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August 2, 2002

Appeals court allows Bush to bar PLAs on federal jobs

Election Time: Michigan Primary scheduled for Aug. 6

Not over the hill, Hill Auditorium undergoes massive renovation

Happy birthday, air conditioning

It's time to put some weight behind ergonomic issues

Voter outrage pushes congress to approve anti-corporate crime bill



Appeals court allows Bush to bar PLAs on federal jobs

Building trades unions absorbed a huge wallop in the courts on July 12, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld President Bush's Executive Order outlawing project labor agreements on federally funded construction projects.

This is a major decision against construction unions, and depending on how it plays out before the U.S. Supreme Court, it's sure to have a long-term, negative affect on the ability of the building trades to secure work for their members.

"The decision minimizes the rights of hundreds of thousands of construction workers by giving the president license to disregard the labor laws on federally financed projects," said AFL-CIO Building Trades Department President Edward Sullivan.

Project labor agreements (PLAs) are collective bargaining pacts that establish common work rules for construction sites. They are used in both public and private sectors to coordinate operations of large and complex construction projects to assure the jobs proceed smoothly, harmoniously and without delays.

The fallout of the court bolstering President Bush's executive order is expected to have a limited effect on Michigan. The $1.6 billion Midfield Terminal at Metro Airport would have been impacted by Bush's decision, but the project is complete. If proposed improvements to U.S.-Canada border crossings in Detroit and Port Huron ever take place, they would be prohibited from employing project labor agreements. So too would proposed improvements and expansion of the Soo Locks.

Under Bush's Executive Order 13202, any state or local agency considering use of a project labor agreement, must give up that choice if it wants to receive any amount of federal financial support for its project.

"There's not a lot of federal money used in connection with project labor agreements in Michigan," said Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Tom Boensch. "It's just a tool we don't often use." He said road and bridge work in our state is already performed at a rate that's about 95 percent union. University construction work can be funded in part by federal dollars, but he said the money usually comes in the form of grants, which aren't affected by Bush's executive order.

Billions of dollars in public works projects around the nation are affected by Bush's order, issued in February 2001, which is similar to one that was put in place during President Bush, Sr.'s administration. President Clinton rescinded that executive order early in his administration. In April 2001, the Building Trades Department sought to halt enforcement of Bush's order, and a U.S. District Court judge agreed with the union's position that rules within the National Labor Relations Act preempts the president's action. The Bush Administration took that matter to the appeals court, which overturned the district court's ruling.

Ken Adams, chairman of the Associated Builders and Contractors, calls the ruling "a major victory for the U.S. construction industry."

The building trades' Sullivan said, "The building trades are bitterly disappointed by this decision and we are considering our legal options," including an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Election Time: Michigan Primary scheduled for Aug. 6

Most people don't bother to vote in November general elections. It's even more difficult to convince voters to go to the polls during the height of vacation season - the first week in August - when elections and candidates are the furthest things from their minds.

But this year's primary election, scheduled for Tuesday, Aug 6, is different than most. At the top of the Democratic ticket for governor are no less than three viable candidates for Michigan governor - some will argue that Dems haven't had a single viable candidate for governor in 12 years.

Voters will also decide on which members of Congress, Michigan state senators, representatives, judges, county commissioners and numerous other local offices will proceed to the Nov. 5 general election ballot. For many offices, the winner of the primary may have little or no opposition in the general election, and will be the de facto winner

Of the 7.2 million Michigan residents who are of the voting age population, only 43.3 percent voted in the last gubernatorial election in 1998. Since 1950, the highest turnout in an election year for governor was 60 percent in 1962. The highest voting age percentage to turnout for any Michigan election in the last half century was 72.7 in the 1960 presidential election.

Hopefully, you will take the time to exercise your franchise on Aug. 6. The Political Action Committee of The Greater Detroit Building and Construction Trades Council has compiled a list of endorsees for the Aug. 6 primary on Page. 3. Your vote is your voice. Please use it.


Not over the hill, Hill Auditorium undergoes massive renovation

By Marty Mulcahy

ANN ARBOR - Constructed in 1913, Hill Auditorium isn't getting any younger. But with $38.6 million worth of renovations on the agenda, it's about to get better in a number of ways.

