The Building Tradesman Current Issue | Back Issues Index

August 22, 2008

The Employee Free Choice Act

Wanted: a president who wants government to work for U.S. workers

Think Ford's first: Masons renovate façade at Ford's Piquette plant

Goodbye summer, hello Labor Day - Events slated in three communities

Bigger Troy-Beaumont in the works

Trade deficit with China a U.S. jobs killer

News Briefs

 

The Employee Free Choice Act

Don't fall for the big lie about labor's top priority

By Bill McCarthy
President, Minneapolis Labor Federation
and Press Associates

MINNEAPOLIS (PAI) - In recent weeks, you may have seen ads on TV or news releases or letters to the editor in your local newspaper bashing "big labor" and the Employee Free Choice Act. Don't believe them.

The Employee Free Choice Act is federal legislation - passed by the House but stalled and killed by a GOP filibuster in the Senate - to make it easier for workers to organize unions. Both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win have united to make passing EFCA a priority for the new Congress in 2009.

In attacking the legislation, opponents distort the facts and charge that it would end secret ballot elections in union organizing drives. The charge is being raised in election races nationwide, particularly in states with close U.S. Senate races. Not true.

The foundation of modern labor law, the Wagner Act of 1935, provided a path to union recognition when a majority of workers in a workplace signed union authorization cards - simple and fair.

When labor adversaries in the Republican-run Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 over Democratic President Harry S Truman's veto, however, employers gained the right to reject the workers' union authorization cards and to petition the National Labor Relations Board to conduct an election to determine if a workplace should become union.

But the NLRB election process bears little resemblance to elections to choose our leaders for local, state and federal government. In the run-up to NLRB elections,
employers pull out all the stops to intimidate workers into rejecting the union.

These abuses - some of them illegal, but most of them legal under Taft-Hartley - are well-documented. They include mandatory attendance at anti-union meetings, where bosses are free harangue against unions without dissent. Workers must attend or face discipline.

They also include one-on-one meetings between workers and supervisors where a boss can talk against the union, threats to close the business if the union wins the vote, and even firing workers for pro-union activity.

By contrast, the union's rights are restricted. For example, while the boss can drag in workers for anti-union harangues in company space and on company time, union campaigners must usually meet workers off the job and often after hours.

The Employee Free Choice Act would give workers, not employers, the right to
decide how to express the choice about going union: Through the card-check process OR through the NLRB election process.

Card-check, by restoring automatic recognition when the union gains election authorization cards from a majority of a worksite's members, would halt many of the employers' vicious anti-union campaigns in their tracks before the drives even start. Why? The union would already be recognized.

If passed, the Employee Free Choice Act will help expand the number of workers who enjoy union wages and union benefits like health insurance and retirement plans. If passed, the bill will help expand the number of workers who have a
voice on the job through their union.

The Employee Free Choice Act is about empowering workers. And that's why you're now hearing more about it from the opposition. That's why it's become an issue in Senate races from New Hampshire to Minnesota to Oregon, among others.

So beware of messages from groups with the nice-sounding names like "The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace" or "The Center for Union Facts." These are anti-union, business-funded front groups not at all concerned with rights of workers.

These anti-union groups aim to distort the issues involving the Employee Free Choice Act. They're using broadcast media. They're using print media. They're using "push polling" - spreading disinformation in the guise of a poll to sway, not measure, public opinion.

 

And they're wrapping themselves in the flag of "secret ballot elections," implying that unions want to take away your right to vote for or against unionization. That's wrong. It also diverts attention from their own abuses of the election process.

And now this right-wing smear is extending beyond the Employee Free Choice Act to attack our labor-endorsed candidates for U.S. House and U.S. Senate - because they support the legislation.

Our foes would like nothing better than to distract voters from the real issues in this campaign: Jobs, health care, the economy. To do so, they're spreading false charges and smearing unions, the EFCA, and labor's endorsed candidates.

Don't let them get away with it. And beware of what they're doing.

