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August 31, 2001

Labor Day festivities slated around Michigan

MBCTC meeting unveils new operating plan, returns officers

'Original grandeur' the goal for Griswold Place renovation

UA to take up permanent residence at Washtenaw Community College

Another year atop standings for Operators Red

NEWS BRIEFS

 

Labor Day festivities slated around Michigan

On Monday, Sept. 3, make plans to attend Labor Day celebrations in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Marquette.

The Detroit parade kicks off at 9:30 a.m., with the building trades lining up as usual along Trumbull, south of Michigan Ave. Celebrating their centennial year, members of Iron Workers Local 25 will lead the march.

The march will proceed east along Michigan Ave. to Griswold. The theme of the parade is "We built this city, Detroit 1701-2001."

An American Red Cross "all-trades" blood drive will be held beginning at 10 a.m. on Labor Day at the IBEW Local 58 hall, 1358 Abbott St.

In Grand Rapids, parade-goers will gather at John Ball Park, where buses will take participants to the start of the parade at Winter and Fulton streets. The parade starts at 10 a.m. After the parade at 12:30 p.m., a picnic with rides and entertainment will take place at John Ball Park.

In Marquette, the 2001 Labor Day Festival will start with an 11 a.m. parade along Third Street, followed by a picnic and other activities at Mattson Lower Harbor Park. The event, which usually attracts 2,500, is sponsored by the Marquette County Labor Council.

In Muskegon, the 2001 West Michigan United Labor Day Parade will operate under the theme, "Solidarity for working families." The staging area is at Pere Marquette Park, and participants are asked to arrive between 9-10:30 a.m. A picnic will follow the parade at the park.

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MBCTC meeting unveils new operating plan, returns officers

MT. PLEASANT - It was all business at the 44th annual convention of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council held Aug. 20-23 at the Soaring Eagle Resort.

The MBTC held an election for its top positions, a business plan was approved as a blueprint for the council's future activities, and a business leader from one of the world's largest companies talked about how the construction trades can become more businesslike.

And of course, political business wasn't far behind, as Sen. Carl Levin and the leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates talked to the delegates about the direction of the State of Michigan and the nation.

Following is a rundown of the convention activities:

Leadership: Tom Boensch (Secretary-Treasurer) and Sam T. Hart (President) were re-elected to their respective positions for four-year terms. Boensch, who hails from Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 85, won more votes over challenger Larry Sedrowski, a business agent from Iron Workers Local 25.

"I appreciate the support of the delegates, and I won't disappoint you in the years ahead," Boensch said. "We will continue to work to make this council one that you can be proud of."

For his part, Sedrowski urged solidarity among the trades and vowed to continue to fight for the causes of Local 25 and the rest of the building trades.

Sam T. Hart, who is also business manager of Operating Engineers Local 324, was unopposed in the election for MBTC President. "It's been a privilege and an honor to work with you as President," Hart said.

The business of business: Delegates adopted a business plan for the Michigan Building Trades Council that builds on the council's Constitution and Bylaws and more clearly defines the role of the organization for years to come.

The council's new mission statement says the organization will "serve as a group of Local Unions, Councils and Conferences involved in the building and construction industry, united to advance the expressed interests of the unionized construction industry by building and maintaining facilities in Michigan with skilled craft workers for the benefit of entire communities."

Specifically, the new plan defines the council's objectives, which include capturing as much of the construction market as possible for affiliate unions and their members, promoting organizing unorganized workers, promoting collective bargaining and securing improved wages and working conditions for all workers, coordinating the activities and interests of affiliated unions, developing and advancing apprenticeship training, improving public relations activities, and promoting a harmonious relationship between employers and employees.

Boensch said the strategic plan emerged from a consensus of building trades leaders from around the state, whose work began in January. It was an effort to "revisit and identify" the council's agenda, Boensch said, "in order to move our agenda ahead."

