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February 18, 2000

It will take some extra effort to vote for president

Rail trestle goes down in history

Flint Engine South Plant's safety record: outstanding

State surplus: How should we spend it?

Makeup comes off U-M Stadium

'If you work union you have a future'




It will take some extra effort to vote for president

By Marty Mulcahy

Voting in this year's Democratic presidential primary probably won't be as easy as you may think.

If you go to your normal polling place on Tuesday, Feb. 22, and you want to vote Democratic, the only choice on the ballot will be Lyndon LaRouche, Jr. Michigan voters won't be able to choose between Al Gore or Bill Bradley until Saturday, March 11, when the statewide Democratic caucus takes place.

Voters for the Republican ticket will be able to cast their ballot for any GOP presidential candidate during the primary election on Feb. 22.

Confusing? Yes. Will some voters be upset? Probably. Is a statewide caucus like this unprecedented? No, both parties have held them in the past.

"I fully understand voters' frustration and confusion," said Macomb County Clerk Carmella Sabaugh. "We have two competing interests at play, state law and party rules. And unfortunately, the voters are left wondering if a ballot error has been made."

The confusion, Sabaugh said, stems from a conflict in current Democratic National Committee rules, which prohibit open primaries for the selection of presidential candidates, and state election law, which requires that all qualified parties appear on the ballot.

Gore and Bradley have asked the Michigan Secretary of State' office not to print their names on the primary ballot. Instead, they are participating in the March 11 caucuses, since those are the only ballot results that will be recognized by the state Democratic Party.

"The Feb. 22 presidential primary is solely a taxpayer-funded private election for Republicans," said Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.

Following are a few questions and answers about the caucus.

How do I participate in the Saturday, March 11 caucuses?

The caucuses will convene at 11 a.m., with registration starting at 10 a.m., at locations around the state. All participants must complete a registration sign-in, including a public declaration of being a Democrat. Participants will then "break-out" by presidential preference to cast and count the vote. Each caucus will adjourn no later than two hours after convening. Results are reported back to the MDP that day.

Can I vote by mail?

Yup. You qualify for a mail ballot on account of disability, religious belief, absence from the caucus zone or being age 60 or older. Vote by mail applications are available from local party organizations or by contacting the Michigan Democratic Party, (517) 371-5410, or fax, (517) 371-2056 or mail, 606 Townsend, Lansing, MI 48933. Applications must be returned to the MDP by March 3, 2000. Ballots will be send to those who meet the criteria, and they must be returned to the party by March 10.

Do I have to be a member of the Democratic Party to vote in the caucus?

No. Anyone can participate. But during registration, everyone must sign a form declaring himself or herself a Democrat.

How many caucus sites will there be?

Voting in a caucus probably won't be as convenient as going to your regular local polling place. Generally, there will be one voting site in each county, but the Democratic Party says there will be more than 100 locations in Michigan's 82 counties.

To find the location nearest you, call the Michigan Democratic Party at (517) 371-5410. Or go to their web site,

Can I vote in both the Republican primary on Feb. 22 and in the Democratic caucus on March 11?

Sure. Republicans don't require a party declaration; Democrats do. Democrats are officially recommending that voters steer clear of "mischief" by not crossing over and voting for candidates who would make the race against GOP front-runner George W. Bush more interesting.

Gov. John Engler has declared Michigan the "firewall" state that will stop any losing momentum for Bush should the Texas governor begin to falter in other states' primaries to challengers like John McCain.


Rail trestle goes down in history

MARQUETTE - A landmark? Definitely. An important historic structure? Possibly. An eyesore? Some people thought so, including five members of the City Commission.

We refer to the rooftop-level railroad trestle that has been a dominant feature of this city since 1930. Rail traffic by the Soo Line, and then the Wisconsin Central, transported iron ore from local mines, through the city atop the trestle, down to the Lower Harbor ore dock where the material was loaded onto ore carriers. The dock and trestle have been idle since the early 1970s.

Last month, building trades workers continued to tear down the trestle, from Fourth Street to Lakeshore Blvd. At first, plans called for leaving a section the iron, wood and concrete structure near Front Street in place because of its familiarity as a downtown gateway and because of its historic value.

But the arguments of residents who wanted the entire structure torn down won out with City Commission members, who voted 5-1 late last year to tear down the entire trestle.

"It can never be restored to a thing of beauty because it never was (beautiful) when it started," said long-time Marquette resident Marion Sonderegger, quoted in the Marquette Mining Journal.

