December 7, 2007
the highway to steadily declining roads - and road funding
with the NLRB: It's rolling over workers rights
work in the pipeline at W. Soule
Big House to
get bigger, better
orders employers: buy protective equipment for workers
on the highway to steadily declining roads - and road funding
LANSING - With the state government's chronic lack of money
and legislators' inability to pass a balanced budget, we shouldn't
be surprised that Michigan's roads - and construction workers'
employment opportunities - are going to suffer their share.
According to a report issued last month by the Michigan Infrastructure
and Transportation Association (MITA), funding to construct and
maintain the state's roads and bridges is expected to decline
by 18 percent in 2008 - and that's one of the biggest areas of
decline anywhere in the state budget.
"This is a typical case of pay me now or pay me much
more later," said Mike Nystrom, vice president of government
and public relations for MITA. "The Legislature just adopted
a state budget which includes $1.5 billion in new tax revenues
without addressing the desperate needs of our transportation
The Michigan Department of Transportation has been warning
about the funding shortfall for months.
Back in April, MDOT Director Kirk Steudel told Michigan Building
and Construction Trades Legislative Conference delegates that
the state's current 92 percent "good" rating for the
condition of the state highway system will not last without additional
He said Michigan will spend $1.62 billion on highway work
in 2007. That number will drop to $1.3 billion next year, and
then decline to about $1.2 billion in each of the years 2009,
2010, and 2011. Those declining expenditures mean that the "good"
rating is projected to apply to only 68 percent of the state's
highways by 2014. "We're going to need a greater revenue
stream to keep it going," Steudle said.
And with the state budget cut to the bone, there's little
likelihood that that's going to happen. MITA said the state will
have an estimated $700 million annual shortfall in just maintaining
the MDOT-managed system, and at least $2 billion in additional
needs at the local level.
When it comes to federal dollars, Michigan remains a "donor"
state, receiving only 92 cents on every federal gasoline tax
dollar it sends to the feds. Political battles by fellow donor
states to increase that share in recent years have not been very
State spending on roads in Michigan is one-third from federal
money and two-thirds generated from the state. And 53 percent
of state road improvement expenditures are generated from Michigan's
19-cents-a-gallon fuel tax. High gas prices have lessened usage
of gasoline - and lower usage has resulted in fewer taxes collected.
MITA said a report by the University of Michigan estimates
that our state will lose 12,255 jobs in many sectors of the economy
by 2009 as a result of these cuts. The jobs are being lost not
only in construction, but also in manufacturing, professional
services and business services, according to the report.
problem with the NLRB: It's rolling over workers rights
By Mark Gruenberg
PAI Staff Writer
WASHINGTON (PAI) - The AFL-CIO-led protest against the rulings
of the Bush-named three-member majority of the National Labor
Relations Board was not just another battle in the seven-year
struggle the nation's unions have had to wage to defend themselves
against the Republican president.
Instead, the protests, which drew more than 1,000 people marching
through downtown Washington to NLRB headquarters on Nov. 15 -
and thousands more descending on agency offices in 25 other cities
nationwide - were based on a catalog of heavily anti-worker rulings
the labor federation says pervert both the agency's mission and
the intent of U.S. labor law.
What the AFL-CIO calls "The September Steamroller"
is so bad that the 61 rulings it cited led protesters to demand
the board shut down until a new president succeeds the present
GOP regime and names a new board.
The cases run the gamut from making it harder to win back
pay from labor law-breaking firms to making it easier for thinly
disguised company-run "de-certification" campaigns
to throw unions out of workplaces, to letting firms sue unions
in retaliation for virtually anything and get away with it, to
letting employers threaten workers with dire consequences should
"In case after case, these decisions reverse the course"
of the National Labor Relations Act, the federation said. The
board's Bush-named GOP majority is turning labor law "away
from its original purposes of fostering workplace democracy and
redressing economic inequality and towards a regulatory regimen
that protects employer prerogatives instead of workers."
"This board is resolving the doubts in borderline cases
in the wrong direction," the federation quoted former University
of Michigan law school dean Theodore St. Antoine as saying. Among
the key cases that not only drove the unionists into the streets
but also drove the AFL-CIO to file a formal complaint against
the Bush board with the International Labour Organization are:
- The Dana and Metaldyne cases, involving the Auto Workers
and two firms that voluntarily agreed to recognize UAW at their
plants after a majority of all workers signed union election
authorization cards in the "card-check" process. Normally,
when unions are recognized, they have a year of being free from
challenge by dissenters, called "de-certification."
And de-certification needs signatures from only 30% of workers.
