Initially Published in the January 2023 Edition of the Carpenters Magazine
In the northwest corner of Maryland, members of the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters (EASRCC) are strengthening the union while they construct a new Great Wolf Lodge family resort.
The EASRCC members are installing prefabricated truss systems, as well as prefabricated interior and exterior walls that are dropped into place at the jobsite.
The jobsite is located in Perryville, in Cecil County, and is led by PDM Constructors, an EASRCC contractor and regional leader in prefabrication. PDM manufactures and transports the prefabricated units from its two facilities in nearby Pennsylvania. The resort is expected to open in 2023.
“The entire operation is union-run, from manufacturing to the final installation at the Maryland site,” said PDM General Superintendent John Fitzpatrick, a union carpenter since 1989. PDM started as a drywall installer in 1999 and expanded as it saw gradual changes in the industry.
“We can prefabricate anything,” Fitzpatrick said. “It is a clean construction approach. There are no rain delays because we construct everything under one roof. And it saves on costs, which can help with the bidding process,” he said.
“This type of construction will only expand, and we are either part of the future wave or we’re endangering our future,” he said. “We feel that being a union contractor in the Northeast, promoting a high level of safety, a high level of quality, and making sure that deadlines are met are some of the greatest things we can bring to the negotiating table.”
The council used various recruitment strategies to staff the PDM job, according to Kevin Morrow, EASRCC director of organizing. “It was critical to show the end user that we can mobilize a highly skilled workforce to meet the demands in Perryville and across the country for their other projects,” Morrow said.
The EASRCC team conducted after-work events and invited workers from other area job sites to learn about the union’s advantages. Over time the team has also built relationships with community leaders, politicians and developers. That type of relationship-building helped bring involvement by Maryland State Senator Mary Ann Lisanti, who appreciated the opportunity to create good jobs in her community.
Lisanti had previously teamed up with Mungu Sanchez, EASRCC deputy political director and director of community organizing, in a successful legislative campaign to strengthen the law that makes general contractors liable for unpaid wages.
For Great Wolf Lodge, Lisanti, Sanchez and others co-sponsored a job fair within walking distance of many attendees’ neighborhoods.
“It was the perfect time to educate employers about the skills and workforce that the carpenters and other trades provide,” Lisanti said. “They learned that becoming a carpenter means more than just a job. It’s a transferable skill that pays well and is respectable,” Lisanti said.