Dismantling of the 70-foot sections was handled by Lunda Construction. The trestle is destined for recycling or to be sent to the scrap yard.

"It was called a box girder, and American Bridge put it up," said Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council Field Rep. Jack LaSalle, whose office is in Marquette. "It was very heavy and well built. It welcomed people to Marquette, and I think a lot of people are going to miss it.

A BRIDGE section is loaded onto a truck by Local 8 and Local 312 iron workers for removal from downtown Marquette.

IRON WORKERS AND OPERATORS remove a 70-foot section of railroad trestle that carried trains through Marquette to the city's iron ore docks.


Flint Engine South Plant's safety record: outstanding

FLINT - Construction of the new GM Flint Engine South Plant has a remarkable safety record of no lost time over 490,000 hours worked and only two recorded minor injuries through December 1999.

A collaborative working relationship between unions and general contractor Walbridge-Aldinger has been a big help in achieving the safety record.

"The Michigan State Building and Construction Trades Council is delighted to be a partner on a large-scale project like the Flint Engine South Plant that has achieved such an outstanding safety record," said Pete Reili, field investigator for the MBTC.

Dennis Lynch, president of the Flint Area Building Trades, said, "This safety record reflects the investment that the Flint Area Building Trades and other council affiliates have made in ensuring top-quality training and safety instruction for our union members."

Walbridge-Aldinger Safety Coordinator Larry Strayhorn said, "our firm is proud to be playing a key role in the construction of the Flint Engine South Plant. A project of this magnitude, with over 490,000 hours worked with no lost time, is an impressive safety record. It is a testament to the emphasis we place on safety and the quality of work performed by construction trades men and women."

The $500 million GM Flint Engine South Plant is scheduled to start producing a new family of six cylinder engines early next year. The plant covers about 720,000 square feet of manufacturing space and will employ 700 workers at full capacity.



State surplus: How should we spend it?

By Rep. Mike Hanley
House Democratic Leader

LANSING - Ever wonder what you would do if you had a whole lot of extra money in your bank account?

That's the situation in which we in state government find ourselves. After a recent review by fiscal analysts and state budget experts, it was announced that the state will have a budget surplus of about $1.4 billion. As you might expect, the battle over how to spend this money is already in full swing, and I agree that there are plenty of opportunities and causes worthy of it.

However, House Democrats strongly believe that there are two very significant issues which demand our attention: education and health care for Michigan's families.

In the past, we have neglected our financial obligations to these areas. We must seize the opportunity to pay the bills we owe and invest in the future. Specifically, we should take the $1 billion surplus in the school aid fund and distribute it as follows: spend $200 million to begin a statewide reduction of class sizes in grades K-3 to 17 students per classroom.

Class size reduction would be phased-in, beginning with school districts and public school academies where more than 50 percent of the students are considered "at risk."

  • Pay $300 million owed by the state to local school districts for the cost of state-mandated special education programs. These are costs that school districts have been forced to meet by cutting academic and athletic programs.
  • They were the basis of two lawsuits - Durant and Durant II - in which courts ruled that the state had failed to meet its responsibilities to provide funding for special education.
  • Invest $30 million to expand "school readiness" pre-K programs which help four-year-olds get a jump start toward future success in school.
  • Provide $25 million to allow every school district to hire a Parent Involvement Advocate to reach out and get parents more involved in their children's education.
  • Provide $60 million to expand training for Michigan's teachers, improving their skills and reinforcing their ability to deliver quality education in the classroom.

We also support investing a $405 million surplus in the state's general fund to:

  • Reimburse $150 million owed by the state to community hospitals and other health providers, some of which have been forced to reduce services or close altogether. These dollars will be matched by federal funds, bringing the total investment to at least $300 million.
  • Invest $150 million in improving the quality of care in Michigan's nursing homes, in part by helping operators raise wages to keep quality staff, and improve in-home and community-based services for the elderly.
  • Invest $50 million to double the state's commitment to prescription drug assistance for senior citizens.

We are enjoying record prosperity, there is no doubt about that. But this is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss. By investing wisely in education and health care, we will keep our economy strong and make the future secure for our families.


Makeup comes off U-M Stadium

ANN ARBOR - Frank Lloyd Wright once said that "a physician can bury his mistakes. All an architect can do is plant vines."

It would have taken a lot of vines to cover up the garish maize and blue "halo" that surrounded three-quarters of the upper reaches of the University of Michigan Stadium for the last two football seasons. So after listening to complaints too numerous to count about the new signage, the university decided major surgery was in order.

