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August 4, 2000

Irritated Western ABC offers tips to halt union incursion

New lease on life for landmark library

'The greater the political power, the greater the bargaining power'

'Fight for the future of Michigan' kicks off with primary

Stabenow for Senate: 'Working families deserve someone who will fight on their side'

Newspaper struggle continues after appeals court wallop

Boilermakers are tops on Rouge-Edison project




Irritated Western ABC offers tips to halt union incursion

Sometimes, it's satisfying to know you're getting under somebody's skin - especially when the epidermis belongs to the ABC.

In a June 20 memo to members written under the headline, "UNIONS ARE AT IT AGAIN!!" Associated Builders and Contractors Western Michigan Chapter Executive Vice President John Doherty wrote that he is getting more reports from the field that "local union reps are becoming more visible and active."

Doherty wrote, "Consolidation of unions in Western Michigan has brought more 'business-like types' of business agents. The 'I'm here to help you' sort of guy." He continued, "more union resources are being spent on organizers and political activity."

The "problem" of project labor agreements has arrived in Western Michigan, Doherty wrote, on the U.S. 131 S-Curve Project through downtown Grand Rapids and the Southern Energy Plant in Zeeland.

"The unions are able to convince the contractors that they can provide the large number of skilled workers necessary to complete the project on schedule and promise no labor problems," he wrote. "Merit shop contractors need not apply!"

Coopersville-based Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 174 Organizer Kirk Stevenson said "this is the first ABC publication I've seen that is absolutely true. I'm proud to have contributed to the effort that caused this memo to be created. It's things like this that invigorates all organizers to keep the pressure on the ABC contractors and keep John Doherty squealing like a pig."

Under the heading, "Thrown off jobs," Doherty wrote, "We hear from ABC members working in Lansing and Battle Creek that they were asked to 'leave, go union, hire some union guys or do your work at night.' The requesting party was generally a union general contractor or CM with some prior history of union agreements. They like our member's bids going in, but at the first hint of trouble (picketing) the ax begins to fall."

Under the "Roving bands of organizers" heading, Doherty wrote: "a group of organizers, generally from the electrical union (IBEW), just walk on projects, find the employees of the electrical contractor and talk union. Someone finally realizes they don't belong there and sends them on their way. In the meantime, they leave propaganda and cards. PRIMES: You need to have 'no trespassing' signs posted on each job and have your superintendents keep unwanted visitors out! It starts with you and that is where the system is breaking down…no one is stopping them!"

"Stripping and salting" were also mentioned as concerns in the memo. Doherty wrote, "Many of the unions will soon finish negotiations on new contracts or have scheduled wage increases coming. Some already have them. As a result, they are hanging these new packages out in front of members' employees to persuade them to leave, or become what we call 'union plants,' and they call 'salts.'

"Some members are losing people to the unions, so it is something to be aware of. You need to present your wage and benefit packages in a complete form so that employees can do a comparison when confronted with the union's info. Often when an employee leaves, they return with only broken promises to show for their decision. Be ready should stripping, salting, or an organizing drive begin soon."


New lease on life for landmark library

MARQUETTE - The Peter White Public Library, a repository for books for nearly a century, is getting a little more shelf space.

The largest public library in the Upper Peninsula is in the midst of a $9 million expansion, having long outgrown the original 1904 building and 1958 addition. The cramped, antiquated, 25,000 square-foot building could not meet the needs of the physically disabled, is poorly set up for computers, and the heating, air conditioning, lighting and electrical systems are all inadequate or inefficient.

The White library has 140,000 print and non-print items and serves about 23,000 cardholders every year - nearly four times the number of cardholders in 1958 - but the facility has not been upgraded since.

Enter the building trades and general contractor Gundlach-Champion, who are in the midst of renovating the landmark library building at Front and Ridge Streets and building a new addition. The 1958 addition, built on a different level than the main building, complicated the renovation, never did flow well and is being demolished. The new addition will go over the old.

The project began in September 1998 and is slated for completion in August.

