This Publication is a Production of the UAFT Membership Committee. Version 1.0, 1997
United Archaeological Field Technicians
3135 West Street, Box B
Weirton WV 26062
The need for a Union in the Cultural Resource Management business has been apparent nearly since the beginning of the industry in 1968. CRM is a relative young industry, but it got out of the starting block in a big way in the area of labor violations and illegal business practices. Some of these violations are the result of outright greed and malice, but many are the result of ignorance of the legal responsibilities of the business person and employer. Unfortunately even these naive violations are generally motivated by greed, hundreds of employers committed these unscrupulous practices in the past to the point that federal laws were enacted to protect employees from them. Ignorance of the law is not a valid defense for violating our rights as working people.
Almost twenty years ago James Fitting called for a labor union in CRM, and a new Caesar Chavez of Archaeology to lead the charge. Others among the ranks of Professional Archaeologists have acknowledged the need for a union to put a halt to the abuses of labor in the CRM industry. The Society of Professional Archeologists (SOPA) briefly considered an approach to this problem during the early 1990's. This attempt was made through their Personnel Relations Committee (now defunct) that proposed a personnel relations edition to the SOPA code of ethics, which was unfortunately never adopted. Other SOPA attempts to address the problems facing Archaeological Technicians by creating a register of Technical Archaeologists has, to date, not been initiated. That leaves the solving of this problem up to the Archaeological Technicians who are suffering under the abusive conditions rampant in this industry.
The UAFT is the fulfillment of the dream shared by hoards of Field Techs over the past twenty years. Spurned on by shitty working and living conditions, delinquent paychecks, perdiem disputes, disrespect, and crappy field archaeology, the UAFT was born during after hours crew bull sessions (lubricated by dark microbrewed beer when we could afford it and PBR when we couldn't). Working alongside Union Pipeliners on countless jobs in countless states and watching them make six times our annual wage with no one to blame but ourselves for failing to stand together, we decided to do something.
The UAFT was conceived in 1990, and hammered in to shape on Pipeline mitigation jobs in New York, Connecticut, Michigan, Oregon, and Washington. The organization was formally launched in 1991 from its first headquarters in the small town of Palouse, Washington where it operated until the HQ moved to the traditional union stronghold of Weirton, West Virginia in 1993. The UAFT has been steadily growing since 1991 when forty members made up the rolls. Unfortunately the burn out rate of Techs is very high and a good chunk of the membership drops out of the field every year. But, in an industry with an estimated 2000 field technicians we now represent nearly a quarter of them, and we are recruiting new members all the time. The Union will go "On-line" before the end of 1996. Not bad for a bunch of folks making less than $12,000 a year.
In 1995 The UAFT created an association with the International Union of Operating Engineers of the AFL-CIO, as their Local Union 141. (The 141 representing the number of centimeters in the hypotenuse of a 1 x 1 meter test unit). Through this affiliation the UAFT hopes to utilize the support of the National Labor Movement to leverage the accomplishment of our worthy objectives to improve the lives of Archaeological Technicians across the country, while doing high quality Archaeology.
Archaeological Technician has become the common and most accepted term to describe the people who "assist" the Professional Archaeologists in the performance of cultural resource projects for federal Section 106 compliance. This business has only existed since 1968 and is still growing and developing. Prior to this few people were ever paid for their labors in archaeological work, volunteers worked when it was convenient for them and projects were generally limited to a few pleasant months in the summer. Now federal law requires this work, and it must be performed on rigid time schedules and in all weather. This demand, and the fact that this work is now being done on a "for-profit" basis necessitates the employment of skilled people to perform the time intensive field and lab work. Thus the Archaeological Technician was born.
As Archaeological Technicians we perform a number of tasks not normally done by the Professionals, and some things thought to be exclusive to the Professionals. Primarily we dig holes, but very precise square holes dug in incremental levels as part of a sampling process. We make scientific observations on what we see as we excavate and we are required to scrutinize the soil matrix for evidence of cultural artifacts and human activity. We make scientific measurements of our findings using a variety of technical tools, tapes, levels, transits, and scales. Then, we record our findings on forms, field maps, and photographs which we prepare for the Professionals to analyze. Beyond the field we wash and label artifacts, we do routine background research in libraries and courthouses. We are often asked to write descriptions of field work and other technical sections for official management reports. We run certain lab tests and analysis of artifacts and we help assemble technical and managerial reports in the offices. In short we do some of just about everything technical in the CRM industry, but we can not sign reports or act as the Principal Investigator for CRM projects. Only Qualified Professionals can do that.
For our efforts we are called many things in this field, some are official company titles and some are disrespectful slurs. Officially we are called Research Assistants, Field Assistants, Scientific Assistants, Field Specialists, Cultural Resources Specialists, Field Technicians, Laboratory Technicians, Crew Members, Scientific Laborers, Field Labor, and the like. Casually we are called AT's, Field Techs, Techs, Shovel Bums, Diggroes, Kids, Field Trash, and a host of other names that our Bosses don't mention in front of us. Despite all of these names we are Archaeological Technicians and proud of it.
