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February 4, 2005

AFL-CIO must be 'willing to make radical changes in tactics,'Laborers president says

Cool concept - district chillers take the heat off multiple buildings

MIOSHA - Making a difference for 30 years

Hill's renovation top-notch, AIA says

Gangbox Assorted News and Notes

Lost and found: Interlaken shipwreck found by plumber father and pilot son

Meet MITA: merged group represents heavy construction

News Briefs

 

AFL-CIO must be 'willing to make radical changes in tactics,'Laborers president says

The AFL-CIO - the glue that holds the labor movement together - may start to come apart at the seams in 2005.

Or maybe those seams in the labor movement will strengthen with the infusion of fresh ideas and perhaps a new direction.

This year promises to be a watershed for the AFL-CIO. Having spent millions on a failed effort to put John Kerry into the White House, and with U.S. union membership numbers sinking slowly but surely every year, there is a call for change in leadership and direction at the AFL-CIO.

So far, only a trickle of comments have emerged from the 60 unions that make up the AFL-CIO.

But it has been a chorus without a conductor. The voices calling for change are making noise, but no one knows if their words will amount to anything.

All the talk is a warm-up to the meetings of the AFL-CIO Executive Council's meeting in Las Vegas in March and at its convention in Chicago in late July. Historic changes in the structure of the AFL-CIO could take place as a result of those meetings. And thickening the plot lines is that federation President John Sweeney's is up for re-election this year.

The Laborers International Union is one of the first we've seen from the building trades to comment extensively about shaking up the AFL-CIO. The following is excerpted from Press Associates, a union press service.

With union leaders sifting proposals to reorganize the AFL-CIO, the Laborers say its affiliated unions should get half of their federation dues back to help them organize core industries.

Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO should concentrate on a few key core functions, such as lobbying and legislation - with immigration reform heading the legislative list.

Like many of the other unions that submitted reform plans, the 354,000-member Laborers call for concentrating and shrinking AFL-CIO staff and functions to those that are essential. They were silent on the explosive issue, pushed by SEIU, of forced union mergers.

The Laborers want AFL-CIO member unions to keep half of the dues they now send to the federation, if, in return, they use that money to organize core industries to increase market share. And they call for innovative organizing techniques, especially in low-wage industries and firms.

And the heavily immigrant union said immigration reform is needed because immigrants are in most need of unions, and the workers are the unions' best hope to increase market share - but they're scared by employers and government.

Laborers President Terry O'Sullivan, one of five union leaders in a "New Unity Partnership" who meet on ways to change the labor movement, noted AFL-CIO restructuring is needed more than ever due to the defeat of labor-backed Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry.

Service Employees International Union President Andrew Stern, also a New Unity Partnership member, touched off the revamp debate last June when he told his convention the AFL-CIO must reform or be blown up as outmoded.

"With the same urgency with which we fought this election, we must figure out a way to do better," O'Sullivan said. "Starting today, we - and all unions and the Democratic Party - must fight for honest self-examination, and be willing to make radical changes in tactics, strategy, and how we communicate our values."

The Laborers also say that even devoting more than one-third of their budget to organizing - above the 30 percent target the federation set - has not prevented declining market share.

Other highlights of the Laborers' proposals included:

  • Organizing should target political battleground states "where we clearly need to unite working families to win national elections."
  • Double labor's current political spending and create "a permanent, integrated legislative and political operation that recognizes the bipartisan reality of Congress, and unifies and mobilizes, year-round, the power of union members." It would spend a lot of time lobbying for immigration reform.

"There has been an explosion of immigrant workers in the service and construction trades in the last decade, and employer intimidation and discrimination against these workers runs rampant," the Laborers explained.

"Fear of employer blackmail" of undocumented workers is "the single greatest impediment to union growth, better wages, safer job sites and more security," added the union, which has high numbers of immigrant members.

