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April 12, 2002

2002 a vital year for voting in Michigan - are you registered?

Labor, Dems reach out to white male gun owners

New Holt High School makes a big footprint

Owners of restored GTO, souped-up Chevelle, win their divisions at Autorama

ABC won't win merit badge from workers

NEWS BRIEFS

 

2002 a vital year for voting in Michigan - are you registered?

"Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual - or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country."
-Samuel Adams, 1781.

Too many people in Michigan and across the nation decline to execute their "solemn trust" on Election Day. So for those who do vote, their ballot means even more.

If you aren't registered to vote, the election cycle in 2002 will provide a good opportunity to do so. The statewide primary scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 6 will be more important than most, as voters will have the opportunity to narrow a hotly contested race for governor from three candidates to one.

Then, on Tuesday, Nov. 5, the statewide ballot in Michigan will be an eyeful - and most important. The race for governor is at the top of the list, and also up for grabs are one U.S. Senate seat (Carl Levin's), 15 U.S. House of Representatives seats, Secretary of State, Attorney General, two seats on the Michigan Supreme Court, 38 Michigan state Senate positions, 110 state House seats and two Michigan State Board of Education spots.

Those who want to vote in the primary must register by July 8, 30 days before the election. To vote in the general election, the deadline to register is Oct. 7.

You can register to vote for federal, state, and local elections by mail; at your county, city, or township clerk's office; or by visiting any Secretary of State branch office. Or you can obtain a form online at www.sos.state.mi.us/election/elecadmin/index.html. You can mail the form to your city/township or county clerk's office.

Voting is ultimately a numbers game, but the numbers aren't always about who wins the most votes. According to the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • Most people who are registered to vote - actually vote. Among Americans who were registered for the November 2000 presidential election, 86 percent reported that they voted, up from 82 percent in 1996.
  • In 2000, 86 percent of U.S. voters said they voted in person on Election Day, while 14 percent voted absentee, or before the election in person at an election office.
  • Michigan ranks 18th among states in terms of voting-age population who vote - about 63 percent. The most ardent voters are in the District of Columbia and North Dakota, where over 70 percent of the voting age population voted in 2000. The most laid- back voters are found in Hawaii, were only 43 percent of the voting-age population cast a ballot.
  • The percentage of the U.S. voting age population who were registered to vote in the 2000 election was at an all-time low of 64 percent. Historically, national registration rates have dropped, from 74 percent in 1968 (the first year data was available) and ranged from 66 percent to 68 percent from 1976 to 1996.
    Even so, with population increases, the 2000 election had a record number of people registered to vote - 130 million.

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Labor, Dems reach out to white male gun owners

Unions are doing a better job than in years past of communicating their political message to their membership - unless the members are Caucasian male firearm owners.

Internal polling by the AFL-CIO has found that that bloc of union members frequently votes in step with the National Rifle Association (NRA), which usually means that they're out of step with organized labor.

Now, an AFL-CIO Executive Council committee is mulling a plan to appeal to those firearm-owning union voters back by competing with the NRA. The plan, created by Fire Fighters President Harold Schaitberger, would establish the Union Sportsmen of America (USA). Presumably, women would be included, too.

"One of the failures of the Democratic Party, as well as the labor movement, has been that it has ignored this issue that has pushed many of our members away" from pro-worker candidates, Schaitberger told Press Associates. "This issue just resounded, so we have to think outside the box," he said of the proposed sportsmen's group. "We haven't been successful with this group of workers since 1992."

In the 2000 election, labor-backed candidates in the U.S. won more than 60 percent of unionists' votes - unless those unionists were white male firearm owners. Union-backed candidates barely won a majority of union firearm owners' votes, the pollsters found

The Union Sportsmen group would also push the sale of union-made firearm-related products, everything from Colt, Winchester and Remington rifles, to camouflage caps. Right now, the NRA and its marketing operation dominates sales of firearms and related goods.

In Michigan, with a few notable exceptions, Democratic political candidates historically have done a lousy job of courting the votes of gun owners. And unions, especially those in the building trades where gun owners have a major presence, have been ineffective in getting their point across in attempting to reach out to gun-owning members.

