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August 8, 2003
Michigan Building Trades
By Marty Mulcahy
BELLAIRE - Lansing and Washington D.C. are about 590 miles apart, and the gulf in the leadership philosophies of the respective administrations running the show in those cities is about as wide.
"The Jennifer Granholm administration in Lansing has reached out to organized labor," said Michigan Building Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Tom Boensch, presiding at the 46th Annual Convention of the MBTC July 29-31. "We have a new administration that's shown it is willing to help working people. But the situation is quite the opposite at the federal level. The president has been doing his best to limit the effectiveness of organized labor."
These conventions usually have a political theme, and even with 2003 being an off-year for major elections, delegates to the convention were reminded that casting aside complacency helped put Granholm into office as Michigan governor two years ago, and that complacency is not an option as the next presidential election is only 15 months away.
Boensch said Bush has "continued to wage a ruthless, vicious battle" against organized labor and other working people, by refusing to allow unions in the new Homeland Security department, taking collective bargaining rights away from those federal workers who were blended into the Homeland Security, while pushing to privatize Social Security and Medicare.
Greater Detroit Building Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Devlin told delegates that unemployment in Michigan is over six percent, health care is taking an increasing bite out of wages, there's no end in sight to the costs of fighting terrorism and the war in Iraq, and the economy hasn't been able to shake out of its doldrums.
"But on the bright side, we are supposed to be getting that few hundred dollar tax cut check in the mail soon," Devlin said. "According to our president, that's all our economy needs to get back on the right track. Never mind that the federal deficit will be a record at over $450 billion this year, and more than that in 2004. How cutting taxes will work with deficits like this doesn't make sense to me."
Judge Stephen Borella, recently appointed by Granholm to the Michigan Court of Appeals, also criticized Democrats in Washington for not doing more to improve the situation of workers during the Clinton Administration and now for "sitting on their hands while the economy has gone into the toilet."
He told delegates that the Bush Administration has "used the backdrop of 9-11 to not only declare war on Iraq and Afghanistan, but on his own people." He said Bush has used federal law and judicial appointments "to strip from us the right to organize and to speak freely and to tell our government when the hell they're wrong."
Boensch added, "In 2004, we will have an opportunity to vote for a worker-friendly president. Quite frankly, organized labor cannot afford another four years of George Bush."
Voters in the State of Michigan in 2002 decided they could not afford another four years of the policies of former Gov. John Engler, when they voted for Granholm and against former Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus.
Granholm's Lt. Governor John Cherry, told delegates that the administration appreciates organized labor's historic role in the state, and welcomes union input in setting the future course of Michigan. "We are proud to call you partners," Cherry said.
Any progress, however, is being done under the huge shadow of an inherited state financial deficit so large that history offered little guide for action.
"We inherited a budget deficit of $1.7 billion, and balanced it without a tax increase," Cherry said. "Despite our fiscal problems, we brought in a reasonable budget plan that makes education our top priority and protects Michigan families."
Cherry pointed out that the Granholm administration "recognizes
the value of individual workers as absolutely essential to our
long-term growth." Despite the state's budget woes, the
number of MIOSHA workplace safety inspectors was not reduced.
"I wish we had money for more," Cherry said, "but
we will be revisiting the issue when the economy improves."
By Marty Mulcahy
BAY CITY - A city sorely lacking in hotel and conference space will soon be getting it in spades, as Turner Construction and the building trades proceed with construction of a new six-story, $34.5 million Doubletree Hotel and Conference Center going up downtown
Located on the east side of the Saginaw River, Hardhats are erecting a 150-room full-service hotel, with a ballroom to accommodate up to 800 people in banquet seating and 1,600 for conference style seating.
The hotel will include two suites, a concierge lounge, business center, gift shop, oversized indoor pool, workout facilities, and full-service restaurant. It is easily the largest ongoing construction project in the Bay City-Midland-Saginaw area, expected to employ an average of 113 construction workers on the project. The hotel is expected to open in the spring of 2004.
"The new hotel and conference center meets a couple of needs for the area," said Shirley Roberts, executive director of the Bay Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "There are currently only about 700 hotel rooms in the area, which is not nearly enough for business travelers, out-of-town visitors and people who come in for special events.
"Secondly, there has not been enough meeting space for larger groups who want to meet in our area. We haven't had a new hotel in Bay City in decades, so this will be a wonderful addition."
The two most recent hotels are the nearby 100-room Holiday Inn Bay City, built in 1968, and the 150-room Bay Valley Resort Hotel, which opened in 1973.
