Ashmont Development Source of Labor Tension Earlier This Year

The six-story building that burned Wednesday in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood was the subject of controversy earlier this year when union workers picketed the developer's Ashmont home. 

The NBC Boston Investigators have obtained a copy of an email that Jim Keefe, co-owner of Trinity Financial, the developer of the Treadmark residential and retail development project, apologizing to his neighbors and laying out his point of view of his company's relationship with the city's powerful construction labor unions. 

“For many years, all of our projects employed 100 percent union labor and we enjoyed excellent relationships with the building trades,” Keefe wrote. “Over the past five years, however, the amount of resources available to create mixed income housing has remained essentially constant, while the demand for these resources and cost of construction have increased dramatically. For us, the diminished resources and escalating construction costs have severely undermined our ability to employ 100 percent union labor while continuing the work we do in creating affordable housing.”

He described the protest as “harmless,” but apologized for inconvenience, noting that the protesters’ signs “are probably saying nasty things about me personally and/or about my company, Trinity Financial.” 

He said Trinity wanted to use all union labor for Treadmark, at 1971-1977 Dorchester Ave., a former tire shop he is redeveloping into an 83-unit mixed use affordable- and market-rate building. But, subsidies did not come through, and “certain unions” did not “honor their commitment to give us some relief on wages, work rules, etc.” 

Trinity has “a clear preference for union contractors and sub-contractors, when feasible,” he continued, and noted that 70 percent of the Treadmark project is done with union labor. 

The company said in an email that it considers the fire accidental and that neither it nor Keefe had heard of any threats against the project. 

The NBC Boston Investigators also looked into the multiple contractors that worked on the building. State records shows they did have the required state licenses and proper permits. However, one of the top contractors, Cranshaw, had three OSHA violations in 2014 on a separate project in east Boston for not having enough fire extinguishers or inspections of their safety program. 

They were fined $8,400. 

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