And what is the union point of view? Union leaders have historically tended to steer endorsements to candidates who support workers on safety and pocketbook issues. Those candidates are traditionally aligned with the Democratic Party.

A number of workers, however, believe that their safety and way of life are more closely tied to candidates who support a less-intrusive government and Second Amendment rights. Those candidates are traditionally aligned with the Republican Party.

In recent years, the tide has been turning. Michigan Democrats last year started up a hunting and fishing caucus, intended to open the party up to firearm and outdoor enthusiasts, protect lawmakers from having their record on Second Amendment gun rights from being falsely attacked, and to protect the constitutionally protected rights of gun owners.

For the last six years, Michigan Senate Democratic Leader John Cherry has hosted a free hunter safety course for Flint area hunters. (See the front page news briefs). These efforts could help dispel the impression that Dems are anti-gun and anti-Second Amendment.

"The reason we started the hunter safety program was first to teach young people about firearm safety, and help make them familiar with guns," Cherry said. He also said skeet-shooting fundraisers hosted by himself and fellow state Sen. Chris Dingell "demonstrate that Democrats can promote and enjoy outdoor sports, too."

Cherry said one reason Democrats are traditionally linked with being anti-gun is that their districts usually cover urban areas, where firearm ownership isn't so prevalent. He said the great majority of Democrat lawmakers wouldn't do anything to take away Second Amendment rights.

"We're becoming more vocal about not being anti-gun," Cherry said. "I would urge voters who are concerned that their Second Amendment rights might be taken away to look at the individual records of candidates. Look at Republicans' record, too. Get beyond the rhetoric. People who support workers' issues may very well be firearm and outdoor enthusiasts, too. It's a mistake to paint everyone with a broad brush."

- Press Associates contributed to this report.

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New Holt High School makes a big footprint

By Marty Mulcahy
Editor

HOLT - A cramped 35-year-old high school building and anticipated long-term population growth in the Holt School District prompted voters to approve a $73 million bond issue to improve and expand facilities.

The district, south of Lansing, is spending $54.1 million of that bond issue on a new Holt High School - and in the design process, they were undoubtedly thinking big.

Granger Construction and the building trades are in the process of erecting the largest high school in mid-Michigan, a 350,000-square-foot building situated on 100 acres of what was farmland. The first earth was moved on the project in January 2001, and construction is expected to wrap up in the summer of 2003. Approximately150 construction workers are currently toiling on the project.

"The workmanship has been very good," said Chris Strugar-Fritsch, project manager for Granger. "Overall the trades have been working well together and we've had some really good contractors out here, too."

The old farmland may have been good for growing crops, but Strugar-Fritsch said the silty-clay soil on the site was unsuitable for good backfill for the foundations, which delayed the project. "It didn't compact well, it was always either too wet or too dry," he said. As a result, truckloads of sand were imported to improve the soil conditions.

The new high school and adjacent acreage will include a performing arts auditorium, an eight-lane, L-shaped pool, an arena-style gymnasium, new soccer, football and baseball fields as well as practice fields for all three sports, and a kitchen that will serve as the central food preparation area for the entire school district. Classrooms and four main science laboratories will all be wired for today's technology and be ready for the future.

"It's almost like working on six or seven projects at the same time," said Project Coordinator Jeff Hannah of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 333 and mechanical contractor John E. Greene. He's working with general foreman Ken Myers. "The buildings each have their own systems, and it keeps our people spread out. It's pretty complicated, and we've had to work out a number of conflicts. It's going to be a nice place when it's all done."

The high school is designed for a student population of 1,400 and a staff of 100.

The remainder of the Holt Public Schools bond issue includes renovation of two middle schools and five elementary schools, and transforming the existing junior high school into a ninth-grade school.

RIGGING A PALLET of block atop the mud at Holt High School last week is Tony Stephens of Laborers Local 998. Ready to make the lift is operator Howard Marsh of Local 324.

INSTALLING PIPING for hot and chilled water lines in a hallway at the new Holt High School are Delos Caruss and Mike Klein of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 333 and John E. Green.