  • Spend more money and brainpower on "joint, affiliate-driven organizing projects to help workers organize corporations that are too big for any one union and which threaten the goals of all workers and all unions."

The Laborers specifically cited Wal-Mart, saying its giant size - now greater as a share of the economy than GM or U.S. Steel were in their heyday - drives down
wages, benefits and living standards not just for its workers and suppliers, but for everyone.

Thanks to Wal-Mart and its kin, the Laborers estimated 80 percent of recently won wage hikes in their contracts now go to rising health care costs, and 20 percent of that is due to "cost-shifting" where covered workers pay for uncovered ones, such as Wal-Mart's. "Leaving the Wal-Marts of our world unorganized leaves all unions with too little influence over wages, health care, retirement and workplace rights," the Laborers said.

  • Send more money, accompanied by more accountability, to state federations and local Central Labor Councils. But the Laborers warned that increased numbers alone will not measure success, either for those groups or for local unions. "Standards should not be based merely on membership numbers, which are not necessarily an indicator of union strength, but rather on market share or density, organizing capacity, political capacity and the overall capacity to represent members."
  • Consolidate union financial power, by creating one comprehensive financial institution - including ULLICO and other funds - with Union Privilege as its marketing arm. Not incidentally, that would take labor's funds out of the hands of Wall Street, which the Laborers point out uses our money against us.

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Cool concept - district chillers take the heat off multiple buildings

By Marty Mulcahy
Managing Editor

ANN ARBOR - A number of buildings on the University of Michigan's North Campus will be chillin' this summer with a unique new district cooling system.

The North Campus Chiller Plant Project consists of a nondescript, 8,500-square-foot building, housing chillers and pumps that will push 48- to 52-degree water through an underground, two-mile looped pipe system.

Within buildings in the district, the chilled water system will either be newly installed or replace existing air conditioning systems and provide energy savings, reduced maintenance, better reliability, and reduced proliferation of cooling towers and associated noise, according to the U of M.

"Instead of all the buildings in the district maintaining an air conditioning system, or building new chillers, they can get rid of all that with this system," said project foreman Scott Rogers of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 190 and Pipe Systems. "All those buildings need is the piping for the chilled water, coils for the water to run through, and air blown over the coils."

Contractor Pipe Systems is handling the underground portion of the project, while Industrial Pipe Systems is in charge of plumbing and pipe work inside the chiller plant. Construction of the pump house itself is being overseen by Walbridge-Aldinger.

Utilizing three 1,300-ton chillers, the $14.3 million plant will provide up to 3,750 tons of chilled water capacity. The University of Michigan said the system will be connected to the Computer Science and Engineering Building, Solid State Electronics Lab addition to Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and the Biomedical Engineering addition to the Advanced Technology Laboratory.

The university said the system will also be provided to the following existing buildings to allow for the replacement of aging chillers that are expected to fail in the near future: Herbert H. Dow Building, GG Brown Building, Industrial and Operations Engineering Building, Engineering Research Buildings, and the School of Information North Building.

In addition, two sets of 18-inch main are valved off and ready for a future Phase II.

When the facility is up and running, chilled water will leave the plant through 30-inch mains and course through the system down through eight-inch ductile iron pipes buried six feet below ground, providing the means to cool buildings. Water is then re-circulated to the plant, and re-cooled.

The project began in September and the system should be completely linked together by the end of February, when the system will be turned over to the University of Michigan.

District heating and cooling is a small but growing trend on college campuses and elsewhere. The International District Energy Association said, "today, with fuel costs near record highs and campus expansion driving load growth, the economics of investing in energy efficient infrastructure are more compelling than ever."

Rogers said the most difficult part of the U-M project is unknowns involving pressure-testing the system - a process which was beginning late last month. The system couldn't be tested until the pipes are buried - and no one relishes the idea of re-digging to find any potential leaks.

"The project has gone very well, we will have zero leakage when we're finished," Rogers said confidently.