A definition of Archaeological Technician would come from its two word title from The Random House College Dictionary (Revised Edition) 1988.
ar-chae-ol-og-i-cal adj. 1. of or pertaining to archaeology
tech-ni-cian n. 1. a person who is trained or skilled in the technicalities of a subject. 2. a person who is skilled in the technique of an art, as music or painting.
From these definitions we can assert that an Archaeological Technician is a person who is trained or skilled in the techniques of archaeology, if not in its science and academic theory.
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According to the U. S. Department of Labor there are a certain number of employee classes into which all particular occupations fall. Our occupation falls into the Technical Trades Category. Archaeological Technicians Fall into a Category along with Environmental Technicians, Geological Technicians, Geophysical Technicians, Hydrological Technicians and the like under the Dictionary of Occupational Titles listing 199.0364-014 Scientific Helper (Research Assistant).
Performs duties according to type of research in which supervising scientist is engaged, such as collecting rock samples for study by Geologist (Prof. & Kin.) or plant specimens for study by Botanist (Prof. & Kin.) Prepares samples for analysis or examination and performs routine laboratory tests. May Participate in field explorations such as mineralogical or geophysical expeditions. May be designated according to field of scientific study.
GOE 02.04.01, STRENGTH M, GED R4, M4, L4, SVP 6
When we work on contracts for the federal government a number of laws come in to play that require our work to be defined and categorized. The primary law covering such categorization is the Service Contract Act (SCA), a major Prevailing Wage Law. The SCA is supported by the Service Contract Act Directory of Occupations. This directory lists all service workers, who might be engaged on a federal contract, by category. A number of related fields are lumped together in a process called "slotting" by the Dept. of Labor's Bureau of Statistics. Our official SCA job title is Archeological Technician number 29020 and is listed as a Technical Occupation along with the following:
This category includes occupations concerned with providing technical assistance to engineers and scientists in both laboratory and production activities as well as occupations concerned with independently operating and servicing technical equipment and systems. Characteristic of occupations in this category is the requirement for a knowledge of scientific, engineering, and mathematical theories, principals and techniques that is less than full professional knowledge but which nevertheless enables the technician to understand how and why a specific device or system operates....
The SCA directory defines the job of Archaeological Technician within this class as one who assists the scientist (archaeologist in this case) and who possesses a basic technical understanding of the craft. The definition lists a number of tasks which can be performed by the technician, but states that this person must be supervised by the professional.
Provides technical support to professional Archeologist, utilizing a basic understanding of anthropological and archeological field techniques in connection with locating, testing and evaluating cultural resource sites. Conducts prefield office research, field surveys and site testing, using a variety of reference materials, interviews with source individuals, aerial photographs and technical instruments. Searches areas of proposed projects for evidence of historic and prehistoric remains. Determines exact location of sites and marks them on maps and aerial photographs. Records information on site survey form and prepares an archeological reconnaissance report needed for evaluation and management of the project. Insures that work assignments are carried out in a safe and timely manner according to established standards and procedures. Reviews work in progress and reports to superiors relative to the completion date and other standards set in report. Cleans and catalogs artifacts recovered from inventories and excavations.
In order to avoid paying the Prevailing Wage rates for Technical Occupations some employers are claiming that what we do requires no skill and no knowledge of archaeology. They are doing this by attempting to have us classed as Laborers. The SCA directory lists only two classes of Laborer, and these are listed here to demonstrate the discrepancy between our skilled trade and the job of laborer.
Performs a variety of tasks to grow nursery stock, reforest and protect timber tracts. Duties include one or more of the following: sowing seed; lifting seedlings from nursery beds; placing shading materials beside seedlings; netting or tubing (placing small plastic tubes over seedlings); mulching (placing mulching materials around seedlings); post-planting hand scalping (removing excessive vegetation around seedlings); applying repellent or fertilizer to seedlings; gopher baiting; and collecting cones or scion (sprouts or shoots for grafting).
Performs tasks which require mainly physical abilities and effort involving little or no specialized skill or prior work experience. The following tasks are typical of this occupation: Loads and unloads trucks, and other conveyances; moves supplies and materials to proper location by wheelbarrow or handtrucks; stacks materials for storage or binding; collects refuse and salvageable materials. Digs, fills, and tamps earth excavations; levels ground using pick, shovel, tamper and rake; shovels concrete and snow; cleans culverts and ditches; cuts trees and brush; operates power lawnmowers. Moves and arranges heavy pieces of office and household furniture, equipment, and appliances; moves heavy pieces of automotive, medical engineering, and other types of machinery and equipment. Spreads sand and salt on icy roads and walkways; picks up leaves and trash.
Interestingly enough the Prevailing Wages for these Jobs is often higher than what we are now paid for field work. After reading these descriptions, you can decide which one best suits what we do as Archaeological Technicians. Our employers are going to continue looking for ways to rip us off, and they would likely call us space aliens if they believed it would allow them to pay us next to nothing.
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The UAFT is a Union that represents people working in a skilled trade. Traditional skilled trade Unions include Masons and Concrete Workers, Carpenters and Joiners, Plumbers, Communications Workers, Electricians and many other trades primarily in the construction industry. Many of these Unions have been around for a hundred years and are very well established with many thousands of members.
