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June 27, 2008

Portable toilet bill held up in House; it's time to speak up

Nowhere but up for airport job

NMU's Hunt Hall the latest to get renovated

What can we learn from the 50-Year-Old Apprentice?

Local 80 photographer shoots Red Wings' 'joyride'

News Briefs


Portable toilet bill held up in House; it's time to speak up

By Marty Mulcahy
Managing Editor

LANSING - House Bill 5064, a measure which would increase the number of portable toilets on construction sites - and require the nearby placement of hand sanitizers or washing stations - has been stopped up in the Michigan House.

The reason: "We just didn't have the votes," said House Majority Floor Leader Steve Tobocman (D-Detroit) on June 17. "In order for this bill to pass we're still about two dozen votes short on the Democratic side, and right now we don't have any Republicans who will vote for it." The bill was "postponed temporarily" on June 11 following a motion by Tobocman, and that was its status at our press time.

House Bill 5064 - Sanitary Facilities on Construction Sites - would increase the quantity and quality of toilet facilities on construction sites. The bill would increase the number of toilets to one for every 10 workers. Current state regulations call for a minimum requirement of one toilet for a jobsite with 1-20 workers, two toilets for sites with 21-40 workers, and an additional toilet for each 40 workers after that. A higher ratio of toilets increases accessibility and means they're likely to remain cleaner, longer.

State workplace regulations for hand-washing stations on construction sites are currently limited to requiring their use for employees engaged in the application of potentially harmful contaminants like herbicides, or insecticides or coatings. If an alcohol-based hand sanitizing solution or hand-washing station is present on a Michigan construction site, it's only there because of the goodwill of the employers or due to a very rare collective bargaining clause.

For contractors, the economic impact of HB 5064 is relatively slight. According the Michigan House legislative analysis on the bill, the typical monthly rental cost for a standard portable toilet runs between $85-$95. Sink stations are about $185 a month, hand sanitizers, $100. On the high end, a 16-foot restroom trailer costs about $1,250 a month.

Some employers used economic considerations to argue against the bill, but that doesn't appear to be the main consideration for it being stalled. "I think we (state House Democrats) have moved forward a number of measures the business community doesn't like," Tobocman said. "There have been a number of bills where employers are on one side and labor is on the other, and this one may have been caught up in that."

The bill's sponsor is state Rep. Mark Meadows (D-East Lansing), who built property Up North last year and realized that construction workers had nowhere to relieve themselves, except in the woods. A subcommittee vote to improve the portable toilet situation was adopted along party lines, with majority Democrats in favor and minority Republicans opposed.

Last month, Meadows expressed confidence that the measure would pass the Democratic-controlled House, but the climate changed. A full House vote on the measure needs 56 "yes" votes to win passage in the 110-member body, but drew 58 "no" votes in the final vote this month. A number of lawmakers ran for cover by not voting on the new rule. Meadows and Tobocman said editorials in Detroit-based publications pressured some lawmakers to stop legislation like HB 5064, which were deemed anti-business.

"It was characterized as a jobs killer," Meadows said. "Some of the homebuilders said they wouldn't support lawmakers who supported this law. And some Republicans said they were against this rule because it didn't follow the regulatory process, which is baloney because you never hear anyone on that side of the aisle who ever say that government regulation is a good thing."

Both Meadows and Tobocman said calls, letters and e-mails to state lawmakers are needed if HB 5064 is going to move. "That kind of pressure is certainly going to be helpful," Meadows said.

Added Tobocman: "It's difficult if you can't get a single Republican vote," Tobocman said. "You certainly should ask your members to contact their representative. If this is going to pass, we really need them to work on the Republican members."

And there are no shortage of Democratic lawmakers who also need to hear from their constituents.

It's your move…

Legislation to improve sanitary conditions on Michigan construction sites simply isn't going to move without pressure from the state's construction workers.

Before House Bill 5064 fades into obscurity, it's time to act. Our readers need to contact their legislators - now.

The first hurdle is in the Michigan House, where the bill does not have enough votes. If you have Internet access, log on to

Click on the "Representatives" tab in the upper left corner. If you know who your state representative is, you can look at the list and immediately send him or her an e-mail expressing your support for House Bill 5064 - and make sure you mention that bill number. Even if your state representative is a Democrat, don't assume that he or she is supportive of, or even aware of the bill. That site also has phone numbers for state representatives.

You don't have Internet access? Ask a neighbor or a nephew who does to look up your representative's phone number or address for you. Or call your city or township clerk's office and get the name, phone number and address of your state representative and senator.

If House Bill 5064 does clear the House of Representatives, it will go to the Michigan Senate, which will be a tougher hurdle because it has a Republican majority.