FILING A STANCHION support inside the chiller plant in Ann Arbor is Matt Reilly of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 190 and Industrial Pipe Systems. Behind him are three 1,300-ton chillers that are the backbone of the system.

U-M 's new chiller building.

 

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MIOSHA - Making a difference for 30 years

By MIOSHA Director Doug Kalinowski

2005 is a milestone year for workplace safety and health in Michigan. It marks the 30th Anniversary of the modern MIOSHA program and the beginning of statewide, coordinated efforts to proactively work to improve safety and health conditions for Michigan's working men and women.

Although there has been a safety and health program in Michigan for more than 100 years, on Jan. 1, 1975, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act became effective, establishing the most comprehensive approach to worker safety and health in the state's history. MIOSHA is a state program under the provisions of the federal OSHA Act, with the added benefits of state specific enhancements including consultation and education training services, dedicated construction safety and health staff, and greater opportunity for citizen input through the standard setting process.

Thirty years have seen many program improvements and changes in people who committed a good part of their lives to making a difference. However, the overall mission of the program - to reduce workplace fatalities, injuries and illnesses, has remained the same. It is a mission that, together with the collective efforts of employers, employees, insurance companies, organizations and others has made a tremendous impact on the daily lives of millions of people.

A statistical look back provides a glimpse of how far we have come. In 1977, there were 115 program-related fatalities. In 1978, there were 112. In 1979, there were 90. Over the time span of 2002 through 2004, there were 47, 51 and 40, respectively. One worker death is too many. The dramatic decrease, through, says that as a state, we are making significant strides in the right direction.

Workplace injuries and illnesses in Michigan over the past 20 years have also been reduced. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that injury and illness rates have decreased nearly 30 percent since 1976. Again telling us that we are on the right path.

Focusing on results

The MIOSHA program has always included both strong enforcement and education and training components, and has worked with a wide range of stakeholders to help reduce fatalities, injuries and illnesses.

During these 30 years, we have matured as an agency and found new ways to move us toward our goal. Our MIOSHA Strategic Plan focuses resources and emphasizes the need for high quality service for all customers. And, we are focusing on results as the measure for our effectiveness.

Historically, we counted the number of inspections, investigations, consultations, training programs, violations and hazards identified. While we still review these activities, our focus is now on measuring impact demonstrated by fewer fatalities and lower injury/illness rates in targeted industries and of specific workplace injuries and illnesses. Targeting focuses on those areas where MIOSHA services, both enforcement and consultation, can make the greatest impact.

MIOSHA has added new ways to recognize employers with exemplary safety and health efforts through the Michigan Voluntary Protection Program, the Michigan Safety and Health Recognition (SHARP), ergonomic achievement awards, partnerships and alliances.

Early on, a grant program was added to enhance education and training opportunities by calling on resources available through safety and health organizations throughout the state. These grants provide needed assistance to workers and employers in operations and industries that are unique or hard to reach.

In enforcement, targeting has improved to again focus on specific work locations where injuries are occurring. Improved equipment and technology make inspections quicker and less disruptive. We have also piloted initiatives such as focused inspections and a summer construction evening and weekend initiative.

Improving Program Services

Administratively, MIOSHA has matured into a consolidated, more efficient organization. From 1975 through 1996, the MIOSHA program was split between the Bureau of Safety and Regulation in the Michigan Department of Labor and the Division of Occupational Health in the Department of Public Health. In 1996, the safety and health programs were consolidated into one program - an important step forward.

Over the past three years, we have taken even more steps to reorganize both the enforcement and education and training components to improve consistency, uniformity and efficiency. All of these actions were taken to enhance our abilities to help improve the safety and health of Michigan's workers.

Last year we implemented a system for issuing instruction, policy and guidelines that includes posting on our web page. Since that time, we have issued written instructions on fall protection, residential fall protection, multi-employer worksites, alliances and partnerships with MIOSHA, the hazard communication standard, and the informal settlement agreement and appeal process. All were done with the goal of improving consistency, quality of information, and improved access to information. Many more instructions are in progress.

