Working class hero
Among local union workers, one of the most admired contractors is Fred Taubel of TNT Construction. The reason: He works only with union labor. We caught up with him at the dedication of a Laborers Union worker training facility in Patrick.
I’ve heard you like union crews.
Yes, we’re a union contractor.
It’s beneficial. We get the manpower, we get trained individuals that come on the site. We don’t have to retrain.
Do you ever run up against opposition from your fellow contractors to that notion?
No opposition. We just have a disadvantage in the bidding process because we pay at the higher rates.
But it hasn’t interfered with your succeeding.
No, it has not. Our quality of work, we provide good wages, and people come back as repeat clients.
I can see how that gets you workers. How does it get you jobs?
The same way. We have good people who do a great job at the very beginning. We don’t have to callback, go back and do callbacks. They do the job right in the very beginning.
So it makes a difference in the quality of work?
Most of the time. Other companies, if they have a big job, they have to hire people that maybe they’re not as qualified as ours, and it might show deficiencies, show later on.
What do you think of this facility [the worker training center]?
I think it’s fantastic. It’s a great, efficient tool. It’s what we need to train people. We’ll get trained people on-site, and we don’t have to train, so our costs [go down].
How many union contractors are there locally?
I’d estimate 5 or 6, but there’s a bunch of subcontractors who are also union signatories.
Have you ever had discussions with your fellow contractors, the non-union ones?
Not really. We just have a tough time competing with the non-union guys.
Has it ever been a close call? Have you ever had real financial difficulties?
How are you handling the recession?
Carefully [laughs]. … Like anybody else, we cut back as much as we can. Just trying to see what we can do on a daily basis. You have to strip down to the basics and work harder than ever to keep going.
How great has the impact of the recession been on your business?
Probably 40, 50 percent. Maybe more.
More recently, have you seen improvement?
No, I see things getting worse. I don’t think that we have any relief until the end of next year. It’s not a pretty picture.
What made you take your approach to union labor?
I used to be a union employee myself.
How did you work your way to contractor?
I was in a different union, and I decided I wanted to get an education, which I did, and I went back into the general contracting business. I decided to go my own about 17 years ago.