Longtime Member Accuses Union of Dirty Pool

LAS VEGAS (CN) – A longtime union member who started his own construction company claims in court that the union stopped paying his pension to try to force him into running a union shop.
     Steven Haigh worked 18 years as a member of the Laborers’ International Union of America Local 872. He claims the union suspended his pension after he opened his own, non-union business.
     Haigh went to work as a construction laborer in 1989 when he was 18, and retired from the union in October 2007.
     He got a concrete contractor’s license in 2007 and opened his own business, A&J Concrete, while also working for Tutor-Perini Building as a supervisor.
     Haigh says Tutor-Perini is a union shop and he began drawing his union pension while working as a supervisor for the firm.
     Haigh left Tutor-Perini in March 2012 to run his own business, which he says the union has “routinely threatened, harassed and picketed.”
     Haigh claims the union’s pension trust council sent him a letter in April this year announcing the immediate suspension of his pension because he “work(s) for wages or profit” and competes with “the type of work described in any Local 872 labor agreement.”
     When asked if the union suspended Haigh’s pension to pressure him into making his business a union shop, his attorney, Noah. G. Allison said: “We think that might be true. He collected a pension for many years, and we can establish that it was after he went into business that they suspended it.
     “The union says he is engaging in concrete work. They cut you off if you are getting your elbows dirty doing concrete,” Allison said.
     But Haigh is supervising concrete work, as he did at Tutor-Perini, and not doing concrete work as a laborer, Allison said, adding that the union didn’t have a problem paying his pension while he did the same work for a union shop.
     Haigh appealed the suspension, but the union in June upheld its decision.
     Haigh says in the lawsuit that he “has not engaged in any work covered by the labor agreement that authorizes the suspension of his retirement benefits,” and is “qualified to receive pension benefits, which he and his family depend upon.”
     Nevada is a right-to-work state, in which unions and businesses are not allowed to force workers or employers to join unions.
     “The trustees of the pension trust have arbitrarily and capriciously abused their discretion in their administration” of the pension plan, Haigh says in the complaint, which deprives him “of the right to draw his pension, fully earned and vested by his 18 years of work and dedication to the union.”
     “The trustees of the pension have wrongly expanded the definitions of ‘prohibited employment'” and “their wrongful, uneven and disparate enforcement” of the plan has “caused grave harm,” the complaint adds.
     Haigh seeks an injunction, repayment of benefits withheld, reinstatement of his full pension, and costs.
     Officials at the Laborers’ Union Local 872 could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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