Posted by: nedpelger | December 24, 2009

Banta Tile: A Cautionary Tale

Banta Tile and Marble installs some of the best looking stone in our region. They put the granite counters in our home kitchen. I’ve enjoyed working with them since I started in the business in 1981. They started in 1929.They are a good solid company who does excellent work.

Now they are no more. Lancaster Online reported that a US District Judge just signed a writ of execution for $2.9M for Local 5 of the Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers against Banta. The immediate reaction, of course, is for Banta to declare bankruptcy and shut down the company. Their payroll of up to 50 employees now will look for other things to do.

Apparently Banta worked on a couple of union projects years ago and signed contracts without paying too much attention to some of the clauses. Almost anyone who runs a construction company has rushed through contracts at times. These clauses, apparently, required Banta to continue to pay into the Local 5 of the Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers pension program even though their employees weren’t members of the union and would never collect.

Frankly, I wouldn’t have thought that sort of thing was even possible, much less legal. The law, though, need not follow common sense.

I remember working for Cal High of High Construction in my early days as a PM. We were exploding with growth and always promised quick completion schedules. I couldn’t find the construction craftsman to get our commitments met and told Cal we could just get some fellows from the union hall. Quickly he squared me up about that step having many consequences beyond my immediate needs. He told me to figure out another way and I did.  As I read about Banta Tile today, I realized I’d received yet another great lesson from Calvin G. High.

So the take-away on this piece? No matter what you do in construction, don’t rush into contract agreements without understanding the potential consequences.

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