HOUGHTON - Two Moyle Construction employees claiming the company withheld pension funds from them took their concerns to the streets of Houghton Thursday.
Darin Burcar and Rick Simons stood on College Avenue with a banner, which stated "MTU Great Lakes Research Center Don't Build With Injustice." A tour of the newly opened building was going on at the time, and Simons and Burcar said they worked on the project for Moyle, which was a subcontractor.
Burcar, who has worked at Moyle for eight years, said he and Simons were not paid what is called Davis-Bacon Pension and 401(k) funds.
Kurt Hauglie/Daily Mining Gazette
Darin Burcar, left, and Rick Simons hold a banner on College Avenue in Houghton Thursday. The two Moyle Construction employees claim they weren’t paid pension fund money due to them, but a company official said efforts are being made to make certain all pension money is paid to its employees.
"This money was not put into our accounts," Burcar said.
Moyle officials told him money was put into his account for 2009 and 2010, Burcar said.
"They said they would work on 2011, but they didn't give a date," he said.
Of the $20,000 in pension money he said he was due, Burcar said about half has been given to him.
Simons, who has worked at Moyle for 16 years, said he and Burcar were on College Avenue to inform people of their situation with Moyle.
"We're just trying to make the community aware of what's going on," he said. "We just want to be treated fair."
Of the $10,000 in pension money he said he was owed, Simons said he's received about $6,200.
Burcar and Simons said the jobs they worked on for Moyle were under what is called Davis-Bacon Act rules, which is a federal law requiring contractors to pay no less than prevailing local wages and benefits for any federally funded projects.
Simons said he and Burcar became aware of the possibility they were being shorted pension fund money after getting Davis-Bacon documents and documents from Moyle which showed discrepancies.
He and Burcar have been on a personal strike from Moyle for four months, Simons said, although Moyle is not a union company.
"It's not a union issue," he said. "It's a fairness issue."
However, Burcar and Simons were being supported in their protest by several representatives of different unions, including Tim Roman of Iron Workers Local 8, which covers the entire Upper Peninsula.
Roman said his union supports even non-union workers on certain issues, including benefits issues.
"Basically, these guys are getting pension money stolen," Roman said. "(The Great Lakes Research Center) is one of the projects that falls under Davis-Bacon."
Roman said he went with Burcar and Simons to Tech officials to ask for Davis-Bacon documentation for the GLRC project, but were unsuccessful.
"We didn't get anywhere with the board," he said.
Marcia Goodrich, Tech spokesperson, said the university is not involved with pension fund issues.
"We hire the construction manager," she said. "They hire all the employees and subcontractors."
The construction manger for the GLRC projects was Granger Construction Co. of Lansing, Goodrich said.
About 20 people handed out pamphlets on Tech's campus and near the GLRC Thursday.
"Their pension, which was part of their pay, was not being reimbursed even though it was being shown on their pay stubs," said David Goudie, who joined the protesters as a representative from Grace United Methodist Church. "There is a civil suit in concern to that."
Goudie said the importance of Thursday's rally was to raise awareness of the injustices happening. The employees approached the church and Goudie, as a person of faith, felt compelled to support the workers.
"In the long-standing tradition of the Methodist church, we have taken a stand to be sure injustice is not overlooked," he said.
John Kleiber, a U.P. union representative with Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, said he was approached by the employees for assistance.
"These employees are non-union employees," he said. "The donations they were putting from their checks were not being put into their accounts."
Kleiber said when the employees discovered this, they didn't know where to turn. Without money for a lawyer, they came to the union. The union was able to provide the employees with a lawyer and all of the back-up help needed to get a civil suit started, he said.
"The unions work for all working people, not just our members," he said. "We're all about all working people."
Tom Helminen, president of Moyle Construction, said the pension funding situation at the company is something many companies and even local governments are facing around the country.
"We are underfunded in our pension fund," he said. "It's a consequence of Portage Township closing down our quarry for over a year and a half."
The Portage Township Board of Trustees sued Moyle over operation of the Valley View Quarry stating it was operating in an area zoned rural residential. The township was successful in that suit, but recently the township and the company agreed on rules for operation of the quarry.
Helminen said the fact the local and national economies are down has meant there are fewer constructions jobs available.
It's not only business pensions being affected by the local economy, Helminen said.
"A lot of union pensions plans are underfunded," he said. "It's a fairly common problem in the country. We're not immune to the down economy."
Helminen said the fact Burcar and Simons were assisted by union representatives is an indicator of something more at issue.
"This is a union organizing tactic," he said. "Over 90 percent of our employees have voted against a union."
Helminen said Moyle is working to get pension funds back to where they should be.
"We are making every effort to get caught up on it," he said.