New Unions have a far tougher time getting their message heard but it is not impossible. During the 1960's Caesar Chavez lead a union movement of the Farm Workers of the Southwest. Today many of these migrant workers make a higher annual salary than we do and were worse off when they started than we are. Unions have moved mountains in their fight against greedy bosses and corporations, and we are yet another group of employees banding together to through the bosses off our backs. We are well on the road to doing that today.
The AFL-CIO is an association of labor organizations, a sort of Union of Unions. Not all unions belong to the AFL-CIO, some are "Independent", but a large association of working people has great political influence in affecting federal policy toward the protection of Americas Workers. Our association with this national organization will give us a greater voice for our problems in the halls of government and in the trenches.
The Council of Building Trades Within the AFL-CIO the skilled trades of the Building Industry have formed a special association to promote the interests of workers in their industry. In the grand scheme of things we are in the building industry also, bridges, dams, highways, pipelines and the like. Through affiliation with the AFL-CIO and the Council of Building Trades small individual unions can expect the support of their fellow workers in other trades. This is especially important during mitigation projects and monitoring.
The history of Labor in this country is a dark a bloody story of oppression and near slavery conditions of people who are supposed to live in the land of the free.
Contrary to popular mythology, the Labor Movement far predated the advent of Communism. The concept of Labor Unions, in western culture, has its roots in the medieval Guild System, which was far more harsh and restrictive than any union in American history. The fight to prevent the abuse of labor is akin to the fight of societal evils such as slavery and racism. Both of these abhorrent practices raise specters of themselves when supply and demand capitalists try to explain why they deserve to be rich when they have dozens or hundreds of employees living in or near poverty. In Medieval Europe the Nobles and the first Merchant Capitalists felt they held their positions in society by divine right, God made them superior therefore they could mistreat others beneath their station. It is not a distant leap from this archaic thinking to the conditions in the current CRM industry.
The first documented workers strike in America took place among tailors in New York in 1768, but Labor riots among sailors and fishermen are recorded as early as 1636 in Maine. The first strong formal labor organizations in this country sprang up amongst Barrel Makers, Leather Workers, and Printing Press Operators during the 1790's. The Labor Movement grew stronger, in fits and starts during the first half of the 1800's, but the growing social pressures of the Industrial Revolution forced the first political involvement of labor. In this country Labor had been clamoring for the right to vote since 1800. Before the 1870's only landowners had the right to vote, and most workers, including skilled tradesmen, were renters. This is one reason that the frontier held such pull among the eastern poor, the opportunity to own cheap land meant respectability, the vote, and even the possibility to run for public office. Working people had few enforceable rights and had no voice in government before the Civil War. During the Civil War rich men could buy their way out of the draft for military service, a working man had no such option. In a war reputed to be fought to free black slaves in the south, the north sent its wage slaves to fight in the trenches while the wealthy on both sides tried to profit by trafficking in war supplies.
Communism, as a social phenomenon dates only to the 1870's, and emerged in the large industrial cities of Europe. It rapidly became associated with organized labor unions as a political model for a better world for the working man. Communism was also seen as the ultimate expression of democracy, being that workers and farmers made up an overwhelming majority of the populous and the wealthy were in the minority. In America the wealthy worked very hard to link the right to amass private property and to incorporate their business interests to the ideals of democracy. Somehow they succeeded in creating the American myth that the right for the few to oppress the majority in order to amass wealth is part of the democratic process. There was great reaction to this throughout the industrial world during the 1870's to the 1890's. During 1878 in this country there were labor riots in the streets of cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Wheeling, Cleveland, and St, Louis and other places. This was happening in Europe also, partially in response to an international economic depression and partly in response to the First Communist International meeting in Germany.
In America The Knights of Labor arose to unite workers across the country. They, like the Communists demanded the control of capital by labor, but they did not support this end by means of violent revolution. The International Workers Of the World (the IWW or the Wobblies) were a different story. The Wobblies were Communists, and they built a large folk following in this country in the west as well as the east. They organized miners and factory workers. They played songs and wrote handbills, and they murdered union resisters and company supervisors as well as burning warehouses and blowing up mines and railroads. The Wobblies grew in power and supported the American Socialist Party until their violent collapse just after World War I. During a campaign of government sponsored assassinations of the Wobbly leadership during 1918 and 1919, those that weren't killed fled to the revolution in Russia.
One group of workers that the Wobblies did not appeal to were those that considered themselves "Skilled." These Craft specific Unions often had Certification and long Apprenticeships to guard the secrets of the trade. Individually these Unions were often small, but there was a need for these Unions to support each other in one great union of unions but still retain their individual identity. In 1884 the AF of L was formed to answer this need, and was to become the heir of the old "Knights of Labor." The AF of L was anti-Communists and anti political. They operated under the primes that they needed the companies that they worked for, and that the best way to support an increased standard of living was through united action, collective bargaining, and strict craft training programs for their members. The AF of L was to lay the ground work for modern unions in America. The historic down side to the AF of L is that they tended to be very progressive in theory but often racist, sexist, and xenophobic in action. They strenuously opposed the admission of "unskilled" workers into the ranks of the AF of L, and this lead to the defection of the United Mine Workers union from the AFL in 1935 to form the CIO or Congress of Industrial Organizations. The CIO was very much in the mold of the
AF of L, but intended to organize the tens of thousands of workers in American factories. This movement meet with tremendous success and lead to the formation or the United Auto Workers and other large factory unions. Before the end of the 1930's the CIO had grown to half a million members and had orchestrated the joining on the AF of L to the CIO into the largest Labor Organization in the history of the United States.
