January 11, 2008
Use - not abuse
- of apprentices will pay dividends later
Saginaw transformation moves to next phase
Eagle Mine wins state's OK
given by building trades, contractors
Local 80's Ingalls
accepts IU position
- not abuse - of apprentices will pay dividends later
(Second in a series)
By Mark Breslin
This month I would like to provide a lesson in demographic
economics. I have no idea if such a thing exists but it certainly
sounds important. Never-the-less, as you will hopefully agree,
it still makes strategic and economic sense when applied to our
Demo-Econ Fact Number One: Our workforce is getting
older and grayer day by day. 10,000 people in the U.S. are turning
60 every day. The Baby Boomers' retirement is about to explode
on the workplace like never before. In five to ten years you
won't know what hit you.
Demo-Econ Fact Number Two: Workforce shortages are
already endemic in the U.S. Currently there are 160,000 jobs
at car dealerships and mechanic facilities unfulfilled. The railroads
are currently short 40,000+. The booming energy business cannot
begin to round up enough workers to build the many new plants
around the U.S. and Canada. The tip of the wave is already here.
Demo-Econ Fact Number Three: An immigrant workforce
cannot be depended upon to backfill the need. Uncertainty with
immigration laws and future regulatory actions is the status.
Don't tell me that the dirty little secret of a significant undocumented
workforce in our current industry is an exaggeration. Contractors
might end up short every one of those workers with future employer
restrictions and sanctions.
Demo-Econ Fact Number Four: Supply and demand will
always dictate price.
And Finally D-E Fact Number Five: It is time for contractors
to stop being apathetic, bull-headed, short-sighted and plan-ass-dumb
about proactively utilizing apprenticeship. Why? Because they
must Invest Now or Pay Later.
Currently we should be developing at least 200% more apprentices
in most crafts. To meet current needs. To meet future journeyman
attrition. To account for drop outs. To leverage the financial
commitment already being made in apprenticeship development.
Most contractors look at apprenticeship as a "mandatory
requirement." Public works laws and union rules compel them
to use the little bastards. Well let's just imagine a different
Let's just push the fast forward button on your Workforce
Tivo forecast and see what happens.
Do nothing = Too few apprentices + increased Boomer journeyman
/ foreman attrition = increasing shortages of qualified personnel
+ increases in funding and construction = higher demand for hours
worked on existing workforce = more OT necessary + absence of
out-of-work status for workers = feeling of entitlement by union
members = union politics requiring more money than the overall
market will bear + difficulty of maintaining defined benefit
pension plans = very difficult bargaining = additional costs,
conflict and strife.
Getting proactive about apprenticeship takes looking a small
way ahead. In a business full of contractor "firefighters"
solving the crisis of the day, that can be very tough. Contractors
need to start taking ownership of their own futures. One very
smart contractor I know has already done the demographic profile
of his entire company. He knows exactly when all of his best
workers and supervisors are going to retire and is planning now.
He will be competitively positioned where others will have
to beg, borrow or steal as the market will allow. On the other
hand, apprenticeship is the key to unlocking that future for
our industry. Billions of contractor dollars are going into these
programs; what is their current return on investment? They have
no damn idea.
This does not mean that the union is off the hook. Business
managers need to also do their part and put aside worries about
politics in order to increase apprentice indenture rates. Some
Business Managers think short staffing the industry is a good
way to keep their political environment stable. But in the long
term it is a form of self-cannibalism. Keep cutting off a part
of yourself to stay alive politically, and soon there is nothing
left but the memory of how stupid you really were.
Now one thing I hear pretty regularly is that "the damn
union sends me unqualified apprentices." DUH? Who really
trains any apprentice? The union, at best, gets their hands on
them for four to six weeks total hours per year. Who has them
for the other 46 weeks? It is about our industry and our contractors
engaging in a long term, highly focused, strategic process of
replacing our most valuable commodity and competitive advantage.
News flash for my contractor buddies: they don't manufacture
them down at the union hall guys, you do.
And so the answers I would give to these contractors? Sponsor
apprentices yourself. Handpicked little bastards are better than
random ones. When they are dispatched take the time to give them
something meaningful to do. When you get a good one, cultivate
his or her work ethic and capability.
Talk to your foremen and superintendents about why it is important
to treat them better than fecal matter. Match them up with mentors
or at least a journeyman likely to pass on some good lessons.