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Owners of restored GTO, souped-up Chevelle, win their divisions at Autorama

By Marty Mulcahy
Editor

Two cars owned by building tradesmen took top honors in their division at the Feb. 22-24 Autorama in Detroit.

Asbestos Workers Local 25 member Richard Bondy's '72 Chevelle won "Late Street Machine Custom 1970-79" and the Popular Hot Roding magazine's "Outstanding Streetable Performance Car" awards. And Pipe Fitters Local 636 member Mike Flavin's '64 Pontiac GTO won the Muscle Car Class as well as top spot for "Best Restored."

It was the first time either had entered a car at Autorama, much less took home a title. This was the 50th anniversary year for the Autorama, so there was tremendous competition.

"I didn't think I had a chance," Flavin said. "The quality of the competition was just great. I was very pleasantly surprised."

"I was quite thrilled, especially getting the award from Popular Hot Roding Magazine," Bondy said.

Flavin owned a 1966 GTO in high school, "but I always liked the '64" because it was the first model year. He bought his '64 from IBEW Local 58 member Jim Nicolai that was in need of restoration, and took it to a shop in Portland, MI for the work.

"I think it won because every nut and bolt was taken off the car," Flavin said. The car is 100 percent stock, with a 389 cubic-inch, 348 h.p. tri-power engine. He said about 1,400 hours were put into the restoration.

Bondy bought his Chevelle three years ago from an owner who had it stored in a barn in Monroe. The car was generally in good shape. Bondy and his son Jacob did some work on the Chevelle, but most of the restoration was done professionally over a two-year period. The car was transformed into a drag-racer, with a 540 cubic-inch big block Chevy engine capable of producing 1,000 h.p. at the flywheel and speeds of up to 160 mph.

Bondy had a '70 Chevelle as a teenager. "My wife tells me I'm in my second childhood, and she's probably right," he said.

Not surprisingly, neither Bondy nor Flavin wanted to discuss how much they had invested in their four-wheel money pits.

"When you get involved in a project like this, it's a substantial investment. You can't count the pennies, or you'd never do it," Bondy said.

A union contractor also won awards at the 2002 Autorama. Larry Mates, who owns Rand Environmental and hires laborers and Asbestos Abatement Local 207 workers, entered two cars in the show and won two awards.

His 1932 Ford Sedan Delivery steel body took first place in the "Street Delivery" class, and his rare 1932 Ford Three-Window steel body took second place in the "Altered Street Coupe" class. "I was ecstatic to win," Mates said. "There were a lot of great entries with this being the 50th year for the show. But I was just as happy with the second place award. Some of the other owners that this car beat out spent a million dollars on their cars."

Mates acquired his sedan-delivery car about six years ago, and his three-window about two years ago. Both were professionally restored.

THIS 1972 CHEVELLE, owned by Richard Bondy of Asbestos Workers Local 25, won "Late Street Machine Custom 1970-79" and the Popular Hot Roding magazine's "Outstanding Streetable Performance Car" awards.

THIS 1964 PONTIAC GTO, owned by Mike Flavin of Local 636 (in photo), won the Muscle Car Class as well as top spot for "Best Restored" in this year's Detroit Autorama.

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ABC won't win merit badge from workers

It's always revealing to get an update on where the anti-union contractor group ABC is headed, since their direction is nearly always in the opposite direction of building trades unions.

The top priority on the 2002 agenda for the Associated Builders and Contractors is electing a friendly (read: Republican) majority in the U.S. Senate in order to further its legislative goals and expanding its membership base from 23,000.

So said Ken Adams, the association's national chairman, to the Construction Labor Report. He said the ABC and its members are prepared to spend the resources necessary to get a "pro-free-enterprise" Senate elected. To do that, he said the ABC will probably spend more than $1 million and has targeted five races across the country where the association feels its money can make a difference. Democrats currently hold a slim one-seat advantage in the Senate.

Adams also said there needs to be a clarification of the term "merit shop," because people inside and outside of ABC assume that it means nonunion. "That was never the intent and it is not the intent," Adams said. "Merit shop means that bidding, awarding and performance of construction work should be done by the lowest costing, most qualified, responsible bidder regardless of union or nonunion affiliation."