"My project superintendent and I and a lot of the tradespeople working on the library are from Marquette, so we're very interested in it," said Project Manager Mike Kolky. "The building is a landmark and we're proud of what we're doing. The tradespeople have been excellent, and we have some real good contractors out here."

Kolky said all the library materials were moved to Northern Michigan University during the renovation and expansion, and the interior of the old library was stripped to a shell. Late last month, the trades were well into the finish work.

He said the major obstacle on the project has been the difficulty tying into the existing foundations. The old foundations are very fragile, he said, and new load-bearing footings and columns had to be installed where the new addition meets the old building. "The old building just wasn't designed for the new load," Kolky said.

The building renovation/expansion project will increase the building to approximately 60,000 square feet and provide a 200-250 seat auditorium.

Named for local a philanthropist who first provided money for a library in the city, the original Beaux Arts Classical-style library building was built with a white limestone exterior and an interior of white marble, weathered oak and stained glass windows. The renovated building should serve the community well for the next 100 years.

CONSTRUCTED IN 1904, the Peter White Public Library in Marquette is undergoing a major renovation and expansion.

ELECTRICIAN Joe Holm of M & J Electric and IBEW Local 1070 wires a lighting fixture inside the Peter White Public Library.


'The greater the political power, the greater the bargaining power'

By Professor Daniel Kruger
MSU School of Labor
and Industrial Relations

The political season is upon us. Television, radio and newspapers present an ongoing stream of articles and ads on the presidential primaries. Candidates for public office seek support from both individual citizens and groups in their effort to get elected. Business groups, environmental groups, gays and lesbians, pro-abortion, anti-abortion, doctors, lawyers and unions all engage in various types of political action.

As a professor, students ask me why unions engage in political action. Below are 10 reasons why I believe unions engage in political action:

  • To help shape legislation that supports the individual in his or her dual role as a citizen and worker.
  • To help shape the role of the federal government and its impact on the job economy through monetary and fiscal policies.
  • To influence the appointments by the president of the U.S. as cabinet members, members of administrative agencies and federal judges.
  • To have a voice or help shape U.S. foreign trade policies which affects jobs and therefore the livelihood of American workers.
  • To help shape policies of the federal, state and local governments as they relate to their employees. Government in the U.S. employs about 20 million nationwide.
  • To help elect governors in order to shape the state budget and the allocation of tax revenues for human services. The governors in some states appoints judges to state courts.
  • To serve as a countervailing force to the legislative agenda of business and other special interest groups.
  • To expand the institutionalization of collective bargaining which is the only legally mandated system of employee involvement in the U.S.
  • The work of a democratic society is achieved through a system of negotiated transactions with groups who possess political power. Political action by unions gives workers a seat at the social negotiating table.

Through political action, unions seek to enhance their political power. Why is political power so important? In a democratic society the extent or magnitude of political power gives unions their voice and their seat at the great social negotiating table provided by democracy. The work of a democratic society is accomplished through a system of bargaining by those who possess political power. The greater the political power, the greater the bargaining power.

In the words of Samuel Gompers, one of the founders of the American Federation of Labor, "elect your friends and defeat your enemies. This statement was made in or about 1881 and applies as well today.

Political action is part and parcel of a free democratic society, and unions, as part of the democratic community, not only engage in political action, but are obliged to do so on behalf of their members and their interests.


'Fight for the future of Michigan' kicks off with primary

By Paul Gieleghem
State Representative, 31st District

Dear Brothers and Sisters of Labor:

Nov. 7, 2000 will be the most important election of the decade in Michigan. The Legislature we elect this year will draw the new boundaries for the Michigan House, Senate and Congressional districts. If one party controls both the House and the Senate after this election, that party will control this state for the next 10 years.

Now more than ever, it is important to get involved in your local campaigns and elections. Remember that the current Republican leadership in the State House hinged on 4 seats that were won by a slim margin. The smallest margin was 73 votes. The 4th closest race was only 538 votes. Combined, pro-labor forces lost the House by 1,236 votes. Directing volunteers to key House races will make the difference. With numbers that close, your volunteer effort can make the difference. An organized effort from union locals on behalf of a candidate will reap tremendous electoral victories. We need you to get engaged.