The Bush board, by a party-line vote on Sept. 29, said that if
the union wins recognition by card-check, the board would send
the firm a notice - which the company must post - telling dissenters
that if they file a de-cert petition with enough signatures within
45 days of card-check recognition, it's valid. Then the board
holds a de-cert election. Often, bargaining hasn't even started
within 45 days of recognition.
In other rulings that same day, the Bush majority accepted
something less than cards - signed slips of paper - as a de-certification
petition, and said that if an absolute majority of workers signed
cards calling for a de-certification election, the company could
immediately dump the union, without a vote.
- In an eight-year-old case, St. George Warehouse, from Kearney,
Neb., the Bush majority reversed more than 40 years of prior
rulings - as it did in the UAW cases - and cut the amount of
back pay workers are owed once the board finds they were illegally
fired. It did so by saying workers must prove they are owed back
pay for all the time they were out after the firings - by proving
they sought work. When the precedent rules were in effect, firms
had to prove fired workers were not seeking jobs, in order to
cut the back pay. In a related case, the Bush board majority
also said workers who stalled for two weeks seeking interim work
- in hopes the employer would come back to bargaining and settle
- would get nothing for those weeks. The board's dissenting Democrats
said "requiring this search (by employees) for 'interim
interim' employment is entirely without precedent."
- Again overturning precedents, the Bush board majority ordered
that all a Wisconsin employer had to do to remedy its continuous
and outrageous labor law-breaking was hold a second election.
The employer, Intermet Stevensville, threatened to close the
plant, threatened to eliminate jobs, made "widespread statements
about the futility of selecting" the Auto Workers, demoted
and cut the pay of a pro-union worker, confiscated literature,
removed bulletin boards and committed other violations. "This
is conduct of a type that the board and the courts have previously
found is likely to have a long-lasting impact on the workplace,
creating an atmosphere of fear in which there is little or no
possibility of a fair election," the AFL-CIO said. The normal
remedy for that in the past has been to order the firm to immediately
recognize and bargain with the union, here the UAW. The Bush
board instead ordered a rerun vote.
- The AFL-CIO pointed out the long delays in many of the rulings.
"Of the 61 decisions
a total of 33 decisions - more
than half of those issued - had been pending more than 4 years,"
it said. One case from Brooklyn, where 202 workers were illegally
fired, stretched back to 1989. Those workers have yet to receive
any back pay.
- The board majority gave employers far more leeway to threaten
workers, in a Sept. 20 ruling involving Suburban Electrical Contractors
of Appleton, Wis., and IBEW supporter Randy Reinders. As two
supervisors walked near Reinders, one asked "'Well, Dave,
did you 'take care of' our union problem yet?" The other,
pointing to Reinders, replied: "What, you mean Randy?"
The board's administrative law judge called the exchange "an
unlawful threat of adverse consequences" for Reinders. The
Bush majority called it "ambiguous" and threw out the
- Even temporary replacement workers can become permanent -
and workers forced to strike are out of jobs. In a case involving
Jones Plastic & Engineering of Camden, N.J., the three-man
Bush-named majority said that "replacement workers can be
treated as permanent and given preference over strikers even
if they were informed" when they were hired that they would
be working at the employer's discretion and could be let go for
any reason - including taking returning strikers back.
The 61 rulings are not the only problems workers face, the
AFL-CIO noted. It also pointed out a consistent pattern by the
Bush-named majority of the board to shrink the numbers and kinds
of workers covered by labor law's incomplete protections. And
in a case the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago later
overturned, the Bush majority allowed a company to lock out strikers
who offered to return to work - overturning 40 years of precedents
- while still employing those who crossed picket lines.
"Instead of shrinking the (National Labor Relations)
act's coverage, protections and remedies, the board should be
trying to figure out why virulent anti-union campaigns are still
the norm, why workers have such fear and intimidation when they
try to form an union, why so many organizing campaigns still
involve so many violations of workers' rights and why the rights
guaranteed by the act are still outside the grasp of so many
workers," the federation concluded.
fabrication work in the pipeline at W. Soule
By Marty Mulcahy
KALAMAZOO - Nationwide, there are 115 ethanol plants in operation,
and another 80 are under construction.
Relatively speaking, the bio-fuel industry is a just a baby,
with technology, hardware and the ethanol plant construction
process growing up and maturing only in the last decade.
