August 9, 2017

Union protests United Bank's Goodwin Square work

The New England Carpenters union is taking to the streets of downtown Hartford on Wednesday to protest United Bank's hiring of non-union labor to work on its 68,000-square-foot renovation project at the Goodwin Square building.

The bank will move its corporate offices there from Glastonbury by year's end.

Union members are staging their demonstration from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. outside the 30-story office building at 225 Asylum St., according to Marc Okun, business agent for the carpenters union Local 43.

In addition to the vocal protest, the event also will include the display of a "large inflatable animal strangling a construction worker," Okun said in a news release.

He added that the bank hired Champagne Drywall Inc., based in Agawam, Mass., which he claims "fails to pay area standard wages and benefits to carpenters, which in turn lowers standards for workers in the local Hartford area."

Okun also attended the bank's annual shareholders' meeting in May, reminding United Bank CEO William H.W. Crawford that the union's pension fund holds more than 54,800 shares of the bank's stock.

He did not mention publicly the initiative to persuade Crawford to use union carpenters on the Hartford project. But before the session, Okun said that he was hopeful an accord can be reached with the bank and that union carpenters will be hired for the construction project.

Crawford after the meeting said he was willing to speak with union representatives about the issue, particularly given that they are shareholders. He added, however, that the project is being handled through a Bloomfield-based construction contracting company, Solidus Inc. He did not say whether the bank would seek to persuade Solidus to hire union workers.

Solidus has not replied to requests for comment, and Champagne Drywall officials could not be reached early Tuesday and Wednesday.

Bank officials did not respond Tuesday's to the Journal Inquirer's request for additional comment. On Wednesday, the bank declined the Hartford Business Journal's request for comment.

United Bank in February announced plans to move its corporate headquarters to downtown Hartford to bring together corporate employees from Glastonbury and South Windsor and move the bank closer to state government and large commercial operations. Branch offices won't be affected, Crawford has said.

The relocation will involve about 200 employees at the corporate headquarters in Glastonbury and an as-yet-undisclosed number who work at the bank's South Windsor operations center, he said.

An HBJ staff writer contributed to this report.

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