TOP

Wanted: a president who wants government to work for U.S. workers

By Mark Ayers
President

Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO
Commentary

MINNEAPOLIS (PAI) - In recent weeks, you may have seen ads on TV or news releases or letters to the editor in your local newspaper bashing "big labor" and the Employee Free Choice Act. Don't believe them.

The Employee Free Choice Act is federal legislation - passed by the House but stalled and killed by a GOP filibuster in the Senate - to make it easier for workers to organize unions. Both the AFL-CIO and Change to Win have united to make passing EFCA a priority for the new Congress in 2009.

In attacking the legislation, opponents distort the facts and charge that it would end secret ballot elections in union organizing drives. The charge is being raised in election races nationwide, particularly in states with close U.S. Senate races. Not true.

The foundation of modern labor law, the Wagner Act of 1935, provided a path to union recognition when a majority of workers in a workplace signed union authorization cards - simple and fair.

When labor adversaries in the Republican-run Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 over Democratic President Harry S Truman's veto, however, employers gained the right to reject the workers' union authorization cards and to petition the National Labor Relations Board to conduct an election to determine if a workplace should become union.

But the NLRB election process bears little resemblance to elections to choose our leaders for local, state and federal government. In the run-up to NLRB elections,
employers pull out all the stops to intimidate workers into rejecting the union.

These abuses - some of them illegal, but most of them legal under Taft-Hartley - are well-documented. They include mandatory attendance at anti-union meetings, where bosses are free harangue against unions without dissent. Workers must attend or face discipline.

They also include one-on-one meetings between workers and supervisors where a boss can talk against the union, threats to close the business if the union wins the vote, and even firing workers for pro-union activity.

By contrast, the union's rights are restricted. For example, while the boss can drag in workers for anti-union harangues in company space and on company time, union campaigners must usually meet workers off the job and often after hours.

The Employee Free Choice Act would give workers, not employers, the right to
decide how to express the choice about going union: Through the card-check process OR through the NLRB election process.

Card-check, by restoring automatic recognition when the union gains election authorization cards from a majority of a worksite's members, would halt many of the employers' vicious anti-union campaigns in their tracks before the drives even start. Why? The union would already be recognized.

If passed, the Employee Free Choice Act will help expand the number of workers who enjoy union wages and union benefits like health insurance and retirement plans. If passed, the bill will help expand the number of workers who have a
voice on the job through their union.

The Employee Free Choice Act is about empowering workers. And that's why you're now hearing more about it from the opposition. That's why it's become an issue in Senate races from New Hampshire to Minnesota to Oregon, among others.

So beware of messages from groups with the nice-sounding names like "The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace" or "The Center for Union Facts." These are anti-union, business-funded front groups not at all concerned with rights of workers.

These anti-union groups aim to distort the issues involving the Employee Free Choice Act. They're using broadcast media. They're using print media. They're using "push polling" - spreading disinformation in the guise of a poll to sway, not measure, public opinion.

And they're wrapping themselves in the flag of "secret ballot elections," implying that unions want to take away your right to vote for or against unionization. That's wrong. It also diverts attention from their own abuses of the election process.

And now this right-wing smear is extending beyond the Employee Free Choice Act to attack our labor-endorsed candidates for U.S. House and U.S. Senate - because they support the legislation.

Our foes would like nothing better than to distract voters from the real issues in this campaign: Jobs, health care, the economy. To do so, they're spreading false charges and smearing unions, the EFCA, and labor's endorsed candidates.

Don't let them get away with it. And beware of what they're doing.

 

TOP

Think Ford's first: Masons renovate façade at Ford's Piquette plant

By Marty Mulcahy
Managing Editor

In many areas of the old Ford Piquette plant you still see and smell the oil that workers who built Henry Ford's first cars spilled onto the maple floor years ago. The exposed massive pine timber support columns are original, as is the sprinkler system suspended from the ceilings.

The exposed interior of the plant is basically unchanged from when the plant was constructed a century ago, which adds to its appeal as an historic site and tourist destination. And what a history the Piquette plant offers: completed in 1904, it was the first factory built by Henry Ford, and his early Models B, C, F, K, N, R, S, and T were assembled here before Ford Motor Co. outgrew the space and moved in 1910. Ford dabbled with aspects of the moving assembly line at the Piquette plant.