Considered an architectural and historic gem on the University of Michigan campus, the 4,169-seat auditorium was designed by famed architect Albert Kahn. The building has never undergone any major renovations - and it needs them. A long list of work has just begun for construction manager Christman Construction and the building trades to make Hill Auditorium a terrific venue for years to come.

"It's going to be a more comfortable building," said U-M Project Manager Tom Whitaker. "We'll be putting back fewer seats that will be more comfortable. The building was never air conditioned and now it will be, it will be handicapped accessible, and we should be able to make the building even better acoustically by doing some things to eliminate the ambient noise."

The first phase of the 18-month construction process began in May, involving tearing up a good portion of the auditorium. This project will replace most of the plumbing, heating, ventilation and electrical distribution systems as well as provide a new air conditioning system for the building, which has never had mechanical cooling. A sprinkler system will be installed. Lobbies, stairways, restrooms and all exterior elements of the hall will be renovated as will the backstage support spaces. The renovation will reduce the number of seats to 3,710. Elevators and additional restrooms will also be added.

On the grounds of the hall, additions include a backstage lower-level basement and tunnel space for mechanical and electrical equipment, a new utility tunnel, new circulation ramps and a new loading dock. Another phase of the project will include lower-level reception space, backstage renovations, and new upper-level seating,

"In this first phase, we seek to address maintenance issues that have been deferred for generations and to significantly enhance the audience's experience," said former U-M executive vice president and chief financial officer Robert Kasdin last year. "As funds become available over time, the master plan for Hill will be completed, with more appropriate backstage facilities for performers and the completion of those remaining needs that cannot be addressed at this time."

The auditorium was named for UM Regent Arthur Hill, who donated more than two-thirds of the building's $282,000 construction cost. At the time the building was hailed "as a monument to perfect acoustics," a result of collaboration between Albert Kahn and acoustical engineer Hugh Tallent. The site has been a favorite venue over the years for numerous musicians and other artists.

Today, the project's architectural consultant deemed the building "generally in good condition for its age, use and environment."

The concert hall's excellent acoustics are undoubtedly in a class with those of Orchestra Hall in Detroit, a renovation project we featured in our last issue. The Hill acoustics will actually be improved, said an architectural consultant to the project, in part by introducing a "sound lock" between the lobby and the auditorium. New doors and other soundproofing will help achieve this.

Hill Auditorium will be undergoing some important structural and mechanical changes, but perhaps its most dramatic change will be in the interior paint scheme. Over the decades, the rich colors were hidden by a color scheme dominated by what's best described as a hue of off-white. Utilizing historic descriptions of the building from its 1913 dedication, historic black and white photos which portray a polychromatic paint scheme, and the detailed analyses of hundreds of paint samples by the architects, a color palette of the original paint scheme was developed.

A reflection of the Arts & Crafts period in vogue in the early twentieth century, the palette uncovered at Hill reveals a rich range of warm grays, blues, blue-grays, green-grays, golds, and deep red-browns. The renovated theatre's colors are expected to be dazzling.

The work of the painters is a long way off, but about 50 building trades workers are currently on site. "I find historic preservation very interesting," Whitaker said. "Renovating and improving these old buildings is very satisfying to me, and so far, things are going great."

A UTILITY TUNNEL dug under the front lawn of Hill Auditorium is the most visible work going on at the 89-year-old facility in Ann Arbor - inside, the building is getting renovated so that it will look as good and perhaps sound better than it did when it opened.

BOLTING A SEAL on a 10-inch chilled water line is Roger Field of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters 190 and Boone and Darr. Roger was working in a chiller plant serving Hill Audotorium and two other University of Michigan buildings.


Happy birthday, air conditioning

A century later, 'Apparatus for Cooling Air' becomes indispensable contrivance

By Marty Mulcahy

In the summer of 1902, a 25-year-old engineer named Willis Haviland Carrier was presented with a challenge by a Brooklyn printing plant owner.

Fluctuations in summertime heat and humidity had caused the dimensions of printing paper to keep altering slightly, enough to ensure the misalignment of colored inks. Could Carrier come up with a way to stabilize temperature and moisture in the air inside the printing plant?

