June 13, 2008
over, unions start planning fall campaign
Bad news for
the master sergeants: Today's young workers are not created in
center starts taking shape on the 'Hill'
campaign to get America moving on infrastructure construction
fair another step toward start of $1.9 billion project
primaries over, unions start planning fall campaign
By Mark Gruenberg
PAI Staff Writer
WASHINGTON (PAI) - With the Democratic and Republican primaries
over, and with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
their parties' presumed presidential nominees, unions are turning
attention to the fall campaign.
And that's even though the AFL-CIO is not expected, as a group,
to endorse Obama much before mid-June,
more than a week after a combination of the Illinoisan's win
in the Montana primary and super-delegate gains gave him the
Democratic nod on June 3 over Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) in
their hard-fought battle.
The Teamsters will campaign nationwide but concentrate on
key states, union President James Hoffa told PAI after the June
4 trade press conference. Asked to name them, he responded: "Ohio,
Ohio, Ohio." The Teamsters will also focus their efforts
on the Midwestern-Northeastern industrial belt, he added.
"We'll motivate our members. We'll motivate their wives.
We'll motivate their families. We'll motivate their grandmothers.
We'll motivate their grandfathers," Hoffa said with a smile,
to get out and campaign and vote for Teamsters-backed candidates,
including Obama. "We'll have thousands of people in every
state. I get up on a high-low and tell them: 'You're not voting
for Obama. You're voting for yourselves.' "
Once the AFL-CIO endorses Obama - it already launched and
upgraded its anti-McCain website, focusing on his anti-worker
record - the federation can start massing ground troops for the
fall. That's separate from its non-partisan education, registration
and get-out-the-vote campaign, budgeted now at $54.3 million.
That drive's cost may rise to as much as $60 million, AFL-CIO
Political Committee Chairman Gerald McEntee, the AFSCME president,
has said in the past.
Among other unions. the Mine Workers started a massive education
blitz of their 105,000 members and retirees, showing them how
Obama's economic issue stands agree with their own, particularly
on health care.
The Steel Workers plan tens of thousands ofworksite visits
by a corps of political activists, armed with information about
Obama's positions, particularly on fair trade as opposed to free
trade and on revitalizing U.S. manufacturing through high-paying
- and unionized - jobs in "green" industries, such
as making solar cells,
industrial-size windmills to power electric turbines, and hybrid
The Service Employees, one of the nation's largest, decided
at their convention June 2 to use $85 million for the fall campaign,
out of the $150 million they allocated for politics in the next
12 months. Their political plan centers around holding candidates
at all levels accountable for creating and backing a system of
universal, comprehensive and affordable national health care
- type unspecified.
Building trades unions individually were all over the map
in endorsing Clinton, Obama and John Edwards during the primary
season. But with the Democratic primary finally over, they're
all expected to fall in line behind Obama.
"We will build a case for taking back our house - the
White House - and
strengthening our position in the halls of Congress," said
AFL-CIO Building Trades Department President Mark Ayers to delegates
at the trades' convention in April. "Your work paid unexpected
dividends in the last election to the extent it stopped the scurrilous
attacks on unions and our members, and you are to be commended.
But the job isn't finished.
"It is crucial that we finish what we started in 2006
so our friends in Congress have the necessary majorities to actually
get pro-worker legislation passed. "We have taken some hard
shots from the White House and Bush's cronies for eight long
and difficult years. But with more hard work...you can be in
position to finish the job you started in '06, with the thrill
of victory as opposed to the agony of defeat." Workers"
"passion for politics" and "hope for a better
tomorrow is the foundation upon which this movement has been
built," Ayers said.
news for the master sergeants: Today's young workers are not
created in your mold
By Mark Breslin
(Another in a series)
Master Sergeants. Past Hall of Famers. Resident Experts. Senior
Alumni. Founding Fathers and True Originals. Let me be the one
to break the bad news to you all. On the topic of the new breed
The new breed of apprentice is NOT going
to be you. The new breed of apprentice is NOT going to learn
the same as you did.
The skills, technologies and relevance of his or her instruction
will be completely different from yours. Technology is their
life and it is likely not yours. The market is totally different
than when you came up in the trades. They don't care what you
did or did not do. To them, you are old and barely relevant.
Every hard-earned stripe on your sleeve means little to them.
Do not get angry. Do not give up. Do not stop trying to understand.