The Union Movement was successful in getting a U. S. Bureau of Labor established in 1913. This accomplishment gave Labor, for the first time, an advocate in the halls of Washington D. C., in the Presidents Cabinet. 1914 saw the passage of the "Clayton Act" heavily supported by the AFL. This law declared "The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of trade" and made certain that Unions were not commercial enterprises and therefore exempt from commerce and anti trust laws. The next great advances in Labor Rights legislation came during the "New Deal" administration of Franklin Roosevelt during the 1930's. The Bureau of Labor was upgraded to the Department of Labor, laws guarding the right to organize unions were passed, overtime and minimum wage laws were passed, protection for regionally prevailing wages were applied on federal construction contracts, the Social Security Administration was established to give people at least a small retirement income, and government for the first time seamed to be on the side of the working people. Labor, working people, and the environment did not again receive such support until the Democrat administrations of the 1960's.
During the 1930's Congress passed the "Wagner Act" formally known as the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This Act formalized workers rights to form and join unions, and for those unions to have compulsory recognition by companies when that union represented a majority of that companies workers, and that means workers in one job class i. e. all Carpenters or all Plumbers (called a bargaining unit). However a single union can represent an entire work force of a company ( i. e. many bargaining units), such as in the case of a factory. The Wagner Act also created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a Federal arm of government that is charged solely with the settlement of unfair labor practice charges and who presides over employee elections for union representation. This organization is totally separate from the Department of Labor, for the purpose of maintaining its objectivity in company vs. union disputes.
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Even when you are working for an employer who does not have a union contract, you have certain additional rights that you do not have if you do not belong to a union. This even applies when you are applying for work. Under federal law it is illegal to discriminate against a person for union membership when it comes to hiring, layoffs, promotion, benefits, bonuses, or references to other jobs. These laws apply if an employer discriminates against you for union membership, or if he simply suspects you of union affiliation, or if he demonstrates a pattern of discrimination (refuses to hire or lays off a group of union members). The Following is a list of legal do's and don'ts for union members and organizers, and a listing of things your employer can and can not do.
Under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act:
Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all of such activities except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as authorized in Section 8 (a)(3) (of the Act).
Employer Unfair Labor Practices (National Labor Relations Act) Section 8. (a)
The Following are just a few things that are also "unfair labor practices":
Discuss the union and solicit signed UAFT cards with fellow employees before starting time, after quitting time, during break times and lunch on the Work site or Company Property. Or in vehicles on the way to or away from the work site.
Distribute Union literature at the work site or other locations on non-work time.
Wear Union buttons, badges, jackets, hats, T- shirts, or other union insignia at any time and at any place on or off the work site or Company property.
Attend Union meetings to discuss the formation or membership in the union or other topics pertaining to conditions of work.
Sign a Union Card or solicit the Signing of Union cards by other employees.
Join the Union, and encourage others to do the same.
You should not promote the union, solicit signed union cards, or distribute union literature when you are supposed to be working. You can not threaten, coerce, or intimidate any one into signing a union card or joining the union.
Once union recognition has been established with a company, either by NLRB election or voluntarily, negotiations for a labor contract are started. A contract is the only legal guarantee that the employer will do as he has promised. If they fail to live up to the agreement the Union can enforce it in court, or with crippling work stoppages.
At Will Employment (no contract) is the legal term that describes the situation of working for an employer without a contract. Without a contract the courts hold that both parties enter into a verbal agreement on a voluntary basis and that either party can terminate the arrangement at anytime for any reason with no prior notice what-so-ever. (At will so to speak). This is the law in all fifty states and has been staunchly defended and part of American public policy for over two hundred years. However it is also part of public policy, and federal and State laws, that an employer may not discriminate against a person in regard to hiring, discharge, lay off, or advancement regardless of the At Will arrangement. These conditions apply to the various Equal Opportunity laws, Sexual Discrimination, and discrimination based on Union affiliation.
Individual Contracts; Frequently executives are given individual contracts for employment. These contracts are negotiated one-on-one between the executive and the company or the executives personal agent and the company. These contracts often include clauses that limit the executive from disclosing corporate secrets or from competing with the employer (even after leaving the company) and they commonly include provisions for big monetary payoffs in the case that downsizing or reorganization eliminates the executives job (these are often called "Golden Parachutes"). If you have worked under one of these contracts in this industry it is very likely that your were required to sing a contract sight unseen and as a condition of employment. These contracts are generally invalid because the condition of agreement is coerced. Only if you have the opportunity to adjust the content of the contract would it be a valid legal document. Most often you will not be given the opportunity to set any of the terms.