This election will be a fight for the future of Michigan because it will determine which direction we go as a state. It is also a fight for our families.

It's about job security, workplace safety, access to quality health care, a secure retirement, tax fairness and the protection of our environment.

In the past 18 months, we have watched the Republican majority chip away at union rights. We have watched them protect insurance companies and HMOs, rather than the patients they serve. We have watched them give away huge tax breaks to the wealthiest Michigan residents, while offering middle class families less than a dollar a week in tax savings.

We have watched them only offer punishment to people who live in "poor-performing" school districts, rather than the important help they need to improve. The current Republican leadership in state government hasn't lived up to the promises they made in the last election when they asked voters to approve the Clean Michigan Initiative bond proposal. The protection of our wildlife, preserving our natural resources and the quality of our water have become an after-thought, if a thought at all.

In recent years, when Republicans had control, they chipped away at workplace safety standards and gutted MIOSHA oversight. They also gutted workers compensation, and teachers' rights to strike without offering binding arbitration to settle grievances. This past year, they eliminated the right of school administrators to organize. Who's next? How long do you think it will be before they come after your bargaining rights?

This election will be about protecting your rights, and the security of your family. My House Democratic colleagues and I have an agenda to help families like yours achieve your goals. We want to improve public schools through smaller class sizes, high academic standards, and making sure teachers are properly trained and certified. Classrooms should be equipped with the most up-to-date computers and technology so our children can learn how to succeed. Schools also must be safe places to learn, where violent or disruptive students are removed from class and placed in alternative classrooms to learn discipline and respect.

House Democrats also want to help working families have better access to health care. We want medical decisions to be made by you and your doctor, not an insurance company bureaucrat. If someone in your family is pregnant, terminally ill or suffering from a chronic condition, they should not be forced to change doctors. We want to invest in health care programs that will help Michigan families be stronger and healthier.

House Democrats also want to make sure senior citizens have a secure, dignified retirement. No senior citizen should ever be forced to choose between buying a necessary prescription drug or putting food on the table. We have a plan to cut prescription drug costs in half for Michigan seniors. We also want to expand home health care services to 200,000 seniors who are not Medicaid-eligible. And to make sure our loved ones in nursing homes are receiving top quality care, we want to add more state inspectors for nursing homes so complaints are handled quickly.

I strongly encourage you to become involved with your local State House race. This year, we will be out-spent, but we know we have a strong agenda and message for Michigan families. For more information on House races, visit on the Internet.

Volunteers are needed in several key races to help knock on doors, post yardsigns, stuff mailings, and help get out the vote.


Stabenow for Senate: 'Working families deserve someone who will fight on their side'

Congresswoman Debbie Stabenow is challenging incumbent Sen. Spencer Abraham in the 2000 race for U.S. Senate. While serving in the Michigan legislature and in Congress, Stabenow has been on the side of working men and women, voting for strong workplace safety measures, fair wages and benefits, unemployment compensation protections, and the right to organize and bargain collectively. Her brother is a member of Teamsters Local 580.

By Congresswoman Debbie Stabenow
Candidate for U.S. Senate

There is a lot at stake in this election and Michigan's working families deserve someone who will fight on their side in the United States Senate.

I will fight for targeted tax cuts that benefit working families, not wealthy special interests. I have a track record that has made a real difference for families - sponsoring Michigan's largest property tax cut; working to ensure that families, small business people and family farmers benefited from the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997; and most recently, voting for elimination of the marriage tax penalty.

As a strong advocate for patient protections and a real Patients Bill of Rights, I am co-sponsoring legislation so that doctors, not insurance companies, make medical decisions affecting you and your family. It would eliminate insurance company "gag rules" which prohibit doctors from openly discussing treatment options with their patients.

One of my top priorities is fighting to lower the cost of prescription drugs by providing a prescription drug benefit through Medicare.