Still, it's never to early to let them know you think this bill is important.

Click on then click on "Find Your Senator." There are several links to contact your lawmaker.


Nowhere but up for airport job

By Marty Mulcahy
Managing Editor

GRAND RAPIDS - It's called the "Ramp Up" project - and indeed a good portion of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport's new parking ramp structure is up, and the signature wavy canopy that will cover pedestrians entering the terminal is taking shape, too.

"It's been a great job, there have been no major issues, and we have a great workforce," said Ryan Anderson, assistant project manager for the Christman Company, which is the general contractor on the project. "We had a harsh winter, but a pretty mild spring, so that really helped us."

Ground was broken on the $118 million construction project on Sept. 6 last year. It will include a new 4,900-space, four-level covered parking ramp and pedestrian sky bridges connecting the ramp to the terminal. In addition to the new canopy cover at the entrance of the terminal, the job will involve new utility work and roadway infrastructure.

In January, the project was dominated by dozens of 35-foot-tall reinforced concrete columns poking up out of the frozen ground, ready to support the new parking deck. Six months later, much of the structure for the deck is in place, although much more concrete remains to be poured in the cast-in-place, post-tension deck.

"Overall the biggest challenge is doing all this work in a fully operational airport, coordinating with the airport and making sure it's a safe environment for the workers here on the job as well as the patrons," said Anderson. "So far everything has gone well."

According to the airport, the work will also "address a number of customer concerns," including more close-in parking, covered parking, protection from the elements, and improved rental car facilities.

"Gerald R. Ford International Airport is the second busiest airport in the state and among the top 15 percent most active airports in the country," said Kent County Department of Aeronautics Executive Director Jim Koslosky, during the project's groundbreaking. "We are the first and last impression many people have of Grand Rapids and Michigan's West Coast, and we work hard to make sure that impression is a good one."

The airport currently serves approximately two million passengers annually. This project is expected to be complete in 2009.

THE FRAMEWORK for the canopy leading to the passenger entrance for the Gerald R. Ford Airport in Grand Rapids is assembled by Local 340 iron workers employed by Steelcon.

A FOUR-INCH PVC floor drain is installed in the new parking deck at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport by apprentice Matt Bilotti, left, and journeyman Steve Fox of Plumbers, Pipe Fitters and Service Trades Local 174, working for Riteway.




NMU's Hunt Hall the latest to get renovated

MARQUETTE - While the students are away the building trades will… work.

Over the last few summers on the Northern Michigan University campus, building trades workers have been part of the routine of gutting and renovating one of the university's Quad II complex residence halls.

This year's target is 65,000 square-foot Hunt Hall, which is undergoing an $8 million renovation, led by Closner Construction, Dressler Mechanical and S & T Electrical.

"The building is more or less being gutted," said Brandon Sager, owner's representative for NMU. "The project is going well, and we're even just a little ahead of schedule. This is the fourth one, so everyone pretty well has the sequence down pat."

In recent years the residence hall renovation work has included Magers Hall (completed in 2005), Meyland Hall (2006) and Van Antwerp Hall (2007). The halls are similar in size and were each built in the early 1960s.

The renovated Hunt hall will get a new slightly pitched roof (replacing a flat roof) and all new interior finishes, doors and windows, as well as new electrical and mechanical systems. A new elevator will be added. Three-story additions will be added to house sunrooms at the three main entrances. The project is averaging 80 to 120 construction workers, toiling on two shifts. The job began on May 7 when the student-residents went home, and is expected to be complete by Aug. 1.

LEVELING A DRAIN in a dorm room at NMU's Hunt Hall is Todd Diedrich of Plumbers & Fitters Local 111 and Dressler Mechanical. Photo by Jack Deo


What can we learn from the 50-Year-Old Apprentice?

By Mark Breslin

I am 47 years old. It shows. A little slower. A little more scalp. After 35 years of working, I look at my life and career more often backwards than forwards. This is why I was so surprised when I met The 50-Year-Old Apprentice. A guy who is looking forward.

The first time I kind of laughed. I thought this seemingly old guy was a one-shot deal. I figured if you make presentations to tens of thousands of apprentices at industry nights, schools and gatherings each year you are going to meet every kind of person. Every race, creed, color, gender and even age.

But no. He is not an exception at all. He is everywhere I go. He is there in almost every audience I address across the U.S. and Canada.

In Oakland, California. A little weathered but grinning and seemingly excited.

In Dayton, Ohio. In better shape than half the 20-year-olds.

In Atlantic City. Taking notes.

Chicago. Charleston. Akron. Atlanta. Madison. Concord. Seattle. Anchorage. Las Vegas. Ontario. Los Angeles.

