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August 20, 2004

President Bush: Hardly a bystander in war on workers

Labor walks, talks in Michigan on Sept. 2

New expansion at Metro Airport as Northwest capitalizes B and C terminals

The Gangbox - Assorted News and Notes

Approval nears for Gun Lake Tribe casino; you can help

Silicosis dust risk nothing to sneeze at

News Briefs


President Bush: Hardly a bystander in war on workers

For America's working families, the stakes in this fall's presidential elections are the greatest of a lifetime, and the outcome of the election may well determine the shape of basic economic and social protections and benefits for decades.

That is why the American labor movement is launching its largest mobilization ever, with the goal of electing a president who will put the needs and interests of America's working families first.

The labor movement knows - firsthand - that George W. Bush is not the person for the job. Already, President Bush has presided over the greatest sustained jobs loss since the Great Depression. Our manufacturing sector has been decimated. Under Bush, we have lost more manufacturing jobs than in the entire 22 years before he took office. Real incomes have fallen, the ranks of the uninsured have grown by nearly five million, and three million more Americans have slipped into poverty.

President Bush has not been a mere bystander in the decline in fortunes for America's workers and their families - he has been an active participant in the deterioration of jobs and working conditions. Among other things, Mr. Bush and his appointees have:

  • Dictated the largest take-away of overtime pay rights in the history of the nation's wage and hour law and have refused to support an increase in the minimum wage.
  • Led an all-out assault on the collective bargaining rights of America's workers, intervening preemptively in airline disputes, rolling back civil service and bargaining guarantees for numerous federal employees, reversing legal precedents and siding with employers in efforts to undermine the freedom to form unions.
  • Pursued trade and tax policies that promote and reward the off-shoring of good American jobs.
  • Cut funds and staff for job training and worker protection programs while increasing funds and staff to audit and prosecute unions and eliminated reporting requirements for union-busting consultants while imposing onerous new requirements on unions.
  • Converted the huge budget surplus they inherited from President Clinton into an equally huge budget deficit, a breathtaking $10 trillion turnaround in just three years that chokes our capacity to make needed investments and will saddle our children with mountains of debt.

In addition, the president has proposed an even more drastic rewrite of the nation's overtime laws, allowing employers to replace guaranteed overtime pay with comp time. He is touting private accounts under Social Security, threatening further depletion of the trust fund and further economic uncertainty for retirees.

His only remedy for the nation's devastating health care crisis is his implementation of highly questionable tax breaks. He has pledged to make his budget-busting and grossly inequitable millionaire tax cuts permanent. And his long-term budget plans contemplate steep future cuts in domestic programs.

In contrast, John Kerry's entire political career has been marked by his support and advocacy for America's workers and their families. That's why the AFL-CIO has endorsed the Kerry-Edwards ticket, and that's why America's unions are more unified than ever before in seeking the election of these two friends of working families.

The American labor movement is mounting a massive grass roots effort to elect the Kerry-Edwards team and to win a worker-friendly Congress. The federation will jumpstart its fall campaign with a member-to-member march in key electoral states, including Michigan, in the hours before the president accepts his party's nomination on Thursday, Sept. 2.

That evening, thousands of union members will knock on the doors of hundreds of thousands more, making sure union members know what's at stake in this election, what four more years of George W. Bush will do to working families, and what must be done to elect John Kerry President of the United States.


Labor walks, talks in Michigan on Sept. 2

The importance of Michigan's union members as a voting bloc cannot be underestimated.

In the 2000 presidential campaign, some 43 percent of all Michigan voters came from union households, with 65 percent voting for Al Gore, according to the Labor Research Association.

With Michigan a key battleground state in the Nov. 2 general election for president, labor leaders are making even more of a concerted effort to get out the union vote.

In July and August, there were Labor Walks and member mobilizations. The next big push will take place on Thursday, Sept. 2, the night President Bush accepts the Republican nomination for president. That day, from 4-8 p.m., rank-and-file volunteers from organized labor will be fanning out across the state, going door-to-door contrasting the pro-worker Kerry record vs. the pro-Big Business Bush Administration.

