Union demands statewide suspension of construction in Massachusetts

The biggest construction union in the US state of Massachusetts yesterday called on governor Charles Baker to declare a statewide suspension of all but essential construction for the month of April to slow the spread of Covid-19.

It followed a unanimous vote by the executive board of the 75,000-member union, the Massachusetts Building Trades Council (MBTC), after consultations with health experts.

The board said it was impractical and often impossible to build safely while the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was spreading.

On 16 March, Boston, the state’s capital and biggest city by population, ordered a two-week construction shutdown, which it extended for an indefinite period last week.

The cities of Cambridge and Somerville followed suit but, to date, governor Baker has not ordered a state-wide suspension.

"The council reached this decision after exhaustive consultation with public and private health experts, union contractors, union officials, construction industry partners, training directors and conversations with our members," said MBTC president Francis X. Callahan.

"All point to the only decision that can be made. The only way to protect the health and safety of our members, their families and of the general public is to keep people apart. It is impractical and, in many cases, impossible to safely work on a construction project right now given the current state of affairs."

The MBTC said the state should only permit emergency and essential work, namely:

  • Emergency utility, transport, or building work, such as gas leaks, water leaks and sinkholes;
  • New utility connections to occupied buildings;
  • Healthcare facilities, shelters and other facilities helping vulnerable populations;
  • Work necessary to make residential buildings fully habitable.

Other types of projects could be added on a case-by-case basis after joint review and approval by state and local officials, the MBTC said.

MBTC president Callahan added: "In the meantime, we are working around the clock with industry stakeholders and public health experts to develop best practices and new safety protocols to ensure the safest worksites possible for the emergency and essential projects that need to continue, and for all projects when it becomes feasible to return."

Image: Massachusetts State House, seat of government for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Boston (Daderot/CC0 1.0)

Around the world, governments have varied in their response to construction and the coronavirus. See also:

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  1. I’m a proud member of Carpenter’s local 330 and it’s good to see the union has our backs. SAFETY FIRST !!

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