Luke Augspurger, assistant superintendent for Turner, said the prime riverfront site of the Doubletree Hotel was the location for numerous generations of businesses over the years, including a marina, car dealership and an old hotel. That led to some "very loose" soil conditions, and the requirement for slightly deeper footings.
"The tradespeople are doing a nice job for us; they're providing us with what we need," Augspurger said.
A one-level parking deck will be built adjacent to the new Doubletree Hotel, and it will be supplemented with approximately 320 surface parking spaces.
The hotel will be within walking distance of area parks and tourist attractions, such as Historic Downtown Bay City, Bay County Historical Museum, Delta Planetarium, and the Riverwalk. The city hopes having a first-class hotel in the thick of things will improve tourism in the region.
By Marty Mulcahy
"They say in some jobs you should know when to get in and when to get out. Well, It's been a good run for me. I think it's about time to get out."
So said Operating Engineers Local 324 Business Manager Sam T. Hart, who announced his retirement from that post and from the position of Michigan Building Trades Council president at the MBTC's annual convention on July 29. Hart is also retiring from his position of Operating Engineers International Union vice president.
"I'm proud of what we've accomplished at Local 324," said Hart. "Over the years we've improved the pension, health care and have done a lot to make things better for our members. But I feel that the local is in good hands with (current Local 324 President) John Hamilton and the other officers at the local; they'll do very well." Hamilton will be sworn in as new Local 324 business manager on Sept. 17.
Hart, 64, has served the Michigan Building Trades Council as its president for the last nine years. A 45-year member of Local 324, he has served as the union's business manager for the last 15 years. He became a business agent in 1971.
"I don't think I'm too far off course in saying that he's been the most respected leader in the building trades in Michigan," said Patrick Devlin, secretary-treasurer of the Greater Detroit Building Trades Council. "Sam's dedication, knowledge and leadership will truly be missed here in Michigan. Beyond that, he's one of the most decent people you'll ever meet."
John Marek, business manager of Boilermakers Local 169, will be sworn in as the new Michigan Building Trades Council president on Sept. 1.
Michigan Building Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Tom Boensch told delegates at the state convention that "Sam has always been available and has always been there when it was time to make the hard decisions. It has been a privilege working with him."
In retirement, Hart said he plans on "playing with his toys and having time to do what I want to do. I'm looking forward to not working. Isn't that why we have union pension plans, so we can enjoy retirement?"
The AFL-CIO Building Trades Department is reloading to fight yet another assault on the federal Davis-Bacon prevailing wage law.
House Resolution 2672, introduced by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colorado) would abolish prevailing wage conditions on federally funded highway projects, which would likely lower incomes for both union and nonunion construction workers.
"Since 1931 Davis-Bacon provisions have helped both union and nonunion construction workers achieve fair wages," said Building Trades Department President Edward Sullivan. "Rep. Musgrave and the anti-worker groups she speaks for are circulating misinformation and misrepresenting the facts about Davis-Bacon in an effort to sneak it through. The building trades are contacting every member of Congress to set the record straight before tens of thousands of working families are hurt by this bill."
Musgrave, Sullivan said, is claiming that repeal of prevailing wage coverage would save anywhere from 5-38 percent in construction costs - which independent studies long-ago disproved.
"Considering that labor costs account for approximately 25 percent of overall construction costs to reach Rep. Musgrave's outlandish numbers by cutting paychecks alone would require workers to labor for almost nothing," Sullivan said. "Her figures don't add up."
By Marty Mulcahy
Sometimes it's nice to get a pat on the back.
Especially when it comes from the owners at Compuware, sponsors of one of the largest single construction projects in the state in the last few years and the centerpiece structure for the hoped-for revival of downtown Detroit.
"Your people were great during construction," said Larry Fees, Compuware's vice president of facilities and administration, who headed up the company's construction team. "The people at (construction manager) Walbridge-Aldinger were always talking about how great the job was going. The safety record was wonderful and the work has been wonderful. You have some great people working for you. They weren't our employees, but I'm proud of the work they did."
The 16-story, $350 million Compuware headquarters building is substantially complete, although 200-300 Hardhats will continue to work on the premises through the end of the year, working mainly at night. At peak employment, up to 1,200 construction workers toiled on the project, which began in early 2001.
Compuware employees have fully occupied all the floors, even though some areas are unfinished. Eventually, 4,100 Compuware employees will work in the building.
The 1.1 million square-foot building includes a theatre for training, a day-care facility, a cafeteria, and of course offices - lots and lots of beautifully appointed office space.
"It was a fast-track project, and everybody was cranking for months," Fees said. "Now that we're taking occupancy, the construction workers are in areas that had a low priority."