Visit the training centers. Get to know the curriculum and the
supplemental training available to your journeymen as well. Figure
out how to use the money you are paying. You have a financial
opportunity to obtain a real and significant return.
Look, in the end it is a team effort. And I say with all the
love and respect I can gather to my contractor brethren: it's
up to you. You can Invest Now or Pay Later. Demographic economics.
Remember, you heard it here first.
Mark Breslin is a trainer and author specializing in labor-management
challenges and solutions. He is the author of the recently published
Attitudes and Behaviors: Survival of the Fittest curriculum for
apprentice training centers. The curriculum is now being used
by union training centers, and has been established as standard
course programming by other international unions and apprenticeship
programs. Instructional material including books, CDs, workbooks,
instructor guides and support media information is available
Saginaw transformation moves to next phase
By Marty Mulcahy
SAGINAW TOWNSHIP - The building trades last month completed
the fourth phase of an eight-phase, $44 million construction
project that will result in a wholesale transformation of the
HealthSource Saginaw facility.
Saginaw County voters approved a 2004 bond issue to renovate
and expand the HealthSource facility, which includes psychiatric
care, substance abuse treatment and medical rehabilitation services.
The building trades and general contractor Spence Brothers are
expected to complete the project in December 2008.
In completing the fourth phase in mid-December, Spence Brothers
handed over the new psychiatric portion of the facility to the
hospital. The new Behavioral Medicine Center includes 41 inpatient
psychiatric beds and 27 inpatient chemical dependency beds, and
the new Behavioral Professional Services office suite included
construction of 150 of the facility's 213 long-term care beds.
More than 100 Hardhats have worked on the project at peak
"The workforce has done a good job," said Bob Beythan,
who is managing the project for Spence Brothers. "It's been
a challenging job, with a lot of different phases, and it has
required a tremendous amount of planning."
The next phases in the project, which starts this month, will
result in the demolition of the five-story central resident wing,
as well as an existing psychiatric wing and offices. Phase 6
constructs the 38 inpatient bed Medical Rehabilitation Center,
room for the remaining 63 long-term care beds, the "Main
Street" corridor to connect the entire facility, as well
as the interior construction/renovation of the administrative
bank, therapy areas and main dining room.
When work is complete, the facility will operate on a single
level on space currently occupied by the to-be-demolished five-story
hospital building - it's the victim of having rooms that are
too small and a layout that's inadequate for modern health care.
The entire project consists of construction of approximately
169,310 square feet of new patient/resident/client care facilities
and renovation of an additional 47,630 of existing square feet.
INSTALLING TEMPORARY steam lines in a corridor
at the HealthSource Saginaw facility is Andre Alexander of Plumbers
and Steamfitters Local 85, working for Remer Plumbing, Heating
& Air Conditioning, Inc.
REMER, a steadfast union contractor, is in
its 50th year. One of its service trucks is shown outside the
new HealthSource building.
BUILT IN THE late 1920s, the original four-story
hospital on the HealthSource Saginaw grounds will be demolished.
Eagle Mine wins state's OK
On Dec. 14, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources approved
three principal environmental permits that will allow the construction
of the Kennecott Eagle nickel and copper mine.
The decision came after a lengthy and somewhat controversial
public hearings process, in which over 3,500 public comments
were received. Many individuals and groups - most noteably, the
Natural Wildlife Federation - expressed concerns about the mine's
impact on the natural environment. DEQ officials, however, said
plans for the mine met the standards set by Michigan's new and
more stringent mining laws, so the permits had to be approved.
Environmental groups are threatening to take the decision
to court. The mine is to be located under the headwaters of the
Salmon Trout River in northwest Marquette County, not far from
Big Bay on the southern Lake Superior coast.
Unless postponed by legal action. construction of an estimated
$150 million in support facilities for the mine is currently
planned to get underway this year.
presents given by building trades, contractors
By Marty Mulcahy
Building trades workers and contractors displayed a generous
spirit this holiday season, volunteering a considerable amount
of time, money and materials to help two schools in Southeast
On Saturday, Dec. 15, C.A.S.S. Sheetmetal donated a new $42,000
metal gym roof to St. Damian Church and School in Westland, and
20 Sheet Metal Workers Local 80 members donated their time to
do the installation.
And in a several day project that began after school let out
Dec. 21, several Plumbers Local 98 members donated their time
to renovate a boys' bathroom at Holy Trinity Elementary School
"Union members and our contractors show their generous
side all the time by doing this kind of volunteer work, without
getting recognized for it," said Patrick Devlin, CEO of
the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, who volunteered
time to help with the work at Holy Trinity. "Their work
is appreciated, and it just goes to show how union workers and
contractors come through time after time for their community."