Staging areas for the Michigan effort are listed below. If you are interested in volunteering, contact the AFL-CIO's Bob Lathrop at (517) 487-5966 or Brenda Moon at (313) 961-0800, or Derek Pennington at IBEW Local 58, (313) 963-2130 ext. 3046

Thursday, September 2nd starting between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Ann Arbor, LIUNA 959, 3080 Platt Rd.

Flint, CWA 4103, 1214 Saginaw St.

Grand Rapids, Kent/Ionia CLC, 918 Benjamin Ave., NE

Kalamazoo, Teamsters 7, 3330 Miller Rd.

Lansing, MI AFL-CIO Building, 419 S. Washington Sq.

Muskegon, CIO Building, 490 W. Western Ave.

Port Huron, Bluewater LaborTemple, 2441 W. Water St

Saginaw, CWA 4108, 1614 Mershon St.

Detroit Metro area, Detroit, AFSCME Council 25, 600 W. Lafayette

IUOE 547, 24270 W. 7 Mile Rd. (7 Mile & Telegraph)

Madison Heights, UFCW 876, 876 Horace Brown Dr.

Southfield, Sheet Metal Workers 80, 17100 W. 12 Mile Rd.


New expansion at Metro Airport as Northwest capitalizes B and C terminals

By Marty Mulcahy
Managing Editor

More than two years after opening the $1.2 billion McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metro Airport, Northwest Airlines is expanding its capacity for handling passengers and smaller, regional jets.

Construction manager Walbridge-Aldinger and the building trades are in the process of expanding the "B" and "C" concourses that comprise the smaller of the two Midfield terminal buildings at Metro. The $92.5 million expansion will help Northwest Airlines to better compete in the growing market trend of using smaller regional jets to move passengers.

Portions of the very active B and C terminals currently in place will be dismantled and/or incorporated into the new terminal. Nine gates will be added to the existing eight gates at Concourse B, while 16 gates will be added to the existing 25 at Concourse C.

According to Walbridge-Aldinger Project Director Awad Prasad, constructing an airplane terminal between active airplane taxi ramps - with all the logistical challenges and security concerns in the post 9-11 era - is as complicated as it sounds.

"This building is probably twice as difficult as a normal building to construct," Prasad said. "We cannot interfere with the public or airport operations. When planes are taxiing nearby sometimes you have to stop everything. There are certain things we can't do when we would like. Material deliveries have to be scheduled carefully. And the workers can't go off-site for lunch."

Construction workers are assigned a parking area at the airport, and a bus takes them to work. Starting times are staggered to avoid a rush. Workers are given an ID badge to gain access to the site, but security personnel also require them to show their driver's license.

Work began in December 2003, and about 150 construction workers are currently on the job. Peak manpower will eventually hit 200-250 workers. Concourse B is expected to be complete in February 2005; Concourse C, eight months later.

The massive, nearly mile-long "A" McNamara Terminal Concourse, completed in February 2002, is not physically part of this expansion project. The "B" and "C" terminals, which are end-to-end, run parallel to the "A" Concourse with a jet-way ramp running between them. A 900-foot tunnel with a moving sidewalk links the terminals for passengers.

Northwest, the nation's fourth-largest air carrier which uses Metro as its primary hub, opted to go ahead with the expansion despite a still-sluggish airline industry.

"There's definitely a trend among the U.S. airlines towards using the smaller regional jets," said Metro Airport spokesman Mike Conway. "They can add routes without flying the bigger jets, which may be flying below capacity."

Conway added: "It's nice to see the hub carrier expanding operations. The new operations and the non-stops routes will be very beneficial to the business community."

The McNamara terminals were designed and constructed with expansion in mind. "Knockouts" were installed at the ends the "B" and "C" terminals to facilitate lengthening those buildings. Jet fuel lines were put in place underground. Northwest originally planned on doing this work three years from now, but market demands prompted them to move up the construction schedule.