The building trades in Michigan have been in on the boom in
ethanol plant building, with four operating ethanol plants, another
two under construction. The ethanol boom has also helped the
industry that supplies components to fabricate the plants - and
one of the beneficiaries is piping fabricator W. Soule in Kalamazoo,
which has operations in two locations in the city employing about
In July, W. Soule expanded its operations and began fabricating
stainless steel applications in the former Sprinkle Road General
Motors Stamping Plant in Kalamazoo. In recent months a crew of
about 15 Soule workers has been is toiling in a corner of the
cavernous plant, manufacturing stainless steel components for
the construction of ethanol plants in Iowa, South Dakota, Illinois
and Marysville, Michigan.
The move to the abandoned GM plant gives the Soule workers
room to maneuver their products with a 50-ton crane and the capability
to fabricate stacks that are up to 125 feet tall. W. Soule's
Quality Control/Project Manager Ned Hawkins, said the company
has "seen a major boom in the last few years," with
the burst of new ethanol plants in the Midwest, as well as increased
work in other sectors in the Gulf Coast region.
"We do a lot of fabrication for the ethanol, chemical
and power piping industries," said Hawkins. "We're
doing a lot in Michigan, but we're fabricating for plants all
over the country."
Diversification in the industry will no doubt prove helpful.
Even though there are five more ethanol plants that are proposed
or in the permitting process in Michigan, the bottom may have
started to fall out on the ethanol construction boom here and
around the nation.
"Lower ethanol prices, higher construction costs, and
higher feedstock costs are causing some ethanol plants to slow
down or halt construction of new facilities while other companies
in the industry are seizing the opportunity for consolidation,"
the BioFuels Journal said in October.
Hawkins said Soule is well positioned for the future: new
machinery at their plant has helped improved welds on their products,
as well as speeding up production. "Welding technology has
grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years," he said.
And of course, having a quality workforce helps, too.
"We have a great crew here," Hawkins said. "There's
a lot of production through here and the quality is second-to-none."
CLEANING UP A WELD on a stainless steel stack
under fabrication at a W. Soule shop in Kalamazoo is Mike Emmons
of Sheet Metal Workers Local 7. He's working in a massive building
that once housed a General Motors stamping facility.
LEVELING A THREE-INCH carbon steel pipe in
W. Soule's shop is Dan Inman of Plumbers, Pipe Fitters and HVAC
Service Local 357.
House to get bigger, better
ANN ARBOR - With the University of Michigan having completed
a disappointing 8-4 regular season on Nov. 17 with a loss on
their home turf to Ohio State, attention now turns to Michigan
Stadium itself, where a three-year, $226 million renovation project
is coming off the sidelines.
The renovations will address a number of needs at the Big
House. Most visible will be multi-story, 400,000-square-foot
additions on both the east and west sides of the stadium. Approximately
83 suites and 3,200 club seats will be added, and a renovated
press box will be created. Two smaller buildings at the north
and south end zones will house additional restrooms and concessions
and support functions such as first-aid, police/security and
The work will also improve various mechanical and electrical
systems, and increase the number of restrooms and concessions.
The stadium will also get wider aisles, additional handrails,
more entry and exit points, and additional handicapped seating.
"The project will improve the safety and overall game-day
experience for all fans and provide a strong financial foundation
for the competitiveness of Michigan athletics in the future,"
said U-M Athletic Director William Martin.
Construction, led by Barton-Malow, will start this month and
be phased to accommodate the 2008 and 2009 football seasons so
that football can continue to be played at the stadium. Completion
of the project is anticipated in August 2010.
The big additions on the east and west sides of the stadium
will stand 10 feet higher than the current scoreboards at their
highest point, and are expected to direct crowd noise back onto
the field, "providing a greater home-field advantage,"
according to U-M. And a few more fans will be able to make noise:
renovation work will remove some seats for aisle-widening and
adding handicapped-access seats, but with the addition of suite
and club areas, the stadium will see a net increase of seats
from its current 107,501 to more than 108,000.
Since its construction by Fielding Yost in 1927, Michigan
Stadium has undergone many major changes and renovations. According
to the U-M, in 1949 it was expanded from 85,000 to 95,000 seats,
and in 1956 it was renovated again to a capacity of more than
100,000. In 1957 the current press box was added. In 1998, more
seats were added and the video scoreboards were put in place.
This renovation will include the conversion of the screens from
the current incandescent bulb components to light-emitting diode
(LED) technology, providing a "more reliable and clear display,
the university said.
And should the next two largest college football stadiums
in the land - Penn State's Beaver Stadium (capacity 107,282)
or the University of Tennessee's Neyland Stadium (capacity 104,079)
wish to expand and challenge Michigan Stadium as the nation's
largest - this renovation will not limit the Big House's capacity
to expand in the future. The stadium was designed to allow a
capacity of 150,000 seats.
