Connecticut woodworking company becomes victim of national pension crisis, gets sued out of existence

Feb 11, 2018 by

by Marc E. Fitch –

J-Con Woodworking, based out of Thomaston, Connecticut, opened in 1983 and quickly became a premier manufacturer of cabinets in Connecticut. Marquis (Mark) Converse and his wife Hilary ran the small shop, which employed more than a dozen people, including 8 carpenters who were part of the Local 210 Carpenters Union.

Mark originally wanted a union shop so that J-Con Inc. could do business in neighboring New York and Rhode Island. He contributed toward his employees’ pension fund with the carpenters union, along with health benefits and good pay.

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Little did he know that this would ultimately destroy his business.

In 2015, J-Con’s unionized employees voted to decertify from the carpenters union. It was the second year in a row the crew of 8 had considered this option, but this year the vote was unanimous: they didn’t want to be a part of the union anymore.

Jeff Anderson, a 13-year employee of J-Con, Inc. said he and his fellow employees didn’t feel they were getting any benefit from being a part of the carpenters union.

“What we were getting, for what we were paying, we didn’t think it was fair at all,” Anderson said in an interview. “They never asked us what we wanted or what was good for us, it was just all about the money.”

The vote to decertify came with a hefty price tag — their jobs.

Following the decertification vote, the Carpenters Labor-Management Pension Fund filed suit against J-Con, Inc.

After paying into the pension fund for 30 years, J-Con was now being sued for $464,000 for its portion of the union’s underfunded pension liability. They were also sued for an additional $169,667.80 for union health benefits, even though Mark and Hilary already paid better employee benefits than the union demanded.

As it turns out, it’s not just public-sector union pension plans that are vastly underfunded.

A looming national crisis may be slowly unfolding as union pension plans across the country are in serious danger of failing, potentially cutting pension payments to retirees. This has left unions desperate, grasping for money, and pursuing damaging lawsuits against business owners like Mark and Hilary Converse.

Source: The Fitch Files: Connecticut woodworking company becomes victim of national pension crisis, gets sued out of existence | Yankee Institute for Public Policy

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