan to hold it accountable and to ensure that no more of its residents or workers are exposed to dangerous levels of lead.”

“In Manchester and across New England, behind Brady Sullivan’s multimillion-dollar taxpayer-funded projects are a lot of problems for the underpaid workers who build them and the taxpayers who pay for them. And now, sadly, the tenants at Mill West are exposed to the biggest known lead hazard in recent New England history,” said Minasian. “The lead dust incident at Mill West is not surprising as Brady Sullivan’s business model is based on maximizing profits by hiring low-road contractors that cut corners to increase profits. Unfortunately this approach has endangered workers and now has put their tenants at risk.”

Ksen that “crossing state lines” in bringing the issue to light is “difficult, but necessary.” 

“It’s newer for us to deal with someone crossing state lines.  As a union we're not necessarily prepared to deal with this. States don't have the overarching enforcement , with different Attorney Generals,” said Ksen.  “But we thought that folks should be aware anywhere Brady Sullivan is of what is going on.”

 

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