The plant, in Detroit's New Center area, went through various owners over the years after Ford moved his operations from Piquette and Beaubien streets to an even bigger plant in Highland Park. The Piquette plant came very close to demolition in the late 1990s, but was saved when it was purchased by the Model T Automotive Heritage Complex (T-Plex). The group of volunteers is slowly reviving the historic plant - all the while keeping it open to the public as a museum in the warmer months - and masonry restoration on the front of the building is atop their list.

"Someone needs to do this, or a part of history will be lost," said Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1 foreman Mike Alterman, working for masonry restoration contractor Grunwell-Cashero. "They just put Detroit on the list of dying cities, but you look at work like this, maybe we're the renovation city."

Grunwell-Cashero masons have been working at the plant since the end of June. Their work is made possible by a combination of federal grant money and local matching funds totaling $200,000 to completely restore the narrow front of the brick building.

The entire front façade of the three-story plant will be re-tuckpointed during this project, and about 40 percent of the bricks will be replaced with matching masonry, said Grunwell-Cashero Superintendent Joe Dapkus, Jr. He said the replacement brick won't be new, but will come from a company that saves old common brick from demolished buildings for use in restoration projects.

At some point the front of the Piquette plant was painted white, but that was stripped during this restoration. The masonry walls are a solid 16 inches thick. "The sides of the building are in pretty decent shape for a 100-year-old building," Dapkus said. "It has definitely withstood the test of time."

Light and ventilation were provided by 355 windows, which are being restored by volunteer labor. "Long and narrow buildings of this type were favored among businesses at the time because they afforded the maximum amount of daylight to the interior through the many large windows," said a history of the plant written by Trent Boggess. "Industrial electrical lighting was still in its infancy, and most factories still relied on daylight as their primary source of interior light. The windows also provided ventilation throughout the building."

The plant is only 56 feet wide, but it extends 402 feet. A worker once told Henry Ford that he doubted the company would ever use all the space in the three-story, 67,000 square-foot building.

Ford and his employees built the company's first 12,000 cars in the plant. One of the T-Plex museum's directors, Michael Skinner, said the building is also significant because it was where Ford first experimented with the idea of the moving assembly line - by using a rope to pull a car frame on wheels past workers who attached parts, instead of having workers move from car to car to do their work.

According to a history provided by the Ford Motor Co., Ford sold the building to the Studebaker Corp. in January 1911. The company built an attached Albert Kahn-designed parts storage and service building in 1920. Subsequent owners were the 3M Corporation, Cadillac Overall Co. and Heritage Investments.

As part of the festivities celebrating the 100th birthday of the Model T, the front of the building is being restored and coats of paint and years of grime are being carefully removed from the building's exterior before a large historic marker and period-correct signage is installed. The building and its home club of Model T aficionados, the Piquette Ts, are also hosting several events in September as part of the vehicle's 2008 centennial celebration.

The T-Plex group hosts tours, luncheons, dinners and even weddings in the building. The building has numerous cars and related items on display, as well as placards that explain the building's history. Henry Ford's small office is marked off on the second floor of the building, with an exact replica of his desk. In the opposite corner of the building, on the third floor, was Ford's favorite place in the building, the Experimental Room. Here, in a small corner of the building, the Model T was developed in 1907 and 1908, according to information provided by Ford Motor Co.

Richard Rubens, who is on the T-Plex Board of Directors, said future wish-list projects that the group wants to undertake at the Piquette Plant are to re-roof the building and install a new sprinkler system - which is a vital consideration in an all-wood building.

"You take a walk through and this see that this is a pretty amazing building," Dapkus said. "Not only the construction of it, but look at the old photos and you can see that the inside hasn't changed much since they were building cars."
(For more information on the Piquette plant, go to www.tplex.org or call (313) 872-8759).


ON THE NATIONAL Register of Historic Places, Henry Ford's Piquette Street plant in Detroit was his first factory and for six years, was the assembly area for his fledgling company's first 12,000 cars, including the Model T. The original construction cost was $76,500, but it went over budget.

