Extortion, liquidated damages, and hidden pipes: Craig Martin’s Construction Contract Advisor Blog

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Construction Contract Advisor blog
Craig Martin's Construction Contract Advisor won the 2014 competition
Craig Martin
Craig Martin

You might think a construction law blog could be dry reading, but Craig Martin’s Construction Contractor Advisor  is anything but that. In recent posting, he describes liquidated damages (a real issue, at least in my home town, with general contractors working on City of Ottawa projects), site surprises, and extortion. The latter caught my eye — a story of an old case (from 2007) still in the courts:

press release from the FBI revealed that three union members admitted to being involved in a campaign of threats, violence, and property destruction against non-union contractors to force them to enter into a collective bargaining agreement. This almost sounds like the plot of a bad Steven Seagal movie.

The tactics used by the union members are alarming. One member stabbed a contractor in the neck, beat him up in a bar, and slashed his tires. Another sent a project manager’s wife a letter stating “we would like for the job to run as smoothly as your wedding day did . . . and as smooth as [your husband’s] nights are in the Western New York region.” The third union member admitted to putting sand into the engines and hydraulic lines of nine separate pieces of heavy equipment, causing over $240,000 in damage.

All three of the union members have agreed to testify against the seven remaining defendants, including the union’s president, the business manager, and the business agent. I also looked at the docket sheet in this case, this is the web page that shows how long the case has been around and how many documents were filed with the court. This case was filed in December, 2007, yes, just over 6 years ago. The case has over 400 filings with the court – that’s a lot for any case.

Obviously this is an egregious situation, but it also shows some of the real threats merit shop contractors face when they operate in heavily unionized areas.

(The unions I’ve worked with in both Canada and the US have been truly honorable in their practices — as have employer groups, some of which are not exactly union-friendly. I’m glad I don’t do much business in western New York, or perhaps in the Canadian context, in Quebec.)

Craig’s blog is truly useful, and serves a market far from his Omaha, Nebraska, community. It is truly a worthy entry in the 2014 Best Construction Blog competition.

The 2014 Best Construction Blog nominations close this time next week, on January 31. We’re receiving more nominations each day — so this year’s competition will probably have more entries than any earlier one.

I’ve been reviewing all the qualified entries. (Some have been ‘splogs’ or otherwise unsuitable entries, and these have been deleted.) Because of the volume of entries, and to ensure they are all reviewed at least a month  before voting concludes on March 31, I’m reviewing blogs virtually every day.

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