Worker and contractor training will also an area of focus for the ABC, Adams told the Construction Labor Report. The association has expanded its training program for contractors and is developing competency-based training programs for workers. The ABC also offers contractors information on how to run their business, as well as training manuals on how to deal with a union organizing attempt and remain open shop.

As we mentioned, the direction of the ABC and building trades unions rarely go in the same direction:

  • For all the ABC's talk about worker training, it is still woefully inadequate because their member contractors aren't willing to assume the enormous expense. As a result, many of their apprenticeship programs have had trouble getting federal Bureau of Apprenticeship certification.
  • The ABC has fought union-only project labor agreements tooth and nail. The group pushes for "free" labor markets and battles prevailing wages laws wherever they exist. Contractors associated with the ABC have consistently pushed to keep wages low in order to keep profits up.

Then they contradict themselves. Former ABC leaders over the past year have acknowledged that low construction wages are pushing workers away from the industry and they have claimed that they are committing themselves to improving workers' wages and benefits. But the ABC's entire history completely rules out future collective bargaining with workers, and ABC contractors have also never been inclined to support government-induced wage standards.

So any wage and benefit increases will have to result from a massive change of operating standards by a contractor force that has rarely been able to look beyond short-term profits in favor of long-term workforce retention and improving the lot of workers. These leopards will have a difficult time changing their spots.

  • Politically, electing the "pro-free-enterprise" Republican-controlled Senate sought by the ABC would help them cement their goals of eliminating prevailing wage laws, killing project labor agreements and lowering apprenticeship standards.

They're willing to spend more than $1 million on making sure their goals are realized. If you want to know where the ABC's sympathies lie, follow the money to the candidates they support. It's usually a pretty good indication that those candidates do not support the goals of building trades unions.

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NEWS BRIEFS

Hunter safety program slated
The sixth annual Hunter Safety Program hosted by state Sen. John Cherry is just around the corner.

Two classroom sessions for the MDNR-certified program will be held Tuesday, May 14 and Thursday, May 16 from 6-9:30 p.m. in the Grand Blanc High School cafeteria.

The shooting range lesson will take place Saturday, May 18 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Linden Sportsmen Club. Free refreshments will follow the range lesson.

There is no cost. All supplies and safety equipment will be provided. To register call (800) 551-1636 or (810) 606-0737. Gifts will be provided to all program graduates.

Construction activity moves higher
The value of new construction starts in February increased 1 percent to $512.8 billion, the F.W. Dodge Division of McGraw Hill reported March 28.

"The improved contracting in January and February gets 2002 off to a good start, and shows that construction remains at least for now one of the most resilient sectors of the economy, said Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for F.W. Dodge.

During the first two months of the year, total U.S. construction was up 2 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

Feds release more jobless money
Congress and the president have approved up to 13 weeks of additional unemployment benefits to jobless workers across the country, including Michigan.

The Temporary Extended Unemployment Compensation program is federally funded, and is intended for those who exhaust their regular state benefits. This program has no connection to the state's still-unresolved plan to improve jobless benefits for Michigan's unemployed.

Under federal law, unemployed workers may qualify for the benefits if they:

  • Are not currently working full-time;
  • Have exhausted all rights to regular state unemployment insurance (UI) benefits;
  • Have no entitlement to other state and federal UI benefits,
  • Have a new or additional claim for state UI benefits and a benefit year ending after March 10, 2001.

According to the state Unemployment Agency, eligibility requirements for this plan are the same for unemployed workers receiving state benefits. Jobless workers will generally receive the same weekly benefit amount as under the state plan.

Applications were mailed to unemployed workers potentially eligible for the program, but some may have been missed. If you have questions, call (866) 241-0152.

In the meantime, as we went to press, state Republican lawmakers were coming back from their two-week spring break, and were expected to continue to arguing about how much state jobless benefits should be increased.

"First, the Republicans promised $415, then they promised $375, and now they go on vacation for two weeks while laid-off workers and their families struggle to make ends meet," said state Rep. Julie Dennis last month.

Unemployment benefits have been capped at $300 per week in Michigan since 1995, and the average unemployed worker in our state collects $261 per week.

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