Carpenters Union Shows St. Louis Contractor What Happens When He Doesn’t Play Their Game

carpenters building
(Carpenters’ District Council of Greater St. Louis & Vicinity)

St. Louis construction contractor Anthony Raineri describes his relationship with the local carpenters union as “unreal.”

For nearly four years, Raineri claims that he, his family and the employees of his business – Raineri Construction – have faced constant harassment and threats from representatives of the Carpenters’ District Council of Greater St. Louis & Vicinity.

He says it’s all part of the union’s war against nonunion subcontractors in the city.

The latest confrontation came in late May, when Raineri Construction submitted the low bid to complete a renovation project at the local Neuwoehner High School, and was prepared to receive a contract for the project.

But then union officials stepped in with what they claimed were complaints from past customers about the company’s work and business practices. They also claimed Raineri submitted one piece of bid paperwork a day after the deadline, making the bid invalid.

As a result, the school district contracted with Wachter Inc., which happens to employ carpenter union members. The extra cost of union labor will add about $500,000 to the cost of the project, according to a report from KSDK-TV.

The school district issued a statement saying that it was not influenced by union pressure, and that the complete bid from Raineri was indeed a day late.

“…We have determined that Raineri’s bid was neither accurate nor complete on May 1, 2014 as required and that Raineri was not otherwise the lowest responsible bidder,” the district statement said.

Ashley Raineri, the company’s treasurer, responded to the statement by saying, “I would disagree with that. I’m not sure how it wouldn’t be accurate. We didn’t have that information. We sent it to them the next day, but does that make it really worth $500,000.”

The bidding controversy was just the latest skirmish is a long war between the company and the union.

Raineri says prior harassment caused him to file a lawsuit against the union in late 2012.

“They’ve cost us about $20 million in revenue so far,” Raineri said. “This has been going on for four years, them threatening us. The lawsuit is the only thing I have to protect myself.”

Cooperate or pay the price

Raineri said a representative from the carpenters union approached him in 2011 and asked for help in pressuring a local minority-owned subcontractor – St. Louis Electric – to unionize, or for Raineri to sign a contract with the union that would prevent him from using nonunion subcontractors.

The union did not want to approach St. Louis Electric directly, because the company is minority owned and racial sensitivities may have come into play, according to Raineri.

“They decided to pursue this through me,” Raineri said.

Raineri refused the union’s demands, for a variety of reasons, but mostly because he believed it would be a bad move for the various minority subcontractors he routinely employs.

“I use a lot of small minority contractors,” Raineri said. “If I had a contract with the carpenters union … these guys would have nowhere to go.”

That’s when things got ugly.

Raineri’s grievances against the union were summarized in a federal RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) complaint.

“Motivated by a quest for power, greed and ill-will, the defendants conceived of and implemented a conspiracy to extort money and inflict substantial damages upon Raineri by, among other things, making numerous threats of physical violence and property damage, stalking and harassing the management and employees of Raineri, defamation, filing numerous frivolous and objectively baseless complaints to the St. Louis City Building Department and the U.S. Department of Labor-Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and unlawfully interfering with Raineri’s existing and prospective business relations.”

Raineri said union officials used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain bids the company submitted for public projects that listed past clients as references, then used the information to harass those clients. The union posted massive banners in front of Raineri Construction’s office and other places in the area where the company has done work.

“They are going in front of Subway restaurants all over town and putting up these banners,” including restaurants where the company has never performed work, Raineri said.

Union thugs filed frivolous OSHA complaints; stalked Raineri and his employees; spread rumors that the company picked up illegal workers in Mexico; published slanderous lies about Raineri in union publications; and verbally threatened the business owner and his clients numerous times, according to Raineri.

“It’s just nasty, nasty stuff,” Raineri said.

The federal lawsuit details more than a dozen occasions in which the union allegedly dispatched its bruisers to intimidate Raineri.

Courthouse News Service summarized the allegations listed in the 22-page legal complaint:

On Sept. 4, 2012, Raineri was tailed for a couple of hours by someone in a green Ford Ranger. Raineri stopped and asked the driver what he was doing and the driver told him the union hired him to “follow Raineri employees” until Raineri signs a labor contract with the union.

On Sept. 13, Raineri was tailed again by someone in a white Chevy Trailblazer, which was registered to Christopher Woods, a Carpenters Union agent. The driver pulled up to Raineri’s vehicle and yelled out the window, “Watch your back, pussy,” before driving off.

On Sept. 25, Raineri was stalked again by someone in the Trailblazer. The driver confronted Raineri as he entered a building for a meeting and told him, “You don’t know who you are messing with, and if you don’t sign a contract soon, you won’t be around much longer.”

Raineri says he called the police after the driver left. Later, as Raineri walked to meet a client for lunch, the driver approached him again and said, “The police are not going to do anything, the union owns the police.”

On Oct. 24, a man blocked Raineri’s home driveway with a car. When Raineri approached him, the driver said, “You should fear for your life, your life is in danger.” When Raineri told him his home surveillance was recording their conversation, the man drove off and hit him (with the car) in the process.

“On numerous occasions in this same time frame, including on August 29, 2012, individual defendants or individuals under the control of the defendants appeared at a Raineri job site known as the Harris House, videotaped Raineri employees, and threatened bodily harm to Raineri employees and the employees of Raineri subcontractors,” the complaint states.

“One of the agents of the defendants followed a Raineri employee who left for lunch and threatened the employee with bodily harm.

“On numerous occasions commencing in December 2011, defendant Keith Taylor threatened (to have an adversarial relationship) with customers of Raineri, including St. Louis Housing Authority, Friendship Village, LoftWorks and St. Louis Board of Public Service.

“On or about September 7, 2012, defendant Scott Byrne told Steve Hill, a superintendent of Raineri, that the CDC was ‘bringing guys in from out of town’ and that the CDC was going to ‘put Raineri out of business.'”

Union officials declined to comment.

Raineri’s lawsuit is currently pending in the U.S. District Court, with the Carpenters’ District Council filing a motion to dismiss the case and attorneys for the contractor responding. Meanwhile, Raineri continues to build his case by documenting the union’s ruthless harassment, which he hopes will help reveal the way too many Big Labor groups conduct business.

“We’ll add this particular case to the filing,” Raineri said of the union costing him the construction contract at Neuwoehner High School. “We are going to expose … all of the stuff they’ve done.”