For 2005, MIOSHA is developing plans to use the 30th Anniversary as an opportunity to re-emphasize the importance of every worker's safety and health. The 75th Anniversary of the Michigan Safety Conference will be used to kick-off anniversary activities. The schedule of activities will be added to the MIOSHA website, once finalized.

As the 30th year of the modern MIOSHA program begins, use this opportunity to look back to see if you are doing your best to protect worker health and safety. I have said before that the MIOSHA program and all of the people within it will work diligently to help ensure that employers have the tools and employees have workplaces that are safe and healthful. Our goal, working together with all of you, is to continue our momentum and surpass past results to make a difference in eliminating fatalities, injuries and illnesses in every worksite across Michigan.

 

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Hill's renovation top-notch, AIA says

ANN ARBOR -The American Institute of Architects this month bestowed its annual AIA "Honor Award" on the Hill Auditorium renovation project - to recognize the University of Michigan venue with "the profession's highest recognition of works that exemplify excellence in architecture, interior architecture, and urban design."

Selected from more than 630 total submissions from across the nation, the Hill Auditorium project is the only one from Michigan among the 13 that were recognized in the "outstanding architecture" section. The award will be bestowed in May at the AIA's 2005 National Convention and Design Expo in Las Vegas.

"This premiere performance facility," the AIA said, "now fulfills the expectations of contemporary audiences and resonates the unique acoustic quality of the space that for decades has been the auditorium's hallmark. The comprehensive restoration has revitalized this facility for continuing decades of world-class performances."

A 20-month project to renovate the Hill was completed a year ago. The renovation was undertaken by the Christman Construction Co. and unionized building trades workers. The interior was completely gutted and the original paint scheme was restored. The building's first air conditioning system was installed, as were new soundproofing features, a new sprinkler system and improved lighting. Extensive work on exterior masonry was also done.

The AIA said: "Designed by Albert Kahn and completed in 1913, Hill Auditorium is a masterpiece of Classic Revival architecture. The size and unique parabolic shape of the hall created one of the most acoustically significant concert halls in America. To transform this historic gem into a modern performance venue yet retain its original character, the team restored historic features, increased patron comfort and accessibility, performed building code compliance upgrades, and replaced and modernized the building's mechanical and electrical systems.

Quinn Evans was the architect on the renovation project, and Albert Khan Associates is the architect of record.

Among the jury comments: "A sensitive restoration of an iconic Albert Kahn building…The most difficult aspect of the project was the resolution of the code, infrastructure, and programmatic improvements in a mostly invisible way, allowing the user/audience to marvel and appreciate an extraordinary space."

HILL AUDITORIUM, post renovation. Much of the interior's original paint scheme, which was whitewashed in the 1940s, was restored to its original grandeur.


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Gangbox Assorted News and Notes

Wal-Mart costs you. A new study in Tennessee found that one-quarter of Wal-Mart's workforce in that state receive health care through the state's Medicaid program - TennCare - not the company's self-touted health care benefits.

A survey by TennCare and the state Department of Labor found 9,617 of the retailer's 37,000 workers were enrolled in TennCare, designed to provide health care for low-income
workers.

In a recent advertising campaign, Wal-Mart claimed its wages and health care benefits provide its workers with a good standard of living and quality health care.

A 2004 study in California found Wal-Mart workers who qualified for various forms of public assistance cost the state about $32 billion.

For more information on Wal-Mart, go online to www.walmartcostsyou.org

AFL-CIO survey. A new survey is seeking input on how to strengthen state and local union movements has been posted as part of the AFL-CIO's examination of how the union movement must change and build on its strengths to continue to be an effective advocate
for working families.

Visit www.aflcio.org/ourfuture to share your ideas and read what others have to say.