I believe we must put first things first in the budget debate. That means using the budget surplus to protect Social Security and Medicare and getting our fiscal house in order by paying down the national debt.

Our children deserve to learn in safe, quality schools. I strongly support efforts to hire 100,000 new elementary school teachers to reduce class sizes. The HOPE scholarships and the Lifetime Learning Credits which I helped pass are now making college more affordable for Michigan families.

As Michigan's Senator, I will be fighting on your side every day.

I intend to take the kind of grassroots campaign I have run in the past across the State of Michigan - a campaign based on hard work, enthusiasm and the involvement of people from all walks of life. I ask for your support and involvement.

It will be my great honor to serve you in the United States Senate.


Newspaper struggle continues after appeals court wallop

By Michael McBride
Locked-out Detroit News Reporter

The boycott of the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press will continue as the unions involved in the five-year-old labor dispute appeal a major federal court ruling.

On July 7, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that Detroit's two daily newspapers and their joint-operating agency, Detroit Newspapers, did not commit unfair labor practices that caused and prolonged a strike and subsequent "lock out."

The ruling means the papers have escaped a massive back-pay liability that would have - if the judges had not reversed previous findings - forced them to take all the workers still locked out (about 600) back to work. Had the court not reversed findings by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the papers would have been forced to make every employee that struck the papers "whole" for lost wages and benefits from the date the unions ended the strike (February 1997) until they were given their job back.

The decision stunned workers, their unions and the labor community because it reversed a 1997 ruling by an administrative law judge that the papers had bargained in bad faith and had illegally imposed some conditions on its unionized employees. That 1997 ruling was later upheld by the full NLRB board in Washington, D.C., in a 5-0 vote that included three Democratic appointees and two Republican appointees.

The three federal judges, all appointees of former President Ronald Reagan, effectively wiped out five years of investigations, hearings, litigation and findings by the unions and the NLRB. The original case against the newspapers lasted more than seven months, involving dozens of witnesses and covering more than 3,000 pages of testimony.

The six unions involved in the dispute likely will appeal the ruling to the full court of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. If rejected, an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court also is a possibility.

Bob Ourlian, a locked-out reporter of the Detroit News and former bargaining committee member of the Newspaper Guild Local 22, was stunned at the findings of the three federal judges in Washington, D.C. The opinion written by the judges bears little resemblance to the reality of the bargaining that took place in early 1995.

"This is how innocent people end up on death row," said Ourlian. "A predisposed judge searches the record for snippets of facts that bear out his or her bias. Selectively, he or she assembles these facts from more than 3,000 pages of testimony into a four-page rehash and paints the company as the good guy bearing armloads of proposals; the union as resistant and unyielding."

The newspapers were found guilty on more than a dozen charges back in 1997 by administrative law judge Thomas Wilks. The majority of Wilks' findings were later upheld by the full NLRB board in Washington, but only three of the charges were considered legally sufficient to have caused the strike that started on July 13, 1995.

Those three charges included the newspapers refusal to engage in a second-round of "joint bargaining" on all outstanding economic issues, the imposition of a "merit pay" system on Newspaper Guild employees at the Detroit News and the unilateral change in the jurisdiction of the Detroit Typographical Union.

While the unions and the NLRB chart a new legal course for the on-going dispute at the papers, bargaining for new contracts could resume soon. Shortly after the federal court ruling, the newspapers sent a letter requesting a bargaining session, but also indicating that they were withdrawing all previous proposals off the table.



Boilermakers are tops on Rouge-Edison project

Boilermakers Local 169 members received the "Top Craft" award from the Raytheon Constructors Inc. (now the Washington Group) for their good work on the Detroit Edison River Rouge Unit One Rebuild project that wrapped up last month.

In the past the award was primarily used by Raytheon to laud good safety practices on its construction projects, but now it has been expanded to recognize things like worker skill, productivity, manpower availability and spirit of cooperation. The boilermakers were chosen following consultation with superintendents on the eight-month project.

