Labor Arbitrator's $10,000,000 Award Nails Chicago Carpenters' Union Vendetta Against Area Contractor

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Chicago area construction contractor is awarded nearly $10,000,000.00 in damages against the Chicago Carpenters Union arising from a long time dispute between the contractor, Prate Installations, and the Union. The final and binding arbitration award issued by Labor Arbitrator James Martin, sustained a grievance by Prate alleging that the Union engaged in a course of conduct designed to put Prate, a longtime, Union contractor out of business.

no-piecework provision of the (bargaining agreement) must be suspended, until such time as the union can establish that it is able to enforce (the ban)

Beginning in 2001, Michael Prate, founder and CEO of Prate Installations, a Wauconda, Illinois based residential and commercial roofing, insulation and siding contractor, believed the Chicago area Carpenters Union was out to destroy his company, which was founded in 1972, and has had a union contract since 1983. As determined by Arbitrator James Martin (in Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Case. 04-01569), Prate's belief was true and the Arbitrator ordered the Carpenters Union to pay his company damages for its wrongful conduct in the amount of $9,434,436, plus reimburse the Company's attorney's fees.

As Prate established at the 18 day arbitration hearing, after Prate took an active position in collective bargaining in 2001, advocating a major change in the contract wage terms, then Union President Earl Oliver, and other union business agents and officers, embarked on a course of conduct with the expressed intent of making an example of Mr. Prate and driving his forty (40) year old construction company out of business.

As the Arbitrator determined, during the years that followed, (1) the Carpenters Union repeatedly engaged in strikes and picketed Prate Installations; (2) Union business agents consistently harassed Prate's Carpenters Union member employees at job sites in Northern Illinois; and (3) the Union allowed other union signatories to pay their employees on a so-called "piecework basis", despite the bargaining agreement's requirement that employees be paid by the hour for each hour worked. The favored contractors, to Prate Installation's detriment, reaped a significant competitive and financial advantage by this Union allowance.

After several years of trying to persuade the Union to stop this discriminatory conduct, Prate Installations filed a grievance with the Carpenters' Union requesting that under the "Most Favored Nations" provision of the bargaining agreement, to which Prate Installations and other contractors were bound, the Union extend these same more favorable terms to Prate Installations. The Union refused Prate's request and agreed with Prate Installations to have the dispute resolved by Arbitrator James Martin.

After the lengthy, year long hearing, on September 3, 2008, Arbitrator Martin issued a 23-page Report and Decision of Arbitrator (copy attached) concluding that since 1998 "there began what can only be described as a vendetta by the upper leadership of the union against Mr. Prate and his companies." The arbitrator found that "Mr. Prate represented a challenge to the union leadership, and the next four years, culminating in a four month strike, were a series of skirmishes to achieve the union leadership's ultimate goal: the destruction of (Prate Installations)."

Arbitrator Martin further determined that as part of the Union's "vendetta", the Union violated the bargaining agreement's "Most Favored Nations" provision resulting in significant financial damage to Prate Installations. Thus the Arbitrator ruled that (1) the "no-piecework provision of the (bargaining agreement) must be suspended, until such time as the union can establish that it is able to enforce (the ban)" and (2) most significantly, Arbitrator Martin determined that the Union's violation of the "Most Favored Nations" provision damaged Prate Installation's in the amount of $9,434,436, plus reimbursement of Prate Installations' attorneys' fees, "not to exceed $2 million." The arbitration award is, according to the bargaining agreement "final and binding on both parties."

Prate Installation's attorney, Joshua D. Holleb, a senior partner in the Highland Park, Illinois based law firm of Klein Dub & Holleb, Ltd., (http://www.labor-law.com) that concentrates its practice on representing businesses in labor and employment law matters, stated that "It is extremely rewarding to see justice be done where a trade union has illegitimately abused its powers and authority and engaged in a vindictive, purely personal attack on a decent businessman who has for years provided employment and livelihood to hundreds, if not thousands, of dues paying Carpenters' Union members. Such Union conduct has jeopardized not only the business, but the families of Prate's employees. I know that Mr. Prate is grateful to see his allegations believed and acknowledged by a neutral arbitrator."

For further information, contact:
Joshua D. Holleb
Klein Dub & Holleb, Ltd.
660 LaSalle Place, Suite 100
Highland Park, IL 60035
847-681-9100 (office)
847-858-6919 (cell)
jdh @ labor-law.com (e-mail)

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Joshua D. Holleb, Esq.
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