MIXING MORTAR near a side entrance at the Piquette plant is Mike Alterman of BAC Local 1 and Grunwell Cashero.

TOP

Goodbye summer, hello Labor Day - Events slated in three communities

August is starting to fade and a new school year is looming - that can only mean one thing. Well, it probably means any number of things, but for our purposes, it means Labor Day is upon us.

Building trades workers are encouraged to join with their fellow union members and celebrate Labor Day on Monday, Sept. 1. Labor Day celebrations will be held this year in Detroit, Marquette/Ishpeming and Muskegon. The Grand Rapids Labor Day celebration is cancelled this year.

Here are some of the things you might need to know about each event:

Detroit -The 2008 Detroit Labor Day Parade will start earlier than usual at 9 a.m. It will be staged as usual for the building trades along Trumbull Ave. south of Michigan Ave., proceeding along Michigan to Woodward. The earlier starting time will allow the building trades to move ahead of the other unions' line of march, which moves south along Woodward Avenue to Jefferson Avenue to the Legacy of Labor Monument in Hart Plaza.

The theme of the Detroit parade is "Your union means change for America."

The building trades parade lineup will start with the Roofers, followed by the Laborers, IBEW, Boilermakers, Sheet Metal Workers, Cement Masons/Plasterers, Painters, Bricklayers and Allied Crafts, Plumbers/ Pipe Fitters/ Sprinkler Fitters, Iron Workers, Heat and Frost Insulators, and Elevator Constructors.

A blood drive will be held on Labor Day in the basement of IBEW Local 58 on Abbott Street, east of Trumbull from 6 a.m.-noon. Walk-ins are welcome. The American Red Cross reports that they usually collect 30-40 pints of blood in this collection effort - which would be welcome this year with blood supplies running low.

Marquette/Ishpeming - The annual Labor Day Festival will be in Ishpeming, southwest of Marquette. The parade will start at 11 a.m. EST on Labor Day, with a parade along Euclid Street, Main Street, Division Street and Lakeshore Drive. A picnic and program will follow at the Cliffs Shaft Mine Museum and Lake Bancroft Park on Lakeshore and Euclid Streets.

The Muskegon United Labor Day Parade will be at Pere Marquette Park on Labor Day, Sept. 1, 2007. The parade begins at 11a.m. Participants should meet at the Harbor Towne area at 9 a.m. to catch the trolley to the staging area. Following the parade will be a Solidarity Tent with food and refreshments back at Pere Marquette Park.

TOP

 

Bigger Troy-Beaumont in the works

By Marty Mulcahy
Managing Editor

TROY - A local brickyard makes a "Beaumont Brick" so that any new Beaumont Hospital renovation, expansion or satellite facility will match the look of the original building in Royal Oak.

That's a pretty good indication that Beaumont is serious about future construction - and the latest evidence is at Beaumont-Troy, where building trades workers are toiling on $220 million in expansion projects on both sides of Dequindre Road.

Managed by Barton Malow/Skanska, about 300 Hardhats are currently on the project. "There's a great bunch of trades and subs out here," said Barton Malow Senior Supt. John Pierman, who was working on the west side construction. "We couldn't have picked a better group."

Added Barton-Malow's Sharon Crispin, project manager for work on the east side: "We're moving along very quickly, and things are going very well for us. It's a good job by everybody out here."

Beaumont-Troy had 50 percent growth in its admissions; 24 percent growth in emergency visits; and 43 percent growth in births from 2000-2006. This growth is projected to continue at an annual rate of 4-5 percent. To meet those needs, Beaumont is building a new 129,000 square-foot Family Medicine Center / Outpatient Services Center on the east side of Dequindre that will include radiology, nuclear medicine, pulmonary, cardiology, family medicine and a vascular clinic

Work is also going on at the main hospital on the west side of Dequindre, where the main hospital at the site was originally constructed in 1977. There the emergency center is being expanded and a two-story addition is going into place. Also under construction is a critical care tower consisting of 13,000 square feet of renovated space in addition to 104,000 square feet of new space on seven levels.

