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June 13, 2008

With primaries over, unions start planning fall campaign

Bad news for the master sergeants: Today's young workers are not created in your mold

Bigger cancer center starts taking shape on the 'Hill'

Laborers launch campaign to get America moving on infrastructure construction

Marathon job fair another step toward start of $1.9 billion project

News Briefs


With 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 their
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 auto engines.

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 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.


Bad 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 of apprentice… 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 to do;

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 our minds.

" 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 at




Bigger 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 projects.

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.


Laborers 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 announced.

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 sound basis.

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 crowded skies.

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 repairs.

"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," he declared.

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 bipartisan support.

"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 stated.



Marathon 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 apprenticeship schools."

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.


News Briefs

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 (

"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," Peretto explained.

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


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