Collective Bargaining Contracts are the intended results of forming a union. The idea is for the entire group of employees (or at least a majority) to elect a representative to act as an agent for all of the employees. The powerful bargaining chip that this type of bargaining affords is the threat of withholding labor form the employer until a mutually agreeable contract can be reached. This type of collective action is the only way for the lower end of the labor ladder to gain any advantage at the negotiation table. Collective bargaining is the federally guaranteed right of a group of employees who has elected to have a union represent them. It is illegal for the employer to refuse to negotiate with the legitimate representative of labor.
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As an Employee, your Employer has certain legal responsibilities toward you that they do not have toward Independent Contractors. If your employer directs your work, or has the power to set your pay, or adjust your working hours you are an employee and not an independent contractor. When you are an employee your employer must withhold federal and State taxes from your paycheck, he must pay mandated contributions for Social Security and Medicaid payments, they must pay into Workers Compensation Insurance, and they must pay into Unemployment Insurance on your behalf. If your employer claims that you are an Independent Contractor he does not have to do any thing but pay you and agreed upon fee for your work. If you are working as an Independent Contractor you must have the right to set your own hours, direct your own work (with no boss), have a contract, charge overhead and profit for your work beyond your hourly salary, and pay your own withholding tax including the employers contribution to Social Security and Medicaid. It is illegal to treat workers as employees but claim that they are independent contractors. Under IRS law employers who fail to withhold taxes for their workers who are actually employees can be held accountable to pay your taxes for you, out of their own pocket. Be sure to know how your employer is handling your taxes. If you suspect anything is fishy turn them in to the IRS and get it straightened out. (A SS-8 form must be filed along with the complaint).
You often hear many people babbling on about sexual harassment laws and what they mean. The sad truth is that most people have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Unfortunately most employers have no idea what these laws mean either. These issues are covered under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in what are known as Title VII protections. Also important in determining breaches of either law or policy are the regulation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Strangely enough you can only be sexually harassed (under the law) by your supervisor. Under the law, actions or statements made by your co-workers never constitute sexual harassment. Sexual Harassment happens when your employer or a representative of your employer (supervisor) requests sexual favors in exchange for advancement or other bonus or benefit, or as a condition of hire or continued employment. Even if that supervisor does not have the authority to grant the promised favor, they need only to lead you to believe that they actually have it in order for the demand to constitute sexual harassment. When this happens, it is the employer (Company) that is financially responsible for the actions of their supervisors. You must report any act of sexual harassment as soon as it happens in order to have a legitimate claim.
There is another negative situation that your employer is financially responsible for in the work place. That is when the employer knowingly allows a "Hostile Working Environment" to exist. This means that once the employer is told of a situation of repeated, demonstrated, Racist or Sexist actions or attitudes of a "Hostile Nature" in the work place and has failed to take corrective measures, they can be held financially liable for the damage caused by this environment. It is difficult to prove that a truly "Hostile Work Environment" actually exists, and joking remarks have been held by the courts as none hostile. Obvious instances of a hostile environment would include threats of violence or threats of sexual assault, destruction of personal property, vulgar or offensive slogans in acts of vandalism, but the employer must be made aware of these actions and then fail to take steps to correct the problem. The "Hostile Working Environment" is often confused with sexual harassment. It is not, and you must know how your rights have been violated if you attempt to take action against your employer. Failure to understand the law will get your case thrown out of court.
It is important to know your responsibilities in these situations. If your are sexually harassed by your boss, turn them in. If you experience a hostile working environment, report it to the Company, but be careful that you have a strong case. If your employer takes undo corrective action against your co-workers, they may have the right to sue the employer and you. It is best to file claims of a hostile working environment as a group to support the charge.
Another area of massive confusion are the Federal and State drug free work place policies. Federal law states that your employer has the right to maintain a "drug free work place" and on Federal Contracts employers may be legally required to adopt a drug free work place policy. This is however a "Policy" not a law to test employees for drugs. Without a union, you will have no options when faced with a company mandatory drug testing policy other than quitting. Your Union can do something by setting a drug free work place policy of its own that limits the employers ability to indiscriminately conduct drug tests. Legally a union can limit drug testing to situations All workers have the right to file for unemployment compensation in their state of residence if they have lost their last job due to no fault of their own. Each state is different, but to be eligible for unemployment benefits you generally need to have worked for at least six months within the past year. If you have worked enough in the past year you will be eligible for 52 weeks of benefits for the upcoming year, and you do not have to use them all at once. Contrary to popular belief, your employer pays into unemployment funds while you are working, they do not have to pay anything while you are on unemployment. If a very large number of employees from a single employer file for unemployment at one time (a few hundred or more) that employers unemployment premiums might go up. If your employer does not want you to file for unemployment that probably means the he has not been paying his legally required premiums, and is therefore afraid of fines or jail time. Go ahead and file anyway, if they have been breaking the law they should get what they deserve. Also, never give up on unemployment on the first go around if your are denied benefits, you will always have the right to appeal and multi-state claims can take four to sixteen weeks to process. Unemployment benefits are always a state issue, never federal.