"The thing that really stuck out in my mind was that the boilermakers worked in a very businesslike manner," said Project Manager Vic Chrjapin. "The workers were qualified, skilled, trained, and very professional. They cared about the money we were spending."

The boilermakers made up a third of the workforce on the fast-track project, which involved totally refurbishing a boiler that had been dormant for 20 years. Edison will use the gas-fired boiler to increase its overall power production. About 480 Hardhats were employed on the project, which included gutting the old boiler, installing new air heaters and duct work, and installing 160,000 feet of new electrical cable and 3,000 feet of gas pipeline.

"Obviously we're flattered, and this is quite an honor," said Local 169 Business Manager John Marek. "The injury rate on the project was almost nil, and the job was done well and completed on time, which obviously is important to everyone involved."

Washington Group Regional Project Manager John Johnson said the award "helps build a relationship with the building trades, and reminds them know we both care about safety and high quality work."

RAYTHEON Project Mgr. Lanny South, on the right, shows the "Top Craft" award recognizing Boilermakers 169 members on the Rouge-Edison project. Accepting the award were (l-r) Local 169 BA Tony Jacobs, site safety manager Jackie Hughes, Local 169 Business Mgr. John Marek, 169 General Foreman Bruce Warnken and Local 169 BA Don Cochran.



Unions removed from Office Depot blacklist
Office Depot, which has the motto, "taking care of business," now has been prodded to take care of union business, too.

"Stunned," said Los Angeles IBEW Local 47 Office Manager Diane Daleo, was her reaction when, trying to find out what happened to an office supply order, she was told that Office Depot does not make deliveries to union offices.

"Angry" best describes Business Manager Pat Lavin's reaction when, in response to Pat's letter of protest, Office Depot's CEO confirmed that policy in writing.

On behalf of Local 47 and the California Labor Federation, Local 47 attorney Glenn Rothner sued Office Depot for violating a provision of California law that prohibits businesses from boycotting or blacklisting persons or organizations on the basis of creed. Office Depot representatives openly admitted to Daleo the reason for their policy: company drivers delivering to union offices had, in the past, been approached about unionization, and Office Depot wanted to shield their drivers from such solicitation.

In other words, recognizing that labor's creed is that every worker has a right to unionize, Office Depot decided to blacklist all unions.

Following the filing of the lawsuit, Office Depot was inundated with protests and inquiries from across the United States and Canada. Office Depot was put on "do not patronize" lists. Other unions, in Maryland, Oregon, and California reported experiences similar to Local 47's. Several large unions ceased doing business with Office Depot.

Faced with the reality that its effort to deprive its own employees of a voice at work had proved a major embarrassment, Office Depot decided to settle.

Office Depot's newly "clarified" nationwide policy, according to Local 47, provides that they will not discriminate against labor unions concerning delivery methods; states that they are pleased to "sell and deliver merchandise to all of [their] customers, including labor unions"; and goes on, in a union-friendly vein, to offer to ship via UPS to unions who so request because they prefer delivery by a unionized carrier.

No action for now on federal labor law
The economy is good, so it isn't a good time to change federal labor law.

So said Michigan Congressman Peter Hoekstra, who chairs the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

During a recent labor-management relations conference, Hoekstra said of the nation's labor-management system, "we have not yet formed a new model where business and labor…recognize that that they have a much different role in the future of our economy that what they had in the past, and that the best way for them to move forward will not be for them to be at loggerheads with each other."

The Construction Labor Report said Hoekstra suggested three reasons why there won't be any changes soon: times are historically good and changes to labor law have only come in times of crises; corporate America is more focused on serving customers and meeting the needs of shareholders, and corporate America still has the option of packing up and moving to nations where the business climate is more hospitable.

Hoekstra, a Republican, said there isn't the energy or the votes in Congress to make changes in U.S. labor law. In general, some of the changes he said needed to be made are making regulations and laws more streamlined, allowing laws to be more changeable to fit the changing workplace, and making the whole system more centered around workers.


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