Fees said the construction and occupancy went so fast that there was little time to test the heating and electrical systems. The building creates a minimal amount of mechanical heat - much of the interior space is heated by the extensive electronic equipment in the building - so a proper balance is being found. He compared the current situation in the building to the "shakedown cruise" of a ship, as part of the process of working the bugs out.
He said there are similarities between software development - Compuware's primary business concern - and constructing a building. "There's a certain amount of solitary work that's required in software development, but you need a team of people to get the product finished," Fees said.
Greater Detroit Building Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Devlin said the increased planning and communication between the "three-legged stool" of owners, contractors and labor creates a better construction process for everyone.
"The people at Compuware were deeply involved with the design, planning and construction process of their building," Devlin said. "That's not always the case with a lot of owners, but it's happening more and more, and I can't help but believe it's a positive thing. Compuware now has an understanding of what our tradespeople do and what contractors like Walbridge-Aldinger go through in order to get the job done.
"And as the job nears completion, it's no surprise that they're happy with the result. We have a lot of talented craftspeople."
We hate to provide a reminder that Labor Day and the end of summer are quickly approaching, but they are, and we will.
That being the case, make plans to attend Labor Day celebrations
around the state.
The Detroit parade kicks off at 9:30 a.m., with the building trades lining up as usual along Trumbull, south of Michigan Ave. Members of the laborers will lead, followed by the elevator constructors, pipe trades, cement masons/plasterers, iron workers, roofers, painters and allied trades, boilermakers, sheet metal workers, bricklayers/tile masons, asbestos workers, electricians and operating engineers.
This year the march will proceed east on Michigan Ave. to Washington Blvd. and then across Jefferson Ave. to the newly completed Labor Legacy Monument. The parade's theme: "American by birth, union by choice."
In Grand Rapids, parade-goers can gather at John Ball Park between 8 and 9 a.m., where buses will take participants to the staging area at Winter and Fulton streets. The parade starts at 10 a.m. After the parade a picnic will take place at John Ball Park.
In Marquette, the 2003 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.
In Muskegon, the West Michigan United Labor Day Parade will start at 11 a.m. The staging area is at Pere Marquette Park in conjunction with the Shoreline Spectacular. A picnic at the park will follow the parade.
Walbridge V.P. E.G. Clawson dies
E.G. started his career in the construction industry as a laborer in 1972, and worked through the ranks to become group vice president at Walbridge-Aldinger, the state's second largest general contractor.
"He's been an integral part of our company, and an important part of the entire construction community in Southeast Michigan," said John Rakolta Jr., Chairman and CEO of Walbridge-Aldinger. "Since 1986, he has managed a number of major projects for us. It's difficult to imagine going forward without him."
Rakolta, who had been a friend of E.G.'s since high school, said, "it's been a privilege working with him all these years. He was a great guy, and was always fair and just with the people he worked with and the unions. I don't know anyone who didn't like him."
"E.G." - he didn't like his first name, so he used the initials of his first and middle names - brought his expertise to a number of committees in the Greater Detroit Chapter of the Associated General Contractors, serving as chairman of the Labor Policy Committee and Chairman of the Laborers Labor Policy Committee. He also served as a Trustee for the Laborers Health and Welfare Fund and on the Laborers Employers Cooperation and Education Trust Fund.
Building on his experience at Daimler-Chrysler, E.G. spearheaded Walbridge's successful Total Quality Management, an accomplishment in which he took great pride.
"It was a privilege to work with E.G.," said Patrick Devlin, secretary-treasurer of the Greater Detroit Building and Construction Trades Council. "He was always helpful, very knowledgeable about the industry, and you could tell he cared about workers. Beyond that, he was just a terrific person."
E.G. is survived by his wife Kathy and three children, David,
John and Laura.
"We expect the San Antonio project will be another win in a series of successful PLA projects," said a company spokesperson.
Toyota stood firm in seeking the agreement despite the fact
that Texas is a right-to-work state and that union construction
workers are in the vast minority in San Antonio.
Construction of the Toyota plant is a complete opposite of what's happening in Cottondale, Alabama, where Daimler-Chrysler is doubling the size of their Mercedez-Benz assembly plant. Not only are they not utilizing a PLA, they're not using local workers - they're employing Polish workers who are working under visas that only allow them to do highly specialized work, and who are toiling for as little as $1,000 a month.
Sheet Metal Workers Local 292 Business Manager Bob Donaldson,
whose members install paint equipment around the country, and
local Alabama unions alerted U.S. Rep. Sander Levin about the
visa issue, and he is investigating.