O.K. so now he's got my attention.

So I look a little closer and find thousands of apprentices in their forties standing right behind him. And tens of thousands of apprentices in their mid-to-late thirties behind them.

And all this makes me start to think that this Fifty Year Old Apprentice might have something to teach me instead of the other way around.

He has made me start thinking about how serious a guy in his later thirties to 50 is going to be about work and life. He has made me start thinking about how people at that time of life are more likely to have formed an excellent work ethic. He reminded me that age has no bearing on the desire to sustain good lives and secure families with a total commitment.

In fact why is a 35-, 40- or even 50-year old apprentice any less of a prospect than a 19-year old? Why are we at high school job fairs if our ranks are filling up with a completely different and possibly better resource? Who would you bet your project, company or industry on? What are the trade-offs?…Wisdom vs. energy? Experience vs. long-term service prospect? Work ethic & life skills vs. raw talent? Maybe it is time we start thinking outside the traditional views and limits of age and apprenticeship.

I know that the construction industry can be rough on one's body over the years. And certainly the prospects of age and health have a bearing on work performance. But for labor and management to disproportionately focus time and resources on the recruitment of very young talent might be a mistake.

The average age of an apprentice in the U.S. today is 28 years old. Just about the time that a marriage and family come along. Is it a coincidence that our candidates start looking for a real career then? And as life continues most of us learn not to take an opportunity for granted. We learn that second guessing oneself at a later date can be a very expensive lesson. And thus with each passing year one of our novice apprentices adds, he or she becomes more appreciative of the remarkable opportunity granted to them.

Just think about it. I wouldn't have unless I had met him over and over. The Fifty Year Old Apprentice and those thousands that stand behind him now.

Mark Breslin is a strategist and author specializing in labor-management challenges. He is the author of Survival of the Fittest, Organize or Die and coming in 2008 Alpha Dog. He addresses more than 50,000 labor and business leaders each year in North America. Coming soon a new Breslin Book for apprentice instruction : Million Dollar Blue Collar: Managing Your Earnings for Life and Work Success.
More on his work and profile is available at



Local 80 photographer shoots Red Wings' 'joyride'

By Marty Mulcahy
Managing Editor

DETROIT - Nearly two weeks after the Detroit Red Wings beat the Pittsburgh Penguins to win the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs, team photographer Dave Reginek's job still wasn't done.

"It's been non-stop, and I expect this is probably going to go on all summer," he said. "What an experience. It's been a joyride."

The 30-year member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 80 has been moonlighting as the Red Wings' team photographer since the 2003 season. Readers may recall we profiled Dave and his very interesting second job back in 2005, and we caught up with him again nearly two weeks after the Wings clinched the Cup on June 4. He's been a very, very busy man.

"I've been with the Cup nine out of the last 11 days," he said. "I've been on a hard, dead run since we won the Cup." Reginek, whose day job is a computer-aided designer has been allowed to pursue his second job with a leave of absence from Danboise Mechanical,

As team photographer, Reginek, 49, shoots hockey action at various vantage points at Joe Louis Arena during the regular season. His job also includes run-of-the-mill publicity photos and award presentations.

"But shooting the regular season and the Stanley Cup Finals; it's like night and day," Reginek said. "The pressure to get images is immense."

Normally he works alone, but during the Finals, Dave worked with another photographer and a photo editor, who helped with the laborious task of cropping and uploading the digital photos. Dave figured that in a typical Finals game between the Wings and Penguins, he took about 1,500 images.

He's not always where he wants to be to get the right angles during the action, "But I have to say, overall, I did really good during this series. I had my A ++ game going."

During the Finals, Game 5 against the Penguins was a marathon three-overtime thriller that the Wings lost, 4-3. The Wings lost an opportunity to clinch the Cup before the hometown Detroit fans.

"There never was much tension with these guys during the playoffs, but they were not happy when they left after that game," Reginek said. "Before the next game in Pittsburgh, I wondered about their emotions, but they were loosey-goosey and kicking a soccer ball around. They just looked so confident. They were almost clairvoyant, thinking they're going to win."

Reginek said he talked to coach Mike Babcock before Game 6 and said something like "if we win tonight." Babcock, Reginek said, stopped him and said, "If? - We are winning tonight."

The Red Wings' heart-pounding, scary-to-the-last-second 3-2 win over the Penguins on June 4 to clinch the Stanley Cup was the beginning of a whirlwind experience for Reginek. He was one of only four still photographers allowed on the Penguins' ice to record the post-game festivities.

One of his first priorities was getting a shot of team Captain Nick Lidstrom with the Stanley Cup - for a photo that was to be used in a publication to be printed early the next day marking the team's victory.

