CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Hawaii Carpenters Union, Local 745, say workers for thee Vanguard Lofts are not getting fair wages, and plan to banner the site for the coming months. William Maglinti Jr., field representative for the union, stood at Vanguard Lofts on Kapiolani and Cooke streets last month.
Carpenters union protests at Vanguard Lofts
For more than a month, at least two members of the Hawaii Carpenters Union hold sentinel in front of the new Vanguard Lofts on Kapiolani Boulevard, carrying a banner.
The union says the contractor for the project, Canada-based Ledcor, is cutting corners, and not offering workers area standard wages.
Since a June 27 rally in downtown Honolulu, members have lined up from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in front of the project. Lance Yoshimura, the union's assistant business representative, says the protest stems from work done for Vanguard's sales models.
One contractor doing concrete work paid area standard wages, but not the contractor for the drywall and finishing work, according to the union. The carpenters were working alongside one another on the model units.
"It's just bad business practice not to pay area standard wages, especially on luxury condos," said Yoshimura. "Most luxury high-rises are paying area standard wages."
Chris Deuchar, president of U.S. Pacific Development, which is developing Vanguard Lofts as Cooke Clayton LLC, says the company hires both union and nonunion workers.
"It just depends on who we think will do the best quality work," he said.
Deuchar says, however, that 99 percent of the work is being done by union labor.
The union protest specifically targets Ledcor and U.S. Pacific. Ledcor in 2005 acquired local contractor U.S. Pacific Construction Inc. to form Ledcor-U.S. Pacific Construction led by William Deuchar.
Yoshimura said the wages were 30 to 40 percent below standard wages, which he declined to disclose.
The median hourly wage of a carpenter in Honolulu is at about $28.68, according to the latest May 2007 figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationally, the mean hourly wage is $19.84.
About a quarter of the 7,600-member carpenters union workers are now unemployed, said Yoshimura. Whether union or nonunion, all carpenters should be paid the same, he said.
"This is a trend we need to stop, cutting wages," said Yoshimura. "If we don't address it now, they're going to keep cutting wages."
The union sent three letters to Ledcor, but received a response saying the Vanguard Lofts was not one of its projects. But Yoshimura said Ledcor's name has appeared on one of the workers' paystubs.
Sales of the lofts, meanwhile, are doing well, with 20 out of 32 sold since a sales office opened in late June.
Prices for the one- and two-bedrooms range from $750,000 to $2 million.
The urban lofts, which were built into the former National Cash Register building at 720 Kapiolani Blvd., feature industrial-sized windows, exposed concrete walls and private, rooftop decks.
Yoshimura said the carpenters union will banner until it gets a response.