Yes, Carrier managed to stop the bleeding ink 100 years ago. He later received a patent for his "Apparatus for Cooling Air," and the presence of mechanically cooled air led to a shift in the power centers of the world's economy, including the rise of the U.S. South. Air conditioning made it possible for printers, chocolate manufacturers and silicon chip makers to manufacture their products in a consistent, quality-controlled environment, and in an atmosphere that brought workers comfort and improved productivity,

Carrier didn't invent the system for providing mechanically cooled air - but the company he formed developed the technology and did much to improve it and bring it into the world's homes and businesses during the 20th Century.

Physician-scientist John Gorrie of Florida could arguably lay claim to the title, "father of air conditioning." He was convinced that he could improve the health of malaria victims if he could lower the temperature of their hospital. He was quite a mechanical tinkerer, and predicted that portable cooling systems could also effectively be used to transport fruits, meats and vegetables long distances.

According to a history compiled by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers Journal, "Without question Willis Carrier was one of the great men in the history of air conditioning, but he was born 28 years after John Gorrie wrote in the Apalachia Commercial Advertiser (in 1848), 'If air were highly compressed, it would heat up by the energy of compression. If this compressed air were run through metal pipes cooled with water, and if this air cooled to the water temperature was expanded down to atmospheric pressure again, very low temperatures could be obtained, even low enough to freeze water in pans in a refrigerator box."

He received a patent in 1851 for "the first machine ever to be used for mechanical refrigeration and air conditioning." Although the mechanism produced ice in quantities, leakage and irregular performance sometimes impaired its operation. Gorrie went to New Orleans in search of venture capital to market the device, but either problems in product demand and operation, or the opposition of the ice lobby, discouraged backers. He never realized any return from his invention.

Research and tinkering in mechanical air cooling advanced somewhat during the next half-century.

By 1900, the ability to install mechanical cooling was well established in the food industry, but the technology hadn't yet been adapted into the ability to effectively cool entire rooms or buildings and make the occupants consistently comfortable.

At the turn of the century, many cooling engineers settled on a forced-air design for cooling buildings - after all, the "plenum" system of blowing forced-air over a steam or water-heated surface to distribute heat had been used effectively for the last 50 years.

But settling on a method to cool the air, size the equipment, and remove moisture from the air proved vexing.

Through trial and error, engineers started to come up with a series of formulas to determine the temperature to which the air must be cooled to remove a given weight of moisture, the amount of latent heat that must be removed, and the surface area of the cooling coil.

A solution was close, predicted the editors of the trade journal Ice and Refrigeration in 1904. "The practical application of mechanical refrigeration to air cooling for the purposes of personal comfort, no doubt has a field…and the day is at hand, or soon will be, when the modern office building, factory, church, theatre and even residence will be incomplete without a mechanical air cooling plant."

Bringing it all together was Carrier. In 1911, he disclosed his basic Rational Psychrometric Formulae to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The formula still stands today as the basis for all fundamental calculations for the air conditioning industry.

In 1921, Carrier patented the centrifugal refrigeration machine. The "centrifugal chiller" was the first practical method of air conditioning large spaces. Previous refrigeration machines used reciprocating-compressors (piston-driven) to pump refrigerant (often toxic and flammable ammonia) throughout the system. Carrier designed a centrifugal-compressor similar to the centrifugal turning-blades of a water pump. The result was a safer and more efficient chiller.

Industries flourished with the new ability to control the temperature and humidity levels during and after production. Film, tobacco, processed meats, medical capsules, textiles and other products acquired significant improvements in quality with air conditioning.

Cooling for human comfort, rather than industrial need, began in 1924, when three centrifugal chillers were installed in the first department store in the nation, the J.L. Hudson building in Detroit. Cooling was introduced on the first three floors, and then eventually to the entire building. The boom in human cooling spread from the department stores to the movie theaters, most notably the Rivoli theater in New York, whose summer film business skyrocketed when it heavily advertised the cool comfort.

By 1930, more than 300 theatres nationwide displayed on their marquees, "Cooled by Refrigeration."

In 1928, Carrier developed the first residential "Weathermaker," an air conditioner for private home use. The Great Depression and then World War II slowed the non-industrial use of air conditioning. After the war, consumer sales started to grow again.