Workers Compensation is set up state by state and works a lot like unemployment. Employers, by law, must pay into workers compensation funds on your behalf while you are working. If you are injured on the job, or in a vehicle on the way to or from the hotel to the job site, you are entitled to file a workers comp claim to pay for the treatment of your injuries. If the injuries prevent you from being able to perform your job, you may be eligible for compensation for lost wages until you are able to return to work. Again, your employer does not have to pay anything if you are on workers compensation. If a number of people are being injured on the job, the employer might have to pay increased premiums for workers compensation insurance. If your employer attempts to keep you from filing a workers compensation claim it is probably because they have illegally failed to pay the required insurance premiums. If this is the case, your employer is financially responsible to pay for your injuries and lost wages. Workers Compensation is always a state issue, and it may take a lawyer to get your benefits. Workers comp. is almost always contested by the states and you will need the backing of a doctor for claims on lost wages.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) is the law that established the frame work for a general, National Minimum wage. It also requires the paying of a premium for overtime work. This premium is an hourly rate of pay set at one-and-one-half times the regular hourly rate of pay for all overtime hours. Overtime hours are defined all hours worked over forty in one seven day work week. All hourly employees must be paid the premium for all overtime hours. There are classes of "exempt employees," but Archaeological Technicians who do not have long term, full time jobs with a guaranteed salary, are never exempt. Exempt employees are those who are paid by salary (a guaranteed weekly or monthly wage regardless of hours actually worked) or those paid on commission, or by the mile such as truck drivers. Ten day work schedules which do not pay weekend over time can be legal if you are given four days off between work sessions, and your employer follows a modified work week schedule. You must still be paid overtime if you work more than forty hours in one seven day work week. Some states require the paying of the overtime premium for any hours worked over eight in one day, though this is rare.
The Davis Bacon Act (DBA) was passed in the early 1930's to protect regional workers wages from companies that intended to truck in laborers from poorer (low wage) regions of the country to win federal government construction contracts. Pressure brought by organized labor won the passage of the DBA to protect local wages from outside competition. This law established a set of prevailing wages for each craft or trade employed on government construction contracts, for each statistical region (SMSA) of the United States. This listing is periodically updated by labor department surveys of wages in each region. The DBA prevailing wage list has been the backbone of wages in the construction industry for over sixty years.
The increase in federal contracts for services (other than construction work) during the 1960's led to the passage of a federal law for the protection of the wages of workers on these projects. This law was the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act of 1965 (SCA). The SCA was intended to perform the same function for service workers wages as the DBA had done for construction. The major difference is that the SCA was also intended to "remove wages as a factor in the competition for federal service contracts." This was intended to make contractors bid competitively for contracts based not on wages but on their overhead and profit figures.
Contracts for Cultural Resource Services are service contracts, and therefore must pay the regionally Prevailing Wage for the workers on these contracts. Our job, Archeological Technician number 29020 is listed under the SCA and has a national list of Prevailing Wages. These wage determinations range from around $9.00 and hour to around $21.00 and hour. The national average for our job is $15.00 an hour. The national listing of wage determinations is included in this Handbook. If you worked on a federal contract in any of these areas and did not receive the listed wage rates, contact the UAFT Committee on Prevailing Wage Compliance , P O Box 2356, Weirton, WV 26062.
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This organization was created in 1969 under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA). The law requires the employer to provide a safe and healthful work environment. The OSHA organization also has a set of regulations for certain dangerous conditions that are commonly encountered. Three such issues affect us directly in field archaeology. The first is the requirement for a written safety plan and a safety program. The Safety Plan must be posted and each employee must be given a copy. The safety program must include instructions on project safety and emergency procedures at regular, generally bi-weekly, safety meetings. These meetings must be administered by the employees who must elect a safety officer to run them, the employer can not dominate the meetings.
Second is the requirement that covers health and sanitary needs for work sites. The employer must provide fresh, safe drinking water in a cooler with individual disposable drinking cups. The Water must be available through out working hours everyday (they can not run out). Also your employer must provide sanitary toilet facilities. This means one outhouse for each gender, and at least one outhouse for every twenty people (generally there must be no less than two toilets). On sites which are more than fifteen minutes away from professional medical attention the employer must provide for trained medical emergency response people to be on site. This means that someone must be a trained EMT, and one trained person must be present with, or within a fifteen minute response of each crew.
The third area is the host of requirements for working in or near excavations. Briefly, these requirements include safety regulations for depth of excavated holes, the type of soil they are dug in, the size and location of back dirt piles, safe traffic areas and safe footing, hand rails or warning tape, and the need for approved shoring devices for deep units. Violations of these regulations can lead to stiff fines, but worse yet they can threaten your safety and your life. Turn in violations to OSHA, filers of OSHA complaints remain anonymous. Its your safety and its your Life in the balance. No paycheck or archaeological site is worth your life. The UAFT will be making more detailed information on OSHA requirements available through the UAFT Workers Safety Committee.
Federal law requires your employer to post notices of your federal labor rights at the work site. The following is a list of the notices that you must see posted at work.
It is a federal offense to fail to post these notices, they are supposed to be posted (where every one can see them at anytime during the work day) to inform you of your rights. States may require that additional notices of state laws be posted at the work site. Generally at field work sites, like construction sites, these notices are posted on a tool shed, on the side of a tool truck or vehicle that is on the site all day, or on a temporary bulletin board. If the notices fade in the sun, are ruined by rain, or blow away they must be replaced immediately by the employer.