After getting the on-ice photos, he was in the Wings' locker room after the game, and was able to stay with the team when the rest of the media was finally kicked out. "It was a private experience, and the guys were chanting 'Dally' for Dallas Drake and 'Chelli' for Chris Chelios, recognizing those guys as veterans. It brought me chills."

On the bus to the team's plane, Red Bird One, Reginek rode next to an unexpected passenger - Henrik Zetterburg's Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded for being the playoff's MVP. Zetterburg - "just a humble, low-key guy" - asked the photographer to hold the trophy while he found a seat in the back of the bus.

Then the real fun started. At the Red Wings' request, Reginek tagged along with goalie Chris Osgood and Lidstrom for a guest appearance on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Last Call with Carson Daly. Then Reginek went with Osgood to the premier of Mike Myers' movie The Love Guru. (The Stanley Cup had a seat of its own, and Dave reports that it works pretty well as a popcorn holder). Then to Toronto for the handing out of individual awards for NHL players and coaches, and Red Wing players received a few.

That's followed by numerous player parties and public appearances with the Cup. Reginek anticipates following the Stanley Cup around the U.S., Canada and Europe this summer. In between all the fun, last week he was still sorting through photos, filling players' requests for copies or sending them to players' hometown newspapers.

Many of his images will be used in a book that will show what happens to the Stanley Cup in the days after a team wins it. His access to the team, and discretion he uses in taking photos, have helped make the images possible.

"The guys are absolutely unbelievable," Reginek said of the Red Wings. "Now that I've been around a while, I've learned to pick my spots for taking shots in the locker room, and I know when not to get in the way. I think I'm in their comfort zone, and really, I feel like part of the team."

DETROIT RED WINGS goalie Chris Osgood is in position to stop a puck during Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Battling for a position on any rebound are Wings Captain Nick Lidstrom and Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby. This was one of about 1,500 images shot that night by Sheet Metal Workers Local 80 member Dave Reginek.
Photo by Dave Reginek


News Briefs

Tax hike may reap windfall
LANSING - A proposal to spend $1.6 billion for state-backed construction projects is a political hot potato in our state's capitol.

Senate Bill 511 would, among many other things, authorize the spending of about $800 million on construction projects at state universities and another $800 million in state building and facility projects. Earlier this month, the big appropriations bill was voted down, with all Democrats in favor of the bill and a majority of Republicans (the exception being two GOP senators, Randy Richardville and Roger Kahn) voting against.

State Sen. John Gleason (D-Flushing) argued that the money spent on state construction projects creates a snowball affect, moving money from construction worker paychecks into the local economies in Michigan, at restaurants, grocery stores and car dealerships.

"Before us we have about $800 million in jobs," said Gleason, in a statement to his fellow senators. "Economists, he said, "say local dollars would turn over seven times in our own communities. Then why are we sitting idly by and not putting these workers to work?"

From 2007 into 2008, the spending bill has bounced back between the House and Senate, with amendments and language being added and subtracted. It is part of a greater debate among Lansing lawmakers, who adopted a controversial tax increase last year to fund state government, but are still looking down the barrel of a $400 million state deficit this year.

When a version of the bill was before the state House on May 8, Republican Rep. David Agema (R-Grandville) said he didn't support it because it "was an attempt by the Democrats to force excessive spending at a time when we can least afford it."

In order for the measure to be passed or defeated, some sort of bipartisanism will have to come into play. Democrats control the state House, and Republicans control the Michigan Senate. Gleason said he expects the pool of available money to be significantly slashed.

"It's all up in the air right now, but I do know that it's late in the year for starting construction projects," he said. "In this case the calendar is as important as the cash."

The money is available on departmental ledgers of the state's books mainly because of the increase in tax collections - even though the entire state budget is expected to be in the red. If Dems win the argument that some or all of the money would be better used to funding construction projects, the building trades will be a prime beneficiary.

IBEW Local 275's Pat Kramer passes
Our condolences go out to the family and friends of IBEW Local 275 Assistant Business Manager Pat Kramer, who died June 16, 2008 from a blood clot.

Pat, 39, had undergone transplants for both the kidney and pancreas. The first pancreas transplant didn't take, and he was recovering from a second pancreas transplant that took place a few weeks ago.

A 13-year member of IBEW Local 275 (West Michigan), Pat had been assistant business manager for the last eight years. He is survived by his wife Kristen, and unborn daughter, Delaney Jean, who is due in August.

Funeral services were held Friday, June 20. The family is establishing an education trust fund for Delaney. Contributions can be made payable to Kristen Kramer, with "Education Fund" in the memo line, and mailed to IBEW Local 275, 140 N. 64th Ave., Coopersville, MI 49404.


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