Greater Detroit Building Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Devlin said the plan "is another example of unions acting like a business. And like a lot of businesses, we simply cannot operate the way we did 10, 20, or 50 years ago.

"Whatever progress we make, the major part of our business - but not the only part - is keeping our people employed," he said.

Greg Sudderth, who helped facilitate the adoption of the plan along with Ed Hartfield of the National Center for Dispute Resolution, said the plan will help affiliates track the performance of the council, improve coordination among the trades in terms of organizing and political action, and help the council "toot its own horn - "very few of our rank and file members know the role of the council," he said.

"One of our goals should be to try to make sure that all work in Michigan is done 100 percent union," Sudderth said. "It's a big goal, but in the long term, if we settle for anything less, we wouldn't be doing our job."

Political business: U.S. Sen. Carl Levin told delegates that he is in fact in the running for another six-year term of office next year, and does not anticipate the next few years being as good as the last six.

"We're in a slowdown and it's going to take a while to get out of it," he said.

Levin said President Bush's tax cut isn't going to help improve the nation's economy.

"It took us 40 years to get out of the last deficit in 1993," Levin said, "and now after years of surpluses, we're forced to being back into a deficit because of the tax cut."

Levin said the tax rebate checks being mailed to Americans "were very much supported by Democrats, but they're only a small part of the picture."

He said 90 percent of the tax cut benefited the top 10 percent of American income-earners. "The president said he's giving money back to you, but he left out 25 million Americans," Levin said.

With the current economic slowdown and a less rosy budget, Levin predicted Congress will not have money for things like increased spending on looming problems like road and sewer improvements or improving education, and is going to be left with choosing between deficit spending or cutting into the Social Security Trust Fund in order to fund the tax cut.

An owner's perspective: Robert Valentine, General Motors' director of capital projects, Worldwide Facilities Group, told delegates that the path to success for building trades unions is the same as it is for any company - they have to become "an enabler to success" for the customers they serve, he said.

Valentine suggested success for Michigan building trade unions and their members stems from one concept: "to give businesses every opportunity to locate and grow here. And you do that through competitive work practices."

Valentine said there are a number of things workers may not think owners are looking at - but they're watched very closely. "We're very focused on the quality of work you do," he said. "We know that it results in lower maintenance costs." And of course, there is scheduling. "If we can open a plant 30 days earlier, I can't tell you how much more that results in a more profitable product for us," he said.

What owners don't do very well, Valentine said, is measure the work of their contractors and their workforce. He said owners appreciate the work of labor-management groups like the Great Lakes Construction Alliance, which administers workplace drug and alcohol testing. The tests are rarely popular among workers, "but we've seen a drop in alcohol and drug use from 8 percent to 4 percent among construction workers," Valentine said.

"Owners are paying attention to that," he added, in addition to workers compensation rates and safety statistics.

One of the best ways union construction can stay ahead of the competition, Valentine said, is to continue to take a more businesslike approach to meeting owners' needs in the areas mentioned above - and provide the numbers to back them up.

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'Original grandeur' the goal for Griswold Place renovation

By Marty Mulcahy
Editor

One of Detroit's oldest skyscrapers, the 23-story Griswold Place, is undergoing a renovation that will completely modernize its innards while maintaining the unique character of a landmark building.

It's a blending of the new and the old, and one of the most conspicuous examples is the ornate plaster work that's being preserved in the building's lobby. But there are numerous other examples, including complete replacement of the building's 1,867 windows, replacement of most of the mechanical systems including a new electrical substation, new elevator equipment and a new sprinkler system.

"This isn't an update," said Jerry McKindles, vice president and CEO of the BOSC Group, the developer and property manager. "It's a replacement. We are building a new building in an old building shell."

Parliament and Sachse Construction are acting as construction manager on the $37 million project.