Many people before you have struggled and even died in this country during the fight to win these legal protections for you, and the generations to follow. However these rights don't mean a damn thing if you don't learn and understand them. It is entirely up to you to organize, bargain collective alongside your fellow workers, and turn in employers who violate your rights. No one else will be there to protect your rights, its up to you to do something. This is not always easy, fear of losing your job or getting a bad reputation as a trouble maker are the thing that criminal employers are counting on to keep their sheepish employees in line. Losing a job where your rights are being denied is not much of a loss. Worse yet, is staying in that job and doing nothing. That will only guarantee that others rights will be violated, now and in the future. Employers must be made to fear and respect the law. That is the only way they will obey it!
"The only thing needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
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Part of keeping yourself from being ripped off in this business is being savvy at tax time. We travel a lot in this business and nearly all of our expenses are business related and deductible under current tax codes. Most of us put 15,000 miles or more on our own cars traveling to and from projects. These miles are deductible as a personal business expense, and at 30 cents a mile standard deduction that is $5,000 off your taxable income right off the bat, plus your personal exemption of around $2,500. This means that you only need to pay tax on around $4,000 or $5,000. You must keep a mileage log to back up this deduction but it is well worth it. To do this you must file the long form 1040 plus schedule A for itemized deductions and the business expense form 2106 but this is also well worth it. Even if you have to pay someone to fill out your taxes for you, you will still save money and they will likely take their fee out of your refund. However, it is simple enough to fill out these forms yourself. It is up to you to keep the IRS from getting more of your money than they deserve. Don't overpay the IRS! Its your Money! The UAFT will be making annual tax tips for the traveling Archaeological Technician available to the membership. This publication will be advertised in the UAFT Newsletter, but it really is not that hard.
The UAFT Health & Welfare Plan is designed to make health insurance available to the membership. This works in two principal ways. The first is through a group health plan made available to the membership at the lowest possible rates that the plan can find. The plan shops for discount group health insurance trying to find a policy affordable for you. Unfortunately, most of us do not earn enough to be able to afford even the cheapest insurance. You should send in a slip for a free quote so you will know your options. But, the simple truth is that, for now, we are to poor for the luxury of self supported health insurance.
The second purpose of the Health & Welfare Plan is provide a bona fide fund into which employers can pay their required benefit contributions under the Service Contract Act on federal jobs. In addition to prevailing wages, the SCA also requires the payment of hourly benefits ranging for ninety cents an hour to as much as $3.50 an hour, over and above your regular pay. This money must be paid into a bona fide (IRS qualified) independent benefits plan, or paid directly to you in a separate check form your pay. These benefits are not taxable. This money is supposed to be for the purchase of health insurance, or retirement plans, but it is your money and you can legally do what you want with it. (under the SCA per diem is not a benefit and does not count toward this plan). Our hope is that through enforcement of the SCA, we will begin to be able to afford our own insurance and retirement.
The UAFT is researching ways to help all of us plan for our own retirement. In this country there are three nontaxable or tax deductible ways to establish retirement plans. The UAFT is researching all of these options and we may eventually pursue all three. These options consist firstly of a union sponsored pension plan, in which the employer is required to make an hourly contribution on behalf of each employee. The second option is Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) which the Union can help you set up at a Credit Union. In an IRA you make the contributions which are tax deductible up to $2,000 per year. The final option is for the Union to manage a retirement investment plan which would consist of maintaining a common fund of money to be invested like a 401K plan. Under such an investment plan your employer can be required to make contributions independently or to match payments that you make into the plan. Generally 401K plans are run by companies to keep retirement funds in house so that they can barrow form them from time to time when they need capital. If the Union runs the Plan, the funds can be made available to union companies only, as loans, for a fee or agreed upon interest, which will enrich the fund not the company. Planing for the future takes investment, and the bigger the plan the more earning potential it has.
It is doubtful that social security or Medicare will be there for us when we can no longer work, and living so long without any health maintenance plan in this field will likely mean that we will have substantial health problems when we are older. We need to begin to prepare now for our individual futures, but we must do this collectively to insure our successful investment in our future.
The U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training is the official body that certifies all federally recognized skilled craft training programs. The UAFT is developing a program to meet the rigid requirements of this organization. This program will consist of a ten workbook correspondence section, which will be a home study (or hotel study) course. This may develop into a set of videos to accompany the workbooks. With each workbook will be a set of exercises that will be completed and returned for grading. When these exercises have been successfully completed a test will be required for passage of that work book. With the successfully passage of each test the next workbook will be sent out. This will also be accompanied by a minimum of 4,000 hours (approximately two and a half working years) of on-the-job experience to complete the course and receive your certificate from the Dept. of Labor.
This program will be administered for all new people entering into the CRM business through the Union. People with no previous paid experience in CRM will be required to complete the full course to receive the certificate. Recent college graduates and people coming in with only a field school as previous experience will be given credit for the work hours of the field school, as part of the on-the-job-training (OJT) requirement. This credit will not exceed more than 160 hours of OJT credit. People with previous work experience in the field will be given OJT credit for their years in the field, but under federal guidelines that credit can not exceed half of the total OJT requirement of the course. A working limit of around 2,000 hours of credit for previous experience will be used.