Despite having to start the project with foundation work in the dead of winter - and with all the distractions of being surrounded by the world's 17-busiest airport - the job is slightly ahead of schedule.

"All along in this project, we've tried to plan so that we eliminate the major challenges that come our way," said Walbridge-Aldinger Project Supt. John Moriarty. "We've been very fortunate to have proactive contractors and skilled tradespeople who know how to get the work done."

Trades will also head North at Metro

Construction workers won't be finished at Metro Airport when ongoing expansion work at the B and C Concourses is complete - not by a long shot.

Work is expected to start next spring on the $402 million North Terminal project, which will be the home of non-Northwest air carriers at Metro. The North Terminal will replace the aging and outmoded 44-year-old Smith Terminal, and put those other carriers' facilities "on a level playing field" with Northwest's McNamara Terminal, said Metro Airport spokesman Mike Conway.

Plans for the North Terminal call for 610,000 square feet of terminal space with 29 gates.

WORKING ON A JET FUEL LINE near the Metro Airport B & C Terminal expansion are Mark Shumaker and Steve Wallace of Pipe Fitters Local 636 and Intrastate.

THE B AND C TERMINALS AT Metro Airport in Romulus continue to operate around the work of the building trades during the expansion process. Harry Domke of Operating Engineers Local 324 moves dirt in the future location of an airplane gate.


The Gangbox - Assorted News and Notes

The Northern Michigan Building Trades Council's 5th annual sporting clay shoot will be held with an 11 a.m. shotgun start on Saturday, Sept. 11 at Eagle Ridge Sporting Clays, Lewiston Sportsmen's League, 7689 Sheridan Valley Rd., Lewiston. The registration/money deadline is Saturday, Sept. 4.

A traveling trophy will be awarded to the trade with the highest four individual average score in their respective trade. An individual trophy will be awarded to the highest shooter overall.

The cost is $60 and includes 100 birds, lunch and door prizes. For more information, contact Terry Anderson, (989) 732-1402; Joe Henkle, (989) 785-2415 or Jack LaSalle, (906) 226-8311.

The Bush Administration - which had been watching key U.S. unemployment numbers improve during the first five months of the year, watched the bubble burst over the last two months.

The Labor Department reported on Aug. 6 that the nation's payroll job numbers slowed dramatically in July with only 32,000 net jobs added that month. That came after a revised figure of 78,000 jobs added in June

The New York Times said analysts were expecting the economy to add anywhere from 215,000 to 247,000 jobs in July.

"Employers got cold feet," economist Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics said. "Employers just don't have the confidence in the economy that we need to sustain the kind of economic growth that we've seen."

Earlier this year the Bush Administration had predicted the nation would produce 2.6 million jobs in 2004. In fact, the economy has added jobs for 11 months in a row. But Bush's prediction hasn't come close to reality - the nation has lost a net 1.1 million jobs since Bush took office in 2001, which continues to put him on track to be the only president since Herbert Hoover to oversee a net loss of jobs on his watch.

The nation's unemployment rate did drop from 5.6 percent in June to 5.5 percent in July - but the Times said that aberration in not uncommon because the payrolls figure and jobless numbers are derived from two separate statistical surveys.

"The president keeps saying we've turned the corner," said Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. "But unfortunately, today's job numbers further demonstrate that our economy may be taking a U-turn instead. Saying we've turned the corner doesn't make it so. America will not turn the corner to better days until we have a new president who can see our problems and take action to fix them."

Employment information for the rest of the U.S. isn't all that great - but we can all breath a sigh of relief that American CEO's enjoyed an average pay hike of 15 percent in 2003. A recent survey by a research firm, Corporate Library, showed increases in almost every category of executive compensation, including base salary, bonuses and incentive payouts.

American executives received an average increase of 9.5 percent in 2002.