After World War II, mechanical cooling allowed the development of the modern glass-walled skyscraper - the symbol of freedom from traditional construction systems as well as heating and cooling methods. Glass-walled skyscrapers such as the United Nations (1952) linked modern architecture with the new technology.

At first, air-conditioning systems were designed with initial cost as a major consideration. Operating costs were virtually ignored because electrical energy was cheap - but that changed for good during rapid energy price increases during the 1970s, which brought a shift in emphasis toward energy-efficient operation. The rest is history, cool and comfortable history.

A turn-of-the-century engineer who worked on the New York Stock Exchange's cooling system, Alfred Wolff, had it about right.

"If the refrigerating plant is instituted…and the entering air is cooled…and the percentage of moisture lowered, the result will be that this room will be superior in atmospheric conditions to anything that exists elsewhere. It will mark a new era in the comforts of habitation."

Information for this article was excerpted from American Heritage Magazine, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers Journal, the National Building Museum and information provided by Carrier Corp.

SHOWN HERE IS the world's first centrifugal chiller, circa 1922. Most chiller pumps in use at the time used piston-driven rotating impellers to move refrigerant, but there were limits to their capacity. Willis Carrier's design utilized a smooth, efficient centrifugal compressor, which finally made it possible to cool large spaces.


It's time to put some weight behind ergonomic issues

By Scott Schneider
Laborers Health and Safety Fund of North America

Musculoskeletal (muscle, joint and bone) injuries are the most common injury problem in the construction industry. They account for over one-third of all lost work-day injuries and produce about half of all compensation claims.

In a recent survey, 40 percent of construction workers said "working while hurt" is a major problem. Working while hurt reduces productivity. Continuing to work while hurt will result in disabling injuries that can end a career. Many construction workers end up retiring by age 55 because they just can't do the work any more.

Many can't enjoy their retirement because of their disabilities.

Ergonomics means finding ways to make the work easier so workers can work smarter, not harder. It means asking experienced workers for their ideas on how to do the work. Usually, it ends up making the job more productive since workers are less often fatigued or hurt.

Ergonomic changes, generally, are not expensive and can be very simple. Types of ergonomic changes include:


  • Planning the job to minimize manual handling of heavy materials-making sure crane time is available, forklifts are used maximally and materials are delivered and stored close to where they will be used.
  • Storing materials so they are accessible and easier to get to (e.g., not above shoulder height or at ground level), but not in the way of on-going work.
  • Making sure that walkways are clear and even so carts and dollies can be easily employed.

Tools and Equipment

  • Using better, ergonomically-designed tools which may be lighter weight, require less force to operate or fit the hand better and are more comfortable to use.
  • Using carts, dollies and hoists to move materials as much as possible rather than brute strength.
  • Using handles when carrying loads.
  • Using protective equipment like knee pads and shoulder pads to reduce the contact stresses of kneeling work or carrying materials.


  • Getting help when needed to handle heavy loads-some companies set weight limits (like 50 pounds) above which a helper is required.
  • Organizing stretching programs before work begins each day.


  • Using lighter materials, such as lighter-weight block.


  • Training workers and foremen to identify ergonomic risk factors and common solutions.
  • Most important is setting up an "ergonomics process" - a regular time, perhaps during safety meetings, to talk about ergonomic issues, get ideas from the members on how jobs could be improved, test out those ideas and decide if they were real improvements.
  • Many companies are beginning to look at ergonomic problems and work on solutions because it makes business sense even in the absence of an OSHA regulation.

LET THE MACHINE get it: using a Bobcat to lift heavy construction materials won't strain the back at all.


Voter outrage pushes congress to approve anti-corporate crime bill

WASHINGTON (PAI)-Faced with rising constituent outrage over financial fraud that cost workers thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in pension value, congressional negotiators on July 24 approved wide-ranging legislation against corporate crime.

Congress passed the final bill on July 25, before quitting for its August recess. Business-backed GOP President George W. Bush, facing the same political pressure, says he will sign it.

The bill increases fines and prison terms for corporate executives who present false financial data. It federally regulates scandal-rife accountants, and virtually bans them from being "consultants" for their corporate clients. All those practices led to Enron's collapse and other corporate frauds.