Toughest of all? Our Baby Boomer Generation work ethic (that
we simply expect others to adopt) and how we resent it badly
when it is rejected. All of these things are road signs of our
age. Of our resistance to meeting them half-way. Of our stubbornness.
Of our foundational values eroding before our very eyes. Oh yeah,
and did I mention they cannot follow in our footsteps and we
need to adapt?
The truth is that they cannot, will not and SHOULD NOT follow
in our footsteps - and it is time we accept the fact and adapt.
Many apprentice instructors (over the age of 45 especially)
have serious biases about how training MUST be done based on
their own personal experiences. Those experiences are often 20
or more years old. Many have a major predisposition to having
the perfect "well rounded" apprentice who can do and
be what they were. Many want to cover things the same way, in
the same sequence with the same emphasis that they did. For us
to succeed we cannot clone the people we were. And so, we must
create miracles with what raw materials we have. Remember, diamonds
begin as coal.
Here are four things that we are collectively going to need
1. Accept technology like never before. Is your union recruiting
on My Space? Can I take a virtual tour of your training center
on streaming video? Do you have plans for distance learning yet?
What happens when you type in the name of your craft into You
Tube? If you can't answer these questions affirmatively now,
then you are a buggy whip waiting to happen
2. Eliminate old line or traditional barriers and artificial
numerical limits to indenture. Simply take the total number of
journeyman attrition per year, and add that many apprentices
EVERY YEAR PLUS the average number of drop outs from that class
for the next four to five years. Simply put, the numbers you
are using now are probably based on old school practices and
not real numerical analysis. Anything less is a membership hemorrhage.
3. Embrace specialization. Today's marketplace demands super
high skill or super high production. The dollars paid do not
always correlate. Accept the fact that we may need to bring in
many non-union semi-skilled who did not follow the "holy
path" of apprenticeship; and we cannot judge them or look
down on them as a result. We are fighting for our lives in the
marketplace and it is not time for philosophical discussions
or exclusionary practices.
4. Meet them where they are, not where you used to be. Less
likelihood of you getting an ulcer or wanting to frequently whack
them on the head.
As a Baby Boomer like many of you I feel the pain. In my Survival
of the Fittest speeches to more than 4000 apprentices across
the US already in 2007 I can tell you I feel frustration almost
every time in seeing the faces and potential I know I cannot
reach. But also I know for me to be successful I must put aside
my personal bias; my personal story and history and see them
for who they are; young men and women with a world of potential
and a totally different set of values and beliefs that I must
understand and adapt to. And despite the discomfort, it is with
pride that we can embark on this ongoing story of raising human
potential and doing the right thing; with only one thought on
" Hey Gunny, pass me a drink
Mark Breslin is a trainer and author specializing in labor-management
challenges and solutions. He is the author of the recently published
Attitudes and Behaviors: Survival of the Fittest curriculum for
apprentice training centers. The curriculum is now being used
by union training centers, and has been established as standard
course programming by other International Unions and apprenticeship
programs. Instructional material including books, CDs, workbooks,
instructor guides and support media information is available
cancer center starts taking shape on the 'Hill'
GRAND RAPIDS - Eight years ago, the Van Andel Institute opened
and became the founding tenant of what's called "Hospital
Hill," "Health Hill" or even "Pill Hill"
- a formal name hasn't been established. The collection of medical,
educational and research buildings along a steep hill on Michigan
Street on the edge of the downtown area is currently undergoing
about $1 billion in construction activity, spread among several
One of those projects is the Van Andel Phase II Expansion,
an eight-story, $170 million project that will create more room
for the cancer research at the existing 162,000 square-foot center.
The expansion, at 240,000 square feet, will triple the institute's
laboratory space, and allow them to broaden their research focus
to include neurological disorders and chronic illnesses.
"We're expanding our work to include vital research into
Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other chronic diseases. And we're
stepping up efforts to translate research findings into therapies
that will treat and even prevent disease," said Van Andel
Research Institute Director George Vande Woude.
The institute currently employs 800 researchers and administrative
staff, and the addition will allow for about 550 additional jobs.
Hunt Construction Corp. and Owens Ames Kimball are leading
the construction team. The addition, scheduled for completion
late next year, is located west of the existing facility fronting
North Division Ave. and bordering Crescent Street.
"Phase II is a continuation of our vision to have an
impact locally on education, regionally on the economy and internationally
on life sciences," said Chairman & CEO David Van Andel.