A recent article in CAM (Construction Association of Michigan) Magazine featured the building's renovation. Griswold Place, at Griswold and Fort streets, was one of Detroit's first skyscrapers. Built in 1913, work on the 390,000 square-foot building today "ranks as one of the most extensive renovations of an historic structure in Detroit," the magazine said. It was one of the last buildings to be designed by famed Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, the father of the modern skyscraper.

In the past, the building has been known as the Dime Savings Bank and One Kennedy Square. It sits across from the site of what will be the new Compuware headquarters.

Split in the middle to allow for extra light in inner offices through a "light court," the building's signature feature is the large skylight above the three-story lobby, which is being restored to its original beauty. Below the skylight is some nice old ornamental plaster work - the kind that almost never gets called for today in a drywall world.

"It's nice to see them saving the work in the old atrium," said foreman Robert Plotzke of Plasterers Local 67, who worked on the project for three months this summer, with a crew of six from Russell Plastering. "I enjoy working with the ornamental plaster, but if you ask any plasterer, they'll tell you they like working with the old stuff. Working on a flat wall, you don't get the same sense of accomplishment that you do with this stuff. This is a real nice ornamental job."

A fair portion of the Griswold Place's plaster in the atrium had experienced water damage, which had gone unnoticed because a grid ceiling was covering it up. The plasterers created molds to match the old ornamental work, and replaced the damaged plaster.

"It's a pretty cool job," said James Belanger, a 4th-year plasterer apprentice. "We're used to working on flat walls, so it's a little more interesting to do this stuff and it involves more craftsmanship. I'm really happy with how it turned out."

The building, mostly empty, is being transformed into Class A office space. In stripping the structure, the trades are working around and through a skyscraper that was typical for the early part of the century: it was overbuilt. Floors are 20-inch thick concrete, while today's are five-to-six inches thick. It was necessary - and no small task - to create three major holes on every floor in order to accommodate sprinklers, wiring, and other mechanical equipment.

"It's a very nice, interesting building with a lot of original, ornate materials," said Charlie McFarlin, project superintendent for Sachse, who said completion is set for the end of the year. "The customer is going to get a completely modern building, set up with new mechanical equipment, fiber optics, everything. It will be nice to restore this building to its original grandeur."

PLASTERER Robert Plotzke and apprentice James Belanger of Local 67 and Russell Plastering dry-fit a restored section of ornamental plaster in the upper reaches of the Griswold Place lobby.

BUILT IN 1913, the Griswold Place skyscraper at Fort and Griswold streets is being stripped to its shell during a $37 million modernization project.

 

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UA to take up permanent residence at Washtenaw Community College

YPSILANTI - The unique educational bond between Washtenaw County and the International Union of Plumbers, Pipe Fitters and Sprinkler Fitters was strengthened with the Aug. 17 groundbreaking of the Great Lakes Regional Training Center.

The new 44,000 square foot training center, on the campus of Washtenaw Community College, will be one of five scattered across the country and is expected to be completed next year. Training opportunities will encompass air conditioning/refrigeration, plumbing and air conditioning service, valve repair, medical gas and specialty welding courses, to computer aided drafting and distance learning.

"This training center is proof that the UA is committed to offering the finest training in the industry," said International Union General President Martin Maddaloni. "We're grateful to Washtenaw Community College, not only for our great relationship, but for building this center on your campus and for strengthening your partnership with skilled union labor."

At the forefront of the training center's mission will be specialty skill training, such as the kind used to build highly sensitive environments like a hospital operating room or scientific research lab.

Washtenaw Community College President Larry Whitworth said the school "is extremely proud of our partnership that has developed with the United Association, which has culminated with this center."

The training center will augment, but not replace, the annual week-long UA Instructor Training Program, which was held the week of Aug. 13-17.

This is the 12th consecutive year the UA has held its Instructor Training Program at WCC. This year, a new record was set: 1,801 UA instructors from across the nation attended, bringing back information and new pipe trades training techniques to their home locals.