"It did cause quite a bit of controversy," said U-M spokeswoman Joanne Nesbit.

Letters that spell out phrases from the "Hail to the Victors" fight song as well as football and university icons were removed last month, and the sheet metal background will be repainted in the spring with a more muted color scheme. The university will spend about $100,000 to tone things down. Metro Detroit Signs did the put-up and the take-down.

The halo was installed in 1998 during a $14 million renovation of the stadium that included a new scoreboard and the addition of seating for 5,500 at the top of the facility.

TRADESMEN FROM Metro Detroit Signs remove the "E" from "THE VICTORS" portion of the halo that surrounds U-M Stadium. The bright paint scheme and letters weren't well-received at U-M.



'If you work union you have a future'

Young people who might be receptive to wearing steel-toed boots and a hard hat to work converged on Macomb Community College Feb. 8 to learn a little about what building trades workers do for a living.

Sponsored by the Macomb Intermediate School District (MISD) for the second straight year, representatives from several building trades unions answered questions, offered brochures and videos, and put their craft's best foot forward for potential hires.

"This was a lot better than last year," said Plumbers Local 98 organizer Mark Bott. "We've only been open for an hour and a half, and we've already seen 200 kids through here. We're also seeing a lot more counselors and teachers."

More than 1,100 students and adults attended the Apprenticeship Career Fair. Attendance picked up considerably from the year before in good part because the MISD picked up the tab for bus transportation for students from schools around the county.

"We gave away a ton of material," said Operating Engineers Local 324 Business Rep. Jeff Hamilton. "Just about everybody wants to know how much they can make, how old they have to be and what kind of training is involved. A lot of them just want to know what an operating engineer is."

Monika Leasure, the MISD's regional administrator for career technical education, said they're already looking at expanding the show next year and bringing in even more applicants.

"I get phone calls all the time from employers looking for workers," she said. "This fair has really taken off because of the need for workers that's out there."



Jobless bennies are taxable
Every year, the Michigan Unemployment Agency sends a press release reminding us that unemployment benefit payments are taxable. And since we don't want any workers in trouble with the state or Uncle Sam, we pass the notice along to you.

"Since jobless benefits are taxable, any workers who received benefits last year from Michigan's Unemployment Agency will need a 1099-G form when preparing their tax returns," said agency Director Jack Wheatley.

He advised claimants who did not receive their 1099-G statements by Monday, Feb. 7 to either visit their local Unemployment Agency office or phone the agency's Claimant Customer Relations Office at (800) 638-3995.

Mental 'treatment' forced on organizer
ABC's 20/20 on Jan. 23 aired the incredible story of union organizer Gary McClain, who was involuntarily committed to a South Carolina mental hospital - allegedly at the urging of his employer - during an Operating Engineers organizing drive.

Last week, according to the AFL-CIO, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint and scheduled a hearing to investigate the claims.

According to 20/20, last July at a Tenneco Packaging Co. meeting, McClain asked that a union representative be allowed to speak to company work crews in Aiken, S.C. The next day, managers called the Aiken County Sheriff and reported that McClain was threatening workers and might be a danger in the workplace.

As he drove back to work, McClain found himself surrounded at gunpoint by sheriff's deputies and a K-9 unit. He was taken to a local hospital, where, apparently on the basis of his employer's claims and passed on by sheriff's deputies, an emergency room doctor involuntarily committed him to a mental hospital.

McClain spent the following two weeks in confinement "being forcibly injected with anti-psychotic drugs before legal intervention gained his release," 20/20 reported.

"While I still find it hard to believe such an incident could happen in the U.S., it points up the lengths to which some will go to thwart organizing attempts," said IUOE President Frank Hanley.

McClain has filed suit against the company, the Aiken County sheriff and others.

Drywall demand begins to ease
A construction industry crisis that extended through most of 1999 - a severe nationwide shortage of drywall - has mostly come to an end. The Wall Street Journal reported that "signs point to an easing in demand," but "home builders still grumble about prices, which at close to $160 a thousand square feet, are at an all time high." The price was about $100 per thousand square-feet in 1994.

Drywall prices can be expected to fall, brought on by a leveling demand for the product and a 21 percent increase in capacity for making drywall expected over the next two years. The Gypsum Association reports that about 10 new plants are expected to open around the nation.

There are still delays in getting the product, although they are two or three weeks rather than two or three months as they were last summer.


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