He said during the groundbreaking last year: "The landscape
on Michigan Hill looked a little different 10 years ago. My father
looked at that landscape and imagined a thriving center for biomedical
research, health care and the life science industry. That vision
was possible only because he also saw a community willing to
embrace new ideas."
Some of the other recent investments on the hill include Michigan
State University's $70 million medical school, the $78 million
Michigan Street Development, the $100 million Lemmen-Holton Cancer
Pavilion, the $90 million Secchia Center expansion, and the $250
million Helen DeVos Children's Hospital by Spectrum Health.
A New York Times article on the project called the 1.2 million
square-feet of new or recent construction "a stunning array
of buildings," and citing construction executives, said
"just a handful of similar medical development projects
rival Health Hill in scope and cost."
REINFORCING ROD on a column that will contain
elevators and support the Van Andel Institute addition is installed
by the rodbusting team of Adam Moore, Noland Yost, Larry Gilbert,
Dave Elzinga and foreman John Dobrowski. All are Iron Workers
Local 340 members working for Bee Steel.
THE VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE'S $170 million expansion
project will create more room for their cancer research.
launch campaign to get America moving on infrastructure construction
WASHINGTON (PAI) - Calling rebuilding America a bipartisan
and nonpartisan issue, the Laborers have launched a massive grass-roots
campaign to mobilize both unionists and citizens in favor of
dedicated, massive investment in reconstructing the nation's
airports, highways and railroads, union President Terry O'Sullivan
O'Sullivan unveiled the drive in a May speech to the "America
2050" symposium, hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center, a
D.C. think tank. He said that without such reconstruction, the
U.S. would fall behind economically as our goods would be unable
to move - and workers would be unable to get to jobs.
The Laborers International Union of North America's (LIUNA)
"Petition To Build America" includes full-page ads
and broadcast spots, first aimed at "opinion makers"
in the D.C. area, but then extending to other cities, starting
with Denver, O'Sullivan said. Its aim to is to garner at least
1 million signatures on petitions to lawmakers and the incoming
administration next year to re-think how the U.S. goes about
financing its infrastructure - and putting that funding on a
Right now, roads are paid for by gas taxes. The Highway Trust
Fund, which gets those revenues, faces a large shortfall, he
noted, because higher gas prices lead to less driving, less fuel
usage and lower tax revenues. And airport and airway expansion
and improvements are paid for by "user fees": Ticket
taxes for passengers and fuel surcharges for airlines and private
planes. Freight railroads do not get federal funds.
But, as the National Air Traffic Controllers Association has
pointed out, those revenues are falling short, too, particularly
for investing in the next generation of airplane tracking systems.
Those global positioning satellite-based systems would replace
1950s-era radar and allow more efficient use of the nation's
Those concerns, and the I-35 bridge collapse in the Twin Cities
last year, were all on O'Suliivan's mind, as large symptoms of
the problem the nation faces.
"We can't be so tied to the past that we are unable to
realize that the future will require a different approach. As
we move forward to specific legislation we have to be willing
to question our current model for investment. When it comes to
highways and transit, does it make sense for America to solely
rely on the gas tax, a user fee, to maintain the basics of its
transportation system?" he said. Citing engineering groups,
O'Sullivan says the U.S. needs at least $1.6 trillion in infrastructure
"Transportation in America today is a basic necessity.
Do we finance our police
departments through a user fee? Our schoolteachers? America is
eager for a bigger solution and vision
and LIUNA is tired
of patching bridges that we could proudly fix or build,"
O'Sullivan frankly said that more infrastructure construction
would provide more high-paying jobs for members of his 500,000-person
union and the rest of the building trades. But he pitched his
plan to a higher need and used his D.C. speech to appeal for
"We're going to need to build a political movement that
isn't Republican or Democrat, right wing or left wing, not big
city or small town, not East Coast or West Coast, but a movement
that is practical enough, big enough and smart enough to get
the job done. At LIUNA, we're up for the challenge," he
job fair another step toward start of $1.9 billion project
Check off another requirement as "done" in advance
of construction on the Marathon Petroleum Co.'s $1.9 billion
Detroit Heavy Oil Upgrade Project.
To conform with City of Detroit guidelines, all building trades
crafts that will have work at the plant took part in a "construction
trades opportunity event," a joint effort sponsored by the
unions, Marathon, and the Detroit Workforce Development Department.