The UA Instructor Training Program is a five-year program that involves two hundred hours of instruction. Each participant receives one week (40 hours) of intensive instruction each year for five years. Each year they gain proficiency in the techniques of teaching a class and in the use of instructional materials. They also broaden and deepen their understanding of the technical aspects and new innovations in their profession.

"It's great, we're glad to have the UA aboard," said host Local 190 Business Manager Ron House. "Now, we're going to have the UA year-round, and this shows how our relationship with Washtenaw Community College has strengthened over the years."

The UA chose the WCC in good part because the school provided the land, and the instructors will be able to use the building every August during the training program. "Another part of it is the boom of technology in the state of Michigan," said George H. Bliss III, the Director of Training at the UA's national office in Washington, D.C. "We want to offer something to our people who are helping to build Michigan."

Besides, Bliss said, "the community in the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area has been wonderful to us."

GROUNDBREAKING for the UA's training center was attended by (l-r) Washtenaw Community College Board of Trustees Chair David Rutledge, Congresswoman Lynn Rivers, College President Larry Whitworth, UA Director of Training George Bliss, IU President Martin Maddaloni, and the college's teachers' union president, Dennis Bila.


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Another year atop standings for Operators Red

Congratulations to the Operating Engineers Local 324 Red team, which strong-armed the rest of the Detroit Building Trades Softball League en route to the league championship with a 19-4 record.

This is the third year in a row the Red team has won the championship. Last year, they cruised through the season undefeated.

"The Red team has a lot of good ballplayers, and it's been another great year," said Local 324 Business Manager Sam T. Hart. "I know there are a lot of other good players in the building trades, and I hope next year we could see some more teams in the league and open things up a little.

With construction activity so high the last few years, the league was down to eight teams in 2001 - and both the Operators and Millwrights had split squads. At least two more teams would help increase competition in the league.

Following are the final standings, as provided by Liberty Park:
Operators Red: 19-4
Electricians: 14-9
Sheet Metal: 14-9
Operators Blue: 13-10
Millwrights Blue: 13-10
Plumbers: 9-14
Carpenters: 7-16
Millwrights Red: 3-20

Operating Engineers Red team: softball league champs.

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NEWS BRIEFS

Sullivan still talking with Carpenters
The AFL-CIO Building Trades Department has gone through some "pretty rough waters" over the last year, but "I am confident that we will arrive at a solution that meets the needs of the AFL-CIO, the Carpenters, and our Building Trades Department," said department President Edward C. Sullivan.

Speaking at the 44th annual Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council last week, Sullivan's initial comments were an update on the Carpenters International Union's break earlier this year with the AFL-CIO and the Building Trades Department.
Sullivan said it was important for "cool heads to prevail on our worksites," because in the past few months, Carpenters President McCarron has been engaged in a continuing dialogue with himself and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, with former Labor Secretary John Dunlop facilitating.

On the political front, Sullivan said voters from union households made up 26% of the electorate at the polls last November - "higher than ever - and that has helped the trades with our ability to build bridges with moderate Republicans in the House and Senate, we've actually been able to move the White House on some key issues."

Sullivan said the top priority of the labor movement is still organizing.
"It is all-important to us because we in the construction industry depend on our legislative and political power more than any other part of the labor movement," he said. "That power comes from people - our members and their families - going to polls and supporting candidates at all levels of government who support us."

Painters help Paint the Town
Union painters and workers from other crafts brought a professional touch to the annual Paint the Town project earlier this month, which saw hundreds of volunteers paint 80 homes of needy people in Detroit, Highland Park and Pontiac.

The program, which began in 1988, assists elderly, disabled and low-income homeowners take care of outside work, especially painting.

John George of Blight Busters, a nonprofit group working with Ford, said: "The work is not just about beautification. Our goal is to help stabilize and revitalize neighborhoods."

Thanks to everyone who gave time to the event.

Bernard Weinberg, Jr., an apprentice with the Painters District Council 22 training program, participated in the annual Paint the Town project.


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