Guvs kill bargaining rights. Perhaps emboldened by the November election results, newly elected Republican governors in Indiana and Missouri eliminated the collective bargaining
rights of some 50,000 workers on Jan. 11 when they signed executive orders unilaterally rescinding workers' bargaining rights and contracts.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, President Bush's former Office of Management and Budget director, issued an executive order that repealed 15 years of collective bargaining rights supported by the state's past three governors. His action eliminated the bargaining rights of some 25,000 members of AFSCME, Unity Team - an AFT-UAW alliance - and International Union of Police Associations. He also rescinded contracts set to run through 2007.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt's executive order took away the bargaining rights of about 25,000 AFSCME and SEIU members, including some 9,000 who had reached contracts with the state. Blunt told reporters he believes his action also canceled those contracts, most of which were set to run through 2006. The unions may seek legal action.

Tax cut creates fewer jobs than promised. President George W. Bush's tax cuts have fallen 3.1 million jobs short of the 5.1 million jobs the administration projected would be generated over the past 18 months, according to a new analysis at by the labor-backed Economic Policy Institute.

Meanwhile, for the fourth year in a row, the number of job cuts announced by U.S. employers in 2004 topped 1 million, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement firm. "The economy remains unbalanced and unsettled, giving working
families plenty of reason to worry about what may lie ahead," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

Lunch break attack terminated. In California, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's attack on workers' long-standing right to a 30-minute lunch break stalled when public outcry forced him to rescind new workplace regulations.

The so-called emergency regulations, which don't require public hearings, were issued in
early December and provided employers a loophole to take away workers' lunch breaks. Prior to the issuance of the regulation, workers had filed several class-action lawsuits accusing
employers of denying breaks, including one on behalf of more than 200,000 Wal-Mart workers.

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News Briefs
UA stalwart Doug Griffith dies

Douglas W. Griffith, who served remarkably long tenures as business manager of Lansing Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 388 and as president of the Michigan Pipe Trades Association, died on Jan. 19, 2005. He was 73.

Initiated into Local 388 (now Local 333) in 1956, Doug served on the local union's Executive Board from 1960-63. He became business manager of Local 388 in 1963 and held that position until he was severely injured in a car accident in 1994, suffering significant paralysis. Unable to continue to work, Doug was bestowed with the title "Business Manager Emeritus" by local union members.

Mr. Griffith was elected president of the Michigan Pipe Trades Association in 1967, a position he held until 1994. In addition, he was president of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council from 1988-1994.

Doug was also a delegate to seven UA National Conventions from 1961-91. He was on the Resolution Committee in 1986 and appointed chair of the committee for the 1991 UA National Contention.

Doug had a long resume of service to his union, serving on the United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters National Apprenticeship Committee and the International Plumbing Committee from 1989 to 1994. He was also on the Executive Board of the Michigan AFL-CIO and on the State of Michigan Apprenticeship Committee.

"We wish to extend our condolences to his family, especially his wife of almost 50 years, Phyllis, who has given Doug the greatest love and care for the last 11 years that anyone would wish for," said Jim Davis, business manager of Local 333. "The members of UA Local 333 feel privileged and honored to have had a leader of Doug's stature represent us for the time we had him."

Jobless benefits are taxable
tax season, and there's something every recipient of jobless benefits needs to know: unemployment benefits are taxable.

The State of Michigan said it has completed mailing of year-end statements to anyone who received unemployment benefits in 2004.

"Unemployment benefits are taxable, and those who received benefits will need these statements in order to prepare their 2004 tax returns," Sharon Bommarito, director of Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA), explained.

The statements, on form 1099-G, report how much individuals received in unemployment benefits last year.

After Feb. 3, those with questions about their 1099-G or who do not receive the statement can telephone UIA or visit an agency Problem Resolution Office for help.

The two telephone numbers are toll-free and are staffed on weekdays. The phone numbers are:

Telephone filed claims: 1-(866) 500-0017 - staffed 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., M-F.

Customer Relations hotline: 1 (800) 638-3995 - staffed 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., M-F.

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