The bill also gives corporate fraud victims five years, not just three, to sue executives who robbed them of billions of dollars through shady practices. And it would hold company executives legally responsible for their firms' financial data.

The measure was based on a bill to regulate accountants, but Senate Banking Committee Chairman Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) expanded it and pushed it through the Democratic-run Senate by unanimous votes. Accountants and the Chamber of Commerce lobbied to weaken the bill, and cited their campaign contributions, but lost.

The House's ruling Republicans passed a much-weaker bill, with no enforcement, earlier this year by a party-line vote, but caved in during final bargaining. Lead GOP negotiator Rep. Michael Oxley (R-Ohio) protested the Senate bill "had major flaws." But rank-and-file Republicans urged him to yield.

"Traditionally, our markets have been the...most transparent in the world," Sarbanes explained. "We intend to see they once again merit that reputation," he added after the cascade of corporate scandals that began with Enron led to a stock market collapse and investor conclusions that companies lie.

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney cited Enron and WorldCom - the latest, largest crash due to financial fraud - reasons to protect workers. WorldCom lied about its income, by $4 billion.

"WorldCom's accounting practices and the resulting collapse have already cost its employees more than $1 billion invested in company stock" in 401(k) pension accounts "and cost 17,000 workers their jobs and health care," Sweeney said.

Sweeney added that "Enron management's decision to first make more than $100 million in bonus payments for executives, then file for bankruptcy and then lay off thousands of people, effectively tying their severance money up" in bankruptcy court "set a standard for how to ensure maximum suffering" of workers.

The House rushed to double the fines and jail terms for crooked corporate executives, and that was included in the final bill. Bush endorsed the previous, weaker House GOP bill earlier this year, before backtracking in late July.

The Senate defeated attempts by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) to force corporations to count the cost of huge stock options granted to executives as losses on company books. And the House sidetracked legislation to penalize corporations that, in name only, move their headquarters overseas to avoid paying federal taxes.



Nation's electric grid under strain
Five years ago, the U.S. electrical generation industry was straining to keep up with ever-increasing demand.

Today, after a four-year-long boom in power plant construction, keeping up with demand isn't a problem any longer - the difficulty lies in moving the electricity through an overworked transmission system.

"Unless transmission reinforcements are built, new generating capacity is likely to be trapped in several regions," said Doug Logan of Platts Research & Consulting/RDI, as reported in the Engineering News Record.

By the end of 2001, the ENR reported, the powerplant construction boom had added more than 70,000 megawatts to the nation's generation capacity, and 210,000 megawatts more were in development or under construction, according to a new report from Energy Ventures Analysis Inc.

Most of the additional power production capacity has come from the construction of natural gas-fired power plants. Federal energy officials now worry that the West's gas pipeline system may not be able to meet growing demand. In addition, an energy consulting firm is warning that the electric-transmission grid must be reinforced in several areas. If a better grid is not built, electric power could be trapped in some regions, such as New England, the South-Central U.S. and the Pacific Northwest.

According to the Michigan Public Service Commission, ongoing power plant construction of baseload and peaker plants in our state will result in the additional production capacity of 3,650 megawatt of electricity in the next two years. Another 6,100 megawatts of power could be brought on line if plans go through.

Cell tower erection is dangerous work
Construction work is always high on the lists of the most hazardous jobs in the U.S. But the dangers of cell phone tower construction is off the charts.

The Great Lakes Fabricators and Erectors reports that figures compiled by the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries record the deaths of 163 workers out of a total labor force estimated at approximately 6,000 from 1992 through 2001. That rate is some 30-times greater than the average rate of fatalities for all injuries.

Of the 163 killed, 129 died from falls, 19 from collapses, and 15 from other causes.

While some cell phone tower construction crews are union, they are predominately open shop operations that travel from job to job across the country.

Junior Leaguers appreciate support
To the Greater Detroit Building Trades,
On behalf of the Junior League World Series and youth players from around the world, I wish to sincerely express our utmost appreciation to the locals of the building trades. Your generosity to the annual Junior League World Series is typical of the high values you place on community involvement, especially towards kids.

Thank you very much for helping your brother help this worthy cause.

Tom Wiedling (Plumbers Local 98) Junior League World Series, Chairman Program Book and Banners


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