"With statistics such as these, it would appear that any chance of reining in executive compensation has disappeared," the report said. Compensation for more than U.S. 1,400 chief executives was examined.

In contrast, American workers incomes fell between 2000 and 2002 for the first time in modern history, according to an analysis of Internal Revenue Service statistics by the New York Times.

Adjusting for population growth and inflation, average individual income fell 9.2 percent between 2000 and 2002. The decline in jobs and wages in industries that pay well and the stock market drop are blamed.

The AFL-CIO has launched the "My Vote, My Right" campaign in 32 communities in 12 election battleground states, including Michigan. Working with affiliated unions and constituency groups, the federation is approaching and mobilizing union members on how to protect their votes.

With the 2000 voting fiasco in Florida not forgotten, the Voters' Rights Protection Advocacy Teams will work with community allies to make sure voting rights are maintained.


Approval nears for Gun Lake Tribe casino; you can help

Organized labor is all aboard the planned development of a $225 million casino entertainment project in Wayland Township, south of Grand Rapids.

The go-ahead for the project awaits Gov. Granholm's signature on a gaming compact with the State of Michigan and a final decision by the federal government to put land into trust for the purposes of the project. Both actions are considered imminent.

According to project representatives, development of the facility will create 500 new union construction jobs. Also, 1,800 full- and part-time operational jobs would be created in the community.

The project will be owned by the Match-E-Be-Nash-She Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians (commonly known as the Gun Lake Tribe) and developed and managed by Station Casinos, Inc. of Las Vegas, Nevada.

"We look forward to working with our union partners to get this exciting world class entertainment destination constructed and running for the benefit of the entire western Michigan community," said D. K. Sprague, Gun Lake Tribal Chairman.

The project is supported by the following labor organizations: Southwest Michigan Building Trades Council, Operating Engineers Local 324, O.P.C.M.I.A. Local 16, I.B.E.W. Locals 131, 153 and 445, Laborers Local 335, Painters Local 312 and 1396, Roofers Local 70, Sprinkler Fitters Local 669, Boilermakers Local 169, Plumbers and Pipefitters Locals 172, 333 and 357, Iron Workers Local 292 and 340, Elevator Constructors Local 85, Insulators Local 47, Sheet Metal Locals 7and 20

While the project enjoys widespread support among labor organizations and western Michigan's business community, labor organizations are being urged to contact Governor Granholm and urge her to sign the Tribe's Compact.

Members are urged to call the governor's office at (517) 373-3400 or write to Governor Granholm at P.O. Box 30013, Lansing, MI 48909; and urge her to sign the Gun Lake Tribe's gaming compact so that the Tribe can begin creating well-paying, greatly needed union construction jobs in western Michigan.

"Clearly, this project will help address the significant job loss that has plagued our state and help put some of our displaced workers back to work," said Tom Boensch, Secretary-Treasurer of the Michigan Building Trades Council.


Silicosis dust risk nothing to sneeze at

By Phillip L. Polakoff, M.D.

Death and injury to road workers in construction zones is a familiar and sad story. Usually we think of these tragedies in terms of highway traffic.

Now, another risk to road workers is the subject of a study in the May 2004 issue of the American Journal of Public Health - silicosis.

Silicosis is a disabling, non-reversible and sometimes fatal disease caused by inhaling dust containing extremely fine particles of crystalline silica.

Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite and many other materials. Quartz is the most common form of crystalline silica.

According to the study, highway repair workers are at increased risk for silicosis the longer they work on roads.

Using a jackhammer puts workers at the greatest risk. Other tasks that stir up silica dust include milling asphalt and sawing and cleaning up concrete.

Road materials such as concrete, asphalt and masonry products contain silica sand and other types of crystalline silica.

But road workers are not alone in exposure to this health risk. According to OSHA, silica exposure is a serious threat to nearly two million U. S. workers, including more than 100,000 workers in high risk jobs such as abrasive blasting, foundry work, stonecutting, rock drilling, quarry work and tunneling.

