June 27, 2008
bill held up in House; it's time to speak up
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'
toilet bill held up in House; it's time to speak up
By Marty Mulcahy
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
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
"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
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
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
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 www.house.mi.gov/
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
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
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 www.senate.michigan.gov/ then click on "Find
Your Senator." There are several links to contact your lawmaker.
but up for airport job
By Marty Mulcahy
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
"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
Hunt Hall the latest to get renovated
MARQUETTE - While the students are away the building trades
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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 www.breslin.biz.
80 photographer shoots Red Wings' 'joyride'
By Marty Mulcahy
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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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.