The West Tower expansion is a 137,000-square foot, three-story vertical addition to the existing west tower of the hospital. An Oncology/ Hospice Unit will occupy the fifth floor and will feature a family lounge and activity area, meditation room, sleep rooms, pantry, spa and resource center.

An enclosed 585-foot pedestrian bridge over Dequindre will connect the east and west facilities.

Tom Brisse, senior vice president and director of the Troy hospital, said during last year's groundbreaking: "This will allow us to add capacity to meet the growing demand for services at Beaumont, Troy, including the Emergency Center, inpatient beds and outpatient services."

Construction is expected to be complete in 2009.

UNLOADING light poles for the parking lot of Beaumont-Troy East facility is Brian Paul of IBEW Local 58 and Centerline Electric.

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Trade deficit with China a U.S. jobs killer

WASHINGTON (PAI) - China's trade surplus with the U.S., created by undervalued currency, low pay for Chinese workers and a deliberate drive for industrial exports, has cost the U.S. economy almost 2.3 million jobs from 2001 through 2007, says an Economic Policy Institute study.

The average U.S. worker who lost his or her job to China since 2001 lost more than $8,000 yearly in wages when he or she found a new job, EPI adds, but the impact was wider than that.

That's because competition from low-priced Chinese imports and low-paid Chinese workers drove down other U.S. workers' wages, EPI said. It calculated an average U.S. worker who kept a job, but whose firm faced competition from the Chinese imports, was forced to take a $1,400 pay cut over the last seven years as a result.

Among the states, Michigan was the ninth biggest "loser" - with 79,500 jobs lost from 2001 though 2007.

Between 2001 and last year, China's trade surplus with the U.S. - and our deficit with China - tripled, to $262 billion, representing a 21% increase annually.

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News Briefs

Labor Day blood drive set
With blood supplies "dangerously low," the American Red Cross is urging building trades workers and their families to give blood.

An opportunity to do so will take place during a blood drive on Labor Day in the basement of IBEW Local 58 on Abbott Street, east of Trumbull from 6:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome before and after the parade and festivities. The American Red Cross reports that they usually collect 30-40 pints of blood in this collection.

To illustrate the low blood supplies, as of Aug. 13, the Red Cross reports there was zero O-Negative blood (the universal blood type) in the Southeast Michigan Blood Services Region. And six of the eight blood types were below "optimal inventory levels."

"The Midwest is suffering an extreme shortage of many blood types," said Bill Salow of the Southeast Michigan American Red Cross. "Not only is Southeast Michigan affected, surrounding Red Cross regions, from which we routinely import needed blood products, have similar shortages. Although our collections staff is fully committed to 18 or 19 blood drives each day, many of the drives are not achieving their collection goals, often collecting substantially fewer units than they have collected in past years."

Local 58, which hosts a number of various local union members on Labor Day in their parking lot, is extending a challenge: "who has the most red-blooded members?" T-shirts for donors and a trophy will go to the union with the most blood donors.

Trades turning scrap into cash
Got scrap?

Building trades workers sidestep, toss out or ignore construction scrap on a daily basis on jobsites across Michigan. When the scrap eventually is hauled off to a landfill, lost is probably untold thousands of dollars in recyclable metal that could be reclaimed for cash - but isn't.

That's not the case these days at the Bloomfield Park development on Telegraph Rd. north of Square Lake. Greg Kopitz, an IBEW Local 58 electrician working for McSweeney Electric, approached general contractors Oliver Hatcher and IMC on the large residential and retail project and asked if a dumpster on the site could be devoted to collecting scrap metal for charity. They agreed.

Bolts, conduit, scrap ductwork - all of it is now being collected, and when the dumpster is filled, it will be hauled off to a scrapper for money. An effort that began three weeks ago has resulted in a 40-yard dumpster that's nearly filled with metallic scrap. "We'll turn the scrap into cash, and donate it to some charitable group, maybe Toys for Tots," Kopitz said last week. "A while ago, I saw re-bar in a dumpster, and thought that it was scrap that could be recycled, and money could be made and donated somewhere."

Added Kopitz: "Maybe this is an idea that will catch on at other jobsites."

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