THE EXPANSION OF the University of Michigan
football stadium will be most visible with the addition of two
400,000 square-foot structures on the east and west side of stadium
that will allow for the construction of luxury boxes. One is
shown in this rendering.
finally orders employers: buy protective equipment for workers
WASHINGTON (PAI) - It took an AFL-CIO lawsuit, congressional
intervention and an appellate court ruling, but the Bush government's
Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued its final
rule requiring employers to buy personal protective equipment
- such as hard hats and protective garments - for workers, on
The rule, OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke said in a telephone
press conference, would cover approximately 5% of employers whom
OSHA regulates who do not now pay for their workers' equipment,
but should. The other 95% do, he said.
"This rule covers only who pays, not the type of personal
protective equipment" involved, Foulke added. That is set
by other OSHA rules and by paperwork firms file with the agency,
detailing hazards at workplaces and injury prevention measures.
Foulke said the rule, which takes effect in six months, should
cut yearly job injuries by 21,000, and save millions of dollars.
It will cost those businesses who now do not protect their workers
AFL-CIO Occupational Safety and Health Director Peg Seminario
said "we're glad the rule has finally been issued. But it
did take the (AFL-CIO) lawsuit and congressional intervention"
to get it. "We'll be looking at it in detail to see if it
provides the level of protection required by law," she added.
"This is going to be a codification of what the policy
had been," she added. She noted OSHA will now require companies
to pay for replacing workers' equipment when it wears out and
that the equipment must meet the agency's safety standards.
Federal judges ordered OSHA to issue the rule - it had done
everything but that - after the federation sued early this year.
OSHA delayed its last step (issuing the final rule) since 1999.
One reporter, in the press conference with Foulke, noted Bush's
Office of Management and Budget's regulatory affairs office briefed
the Chamber of Commerce behind closed doors about the workers'
equipment rule, without OSHA there. Foulke said OSHA's absence
from that meeting was due to a scheduling conflict.
"It should have never taken the threat of a lawsuit and
legislation to get the Department of Labor to take these simple
steps to protect workers from everyday jobsite hazards and prevent
thousands of workplace injuries each year,'' said Rep. George
Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and Labor
The rule has some exceptions. One is if a worker bought equipment
beforehand - at a firm that did not have to provide it - the
firm does not have to repay the worker for it. And if it's ordinary
clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, work pants and work boots
needed to protect workers on the job anyway, the employer doesn't
have to pay.
"But if ordinary rainwear is not sufficient to protect
a worker" from outdoor storms, "the employer has to
pay" for special gear, Foulke said. The same rule applies
for a worker who needs a heavy coat to work in a freezer, he
Construction drops 10% from '06 to '07
New U.S. construction starts in October stayed essentially the
same as September, but dropped significantly in the first 10
months of 2007 compared to a year ago, according to McGraw-Hill
Construction, in a Nov. 21 report.
While total construction was unchanged, there was a varied
performance by construction's main sectors. Nonresidential building
showed renewed growth after retreating in September, but a loss
of momentum was reported for residential building and public
During the first ten months of 2007, total construction on
an unadjusted basis came in at $530 billion, down 10% from the
same period of 2006. However, excluding residential building,
new U.S. construction starts in the first ten months of 2007
advanced 4% compared to last year.
"Homebuilding has weakened steadily over the course of
2007, but nonresidential building through October has held up
fairly well," stated Robert A. Murray, vice president of
economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. "For 2007
as a whole, nonresidential building should be able to register
its fifth straight year of expansion, when viewed in current
dollar terms. Tighter lending conditions and slower employment
growth have not yet had much of a negative impact on nonresidential
although some dampening is likely to become more discernible
in the coming year."
By geography, total construction in the January-October period
for the Midwest region was down 8 percent.
IBEW Local 58's Jerry Carney dies
Gerald James "Jerry" Carney, a retired IBEW Local 58
union member and business agent, passed away in his home on Nov.
25, 2007. He was 68.
Jerry served his country as a Marine during the Cuban Missile
Crisis, and worked as a journeyman electrician beginning in 1970.
He was a business agent with IBEW Local 58 in Detroit from 1983
to 1997. He was involved with the Local 58 Political Action Committee
as well as the PAC for the Detroit Building Trades Council.
He is survived by his wife Carolyn, children Michael, Mark
and Eileen (Crider) three grandchildren, and siblings Jane (Mackey),
Jim Carney and , Janet (Stapleton) and Joseph Carney, as well
as numerous nieces and nephews.
"Doing the political stuff wasn't easy, but he knew it
had to be done, because he knew how important it was to working
people," said his brother Joe, a fellow Local 58 member.
"Jerry was always looking out for workers and the labor