The most severe exposures have occurred during abrasive blasting with sand to remove paint and rust from bridges, tanks, concrete structures and other surfaces.

Respirable silica dust enters the lungs and causes the formation of scar tissue. This reduces the lungs' ability to take in oxygen. There is no cure for silicosis.

Since silicosis affects lung function, it makes its victims more susceptible to lung infections such as tuberculosis. In addition, smoking causes lung damage and adds to the damage caused by breathing silica dust.

Crystalline silica has been classified as a human lung carcinogen.

Silicosis is classified into three types--chronic/ classic, accelerated and acute--based on length of exposure.

Chronic/classic, the most common form, occurs after 15-20 years of moderate to low exposure to crystalline silica. As the disease takes hold, the worker may experience shortness of breath upon exercising and have clinical signs of poor oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange.

In later stages, the worker may experience fatigue, extreme shortness of breath, chest pain or respiratory failure.

Accelerated silicosis can occur after 5-10 years of high exposure to respirable crystalline silica. Symptoms include severe shortness of breath, weakness and weight loss.

Acute silicosis occurs after a few months or as long as two years following exposure to extremely high concentrations of the silica dust. Symptoms of the acute type include severe, disabling shortness of breath, weakness and weight loss, which often leads to death.

Successful prevention can be as simple as using water to reduce dust levels on the job. But a comprehensive respiratory protection program that requires those workers be provided with - and required to use - proper filtering masks is essential.

(Copyright 2004 by Dr. Phillip L. Polakoff and medical writer Jack Tucker/PAI)

EVEN WITH A WET concrete cutting saw, use of a dust mask is never a bad idea.


News Briefs

$280 K in fines for truss collapse
Federal OSHA has proposed $280,000 in fines for a contractor building the Maumee River Bridge in Toledo, a section of which collapsed Feb. 16 and killed four Iron Workers Local 55 members

According to the Engineering News Record, OSHA cited Fru-Con Construction Corp. for four willful violations of federal workplace standards. "This tragic accident could have and should have been prevented," said OSHA Administrator John Henshaw.

News reports said construction workers were repositioning a 315-foot launching truss to prepare for another concrete bridge segment placement when the truss collapsed, killing the workers and injuring five others.

Most of the work on the 1,225-foot main span of the I-280 pre-cast segmental cable-stayed crossing has remained halted since the accident.

Citing the OSHA report, ENR said Fru-Con was cited "four times for improperly anchoring to pier caps the front legs and the roller beam for the back legs of both the launching truss that collapsed and its twin, which has been idle since the accident."

Said a Fru-Con spokesman: "At no time did any of our employees engage in any conduct that knowingly placed any other employees at risk." Fru-Con has until mid-August to appeal.

An accident that also took four construction workers' lives took place in 1999, when MIOSHA handed down fines totaling $493,500 against four companies in connection with the Aug. 24, 1998 block wall collapse that killed three electricians and a sheet metal worker in Flushing Township.

All four companies received citations alleging serious violations, and in the case of two companies, willful violations of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act after a block wall at Flushing High School collapsed.

U.S. construction climbs a little
New U.S. construction inched up 1% in June to $565.1 billion, reported the McGraw-Hill Construction. During the first six months of 2004, total construction on an unadjusted basis was reported at $286.2 billion - up 10 percent over a year ago.

By region, the Midwest was up 5 percent during the first six months of this year compared to a year ago.

June's uptick was aided by higher activity in public works projects, but that area is expected to slow because of state and federal fiscal constraints. "During the first half of 2004, the construction industry continued to be supported by the robust performance of single family housing, in combination with stability for commercial building," said Robert A. Murray, vice president of economic affairs for Dodge. "It's expected that the second half of 2004 will see single family housing ease back a bit, and commercial building remains the sector most likely to pick up the slack."

For union building trades workers, the gradual improvement in overall U.S. construction is skewered by the strength of residential construction, which is dominated by the nonunion sector.


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