New Technicians will be referred to as Apprentices until the successful completion of their program when they will become Journeymen Archaeological Technicians. Experienced people in the program will be referred to as Provisional Journeymen until the course had been successfully completed, at which time the provisional status will be dropped. (The term Journeyperson may be applied by a candidate if that person so desires). Experienced Provisional Journeymen will also be asked to lend a hand in field instruction of new apprentices.
The purpose of the correspondence is not intended to tell people the "Right Way" or the "Only Way" to do CRM work. The course will present several different methods being used in the field today, and it will be updated from time to time. The intent is for every technician to be able to perform a variety of field methods for different employers with the shortest possible relearning period at the beginning of a project. The Union will, however make judgments on the wise application and time effectiveness of different field methods to maximize the efficiency of field efforts. Unfortunately we can not force our employers to do the smartest thing in order to save a site.
All Journeymen will be required to keep themselves current with advances in the field by continuing education in the area of correspondence training. This requirement can be fulfilled through additional (special topic) workbooks, Annotated Reviews of readings in regional archaeology, or in developing instructional courses in specialized studies for fellow journeymen (i. e. residue analysis, lithic or ceramic studies, G.I.S. applications, and other applicable topics which are beyond the scope of the apprentice program). This work will help keep all of us on top of the field.
Federal law makes special provisions for Unions that operate Hiring of Referral services for their membership. Unions with Hiring Halls can make contract provisions that state an employer will take people form the hiring hall first (for a new project) before he hires any one else. Also Unions with Hiring Halls can make contract provisions for each new employee (after the hiring list has been exhausted) to become a union member after seven working days on the job. These provisions help support the union and its membership in the job market, but the primary intent of the Hall is to find work for the union membership. For a Company to use the Hiring Hall's referral list, they must have a contract with the union. The Union will not give out the names of union members to anyone for any reason unless we have a contract with them.
Salting: Another job service the union is running is actually an organizing effort, but it is still a way to find out about field work opportunities. The Union is compiling a list of active contractors around the country, and tracking the federal contracts they receive through the Commerce Business Daily (CBD). The union will be announcing these jobs so that you can send them a resume (do not mention your union affiliation). You will get work, the union will be putting people in the field to spread the news. This practice is known as "Salting" and is being used in the construction industry to organize nonunion companies. Some "Salts" are active organizers, while others are simply there to support the union if an election is called (you can decide how active you would like to be). If the employer is not paying Prevailing Wage, by working on the job you will be establishing a financial claim against them which will also help the UAFT unionize that company. Information on this program will be announced in the UAFT Newsletter.
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The Committee on Prevailing Wage Compliance (CPWC): this committee is using the power of the Freedom of Information Act to investigate federal contracts for SCA violations, and follow up SCA violation complaints for our fellow members.
The Committee for Fair Treatment of Employees (CFTE) is collecting stories of abuse, and violation of the safety and civil rights of field techs around the country. These 'camp fire" stories can be collected in written form or on tape. They are needed to document our experience in CRM, and demonstrate the foul treatment that field techs have suffered since the beginnings of CRM in 1968.
The Workers Safety Committee is compiling information on OSHA regulations in order to create a Field Safety Manual for CRM field work. this committee is also working on instructions for the most effective way to ensure your safety at the job site, and to turn in your employer for OSHA violations.
Regional organizing committees are forming all over the country, and if you would like information on participating with, or chairing, one of these please write the national office for more information. Along with these, temporary "Job Specific" organizing committees will be formed with each new job, especially on longer jobs (pipelines and highway jobs, and mitigations). You can help with these committees and still remain anonymous. If you would like to form a committee on your job, go right ahead, its your right. If you do, let the national office know and we can send you organizing material and give you legal advice (and help if the crew wants to call for an NLRB election).
The UAFT holds an annual National Meeting at the Bear Heaven campsite in the Monongahela National Forest, near Elkins, West Virginia, over Labor Day weekend. It is a public, primitive, campsite and there is no fee. The campsite is in a beautiful location in the mountains and is easy to get to. The site has good well water and clean outhouses. The meeting is an unofficial event which is not officially sponsored by the UAFT, it is operated more on the lines of a "Rainbow" gathering. Special workshops and meetings will be held, but there is no charge for any of the activities, and anyone is welcome to attend. Announcements about this gathering will appear in the UAFT Newsletter several months before the event.
The UAFT Newsletter is a publication of the office of the Recording Secretary and is made available to the UAFT membership on an annual, quarterly, subscription. The UAFT Newsletter is intended to be an informative and thought provoking medium which will promote a lively discourse on issues important to the Archaeological Technicians in the CRM community. The UAFT Calendar runs from January 1st to December 31st (surprise). All annual announcements, circulars, and subscriptions to the UAFT Newsletter are based on this calendar. If a member subscribes to any of these after the first of the year, they will receive back issues of that item dating back to January 1 of that year and their subscription will end on December 31 of the same year. Its simpler to keep track of that way.
United Archaeological Field Technicians
3135 West Street, Box B
Weirton WV 26062
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