"Detroit's Executive Order 2007-1 requires a ratio of
50 percent plus one of Detroit residents on construction projects
in the city," said Ed Coffey, business agent for the Michigan
Building and Construction Trades Council. "Marathon and
the building trades have made a commitment to try to comply with
the rule, so along with the city we put the word out through
the media that this job fair was going to take place. It was
very well received, we referred a lot of people to the various
An estimated 1,600 job-seekers attended the day-long event,
seeking information on getting employment at the plant during
construction. They were given information about, and referred
to, the 15 apprenticeship programs sponsored by Detroit-area
building trades unions.
"The feedback was generally very positive," said
Marathon Communications Manager Chris Fox. "Our goal was
to bring together the city's workforce development team and the
Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council to enable greater
understanding of how interested workers might be able to participate
in the project. The job fair was successful."
The Detroit Heavy Oil Upgrade Project is close to starting,
but final permits to allow construction to proceed are still
being processed by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
The project will add new equipment at Marathon's Detroit refinery
- Michigan's only petroleum refinery - to process heavier, more
viscous Canadian crude oil. This project will increase the refinery's
capacity from approximately 102,000 barrels per day to 115,000
bpd, equaling an increase of more than 400,000 gallons per day
of transportation fuel.
The project also will require a new section of pipeline in
Monroe County and a portion of Wayne County to deliver additional
supplies of Canadian crude to the refinery in southwest Detroit.
This new section of 24-inch pipeline, approximately 29 miles
long, will replace an existing 16-inch section of active pipeline
that currently crosses portions of Monroe and Wayne counties.
Coffey said at peak employment, 1,200 Hardhats are expected
to be employed on the first shift. The construction process is
expected to take two and a half years.
Michigan's only petroleum refinery - the Marathon
plant in southwest Detroit - moved closer to undergoing a $1.9
billion renovation last month. Very few construction projects
in Michigan's history have approached that price tag.
New options for getting jobless $
LANSING - The State of Michigan has begun offering unemployed
workers two new electronic options for receiving their unemployment
benefits. The new options are debit cards and direct deposit.
"These new payment options will improve service to unemployed
workers in the state, and help us to better manage costs,"
Keith W. Cooley, director of Michigan's Department of Labor &
Economic Growth, said.
The Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) expects most workers
will opt to collect their unemployment benefits electronically,
though they may still elect to receive payments by mail. Unemployed
workers may apply for benefits by telephone, 1-866-500-0017,
or through the Internet (www.michigan.gov/uia).
"The debit card and direct deposit options will be faster
and more secure and cost efficient than the current practice
of mailing paper checks," Acting UIA Director Chris Peretto
said. "But for those who prefer paper unemployment checks,
we'll continue to offer them by mail for a period of time."
Unemployment benefits will be added to workers' debit cards
or deposited into their savings or checking account within two
or three days following the workers' bi-weekly certification
of eligibility through the agency's automated MARVIN system.
In most cases, Peretto said, the benefits will be available to
workers more quickly than if paid by paper check.
He added that the new payment options will also save the state
money. "Last year, UIA issued nearly 3.4 million unemployment
checks, and we project these electronic options will save the
agency about $1.6 million annually in postage and paper costs,"
The Michigan UI debit card can be used for purchases at any
merchant that accepts Visa. The card can also be used to receive
cash back from automated teller machines (ATMs) and at Visa-member
banks and credit unions. Cardholders may encounter some fees,
depending on how and where they use the card.
Workers currently receiving jobless benefits should call the
above number if they want to change their payment option, by
selecting option No. 2 after they call. Starting June 2, if a
worker files a claim but does not select a benefit payment method,
he/she will automatically receive a debit card. Workers can change
their payment option whenever they choose.
Lansing proposes $1 billion coal fired power plant
On May 27 the Lansing Board of Water & Light announced planning
for a $1 billion coal fired electrical generating station next
to an existing BWL facility in Delta Twp.
The 250-megawatt facility is to burn low-sulfur coal as well
as biomass products, such as crop waste, paper, and wood. A series
of 30-year and 40-year bonds is to be issued to finance construction.
According to BWL officials, applications for permits to build
the plant are to be filed with the Michigan Department of Environmental
Quality by the end of this year. If no obstacles are encountered,
ground could be broken sometime in 2010.
The new facility is to replace the BWL's Eckert Station, a
325-megawatt plant the BWL is expected to phase out sometime
between 2017 and 2025. Parts of that plant date back to the 1920s.
Currently the Michigan DEQ is considering applications for
five coal powered electrical generation stations scattered across
the state. (From Michigan Construction News.com)