At St. Damian, maintenance director Timothy Hoste last summer
began seeking help with a general letter to area metal roofing
businesses, seeking not a handout, but any assistance that could
be provided in replacing a badly leaking asphalt shingle roof
covering the school's gymnasium. The leaky roof caused numerous
basketball games, gym classes and other activities to be cancelled.
The existing roof was improperly installed in 2002, and the company
that did the work was unavailable to perform repairs because
they had gone out of business.
C.A.S.S. Sheetmetal owner Glen Parvin received the letter,
and pledged to help with a substantial amount of the project's
cost. It took the company a few months to clear out the time
to do the work - but the time came in December. Some prep work
by C.A.S.S. a couple days ahead of time allowed the full crew
to do the work in less than four hours on that Saturday morning.
"Some of the guys came from as far away as Port Huron
and Midland," Hoste said. "They were great, and they
knew what they were doing. I'm still amazed at how well they
worked together. A few people from the church were there to help,
too. When they were finished, Glen just told us, 'Merry Christmas,
it's free, no cost.' We were very happy. There are very few people
who would do that. They did a huge service to our school and
More than 20 Local 80 C.A.S.S. sheetmetal journeymen donated
their time along with about 10 church volunteers, and gave St.
Damian their new gym roof. C.A.S.S. Sheetmetal donated all the
roof material, trim, and the preparatory labor to get the project
underway and in position to support the larger crew that turned
out. They installed 6,200 square feet of new metal roof. It was
put on in the nick or time, as the area was blanketed with eight
inches of snow that night.
Over at Holy Trinity in the Corktown area of Detroit, a handful
of Local 98 volunteers gave their time to tear out and replace
some 1960s-era urinals in a first-floor boys bathroom.
After nearly 50 years of use by students at the school, the
urinals "were trashed," with some of the urinals cracked,
said Principal Kathleen McBride. With no money budgeted for repairs,
the school asked for help, and got it. Help came from Cougar
Contracting, which provided tools to cut the floor, Bill James
Mechanical, Mechanical Contractors Association-Detroit, and Local
The new urinals were installed in a week, along with a new
wall to hide the new plumbing and new tile to cover the wall
"These are just great people," McBride said. "It's
a lot of work, but it really needed to get done. We're very grateful
INSIDE A boys' bathroom at Holy Trinity School
with the old urinals torn out are (l-r, standing) Principal Kathleen
McBride, Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council CEO
Patrick Devlin, Aaron Dunn, Jeff Kleimola, Mark P. Teets, Larry
Delehant, Local 98 Financial Secretary Treasurer Rich Gaber,
Chris Buffa, and (kneeling l-r) Jason Bachman and Mark Little.
Also helping but not pictured were Clay Hawthorne of BAC Local
1, Jim and Joe Barnhart and Local 98 BA Mike McIlroy.
THE C.A.S.S. SHEETMETAL and Local 80 crew
donated time and materials to put a new metal roof on the gym
at St. Damian Parish in Westland.
80's Ingalls accepts IU position
Harold "Tom" Ingalls, 57, business manager of Sheet
Metal Workers Local 80 for the last 12 years - and serving for
12 years prior to that as local Business Agent - has been appointed
International Representative for Michigan, Ohio and Indiana,
effective Feb. 1.
Ingalls graduated from the Local 80 apprenticeship school
in 1974. He was elected the local's Warden (1978) and SUB Trustee
(1982), and then was elected Business Agent in 1984, serving
in that capacity until he was elected Business Manager in 1996.
He also currently is serving as first Vice President of the
Sheet Metal Workers Great Lakes Council, President of the Michigan
State Joint Apprentice Committee and member of Detroit Building
and Construction Trades Council Executive Board (12 years). He
is serving as Trustee on the International Officer Pension Fund
and has served on several other International committees through
out his tenure as business manager.
As business manager, Tom said he is particularly proud of
the apprenticeship orientation seminars he developed in which
speakers are brought in to educate graduating apprentices on
union history, and the struggles of earlier workers in the trade
to obtain the benefits now enjoyed.
Ingalls said he also initiated retirement awareness meetings
to explain the steps needed to prepare for retirement. Another
source of pride: The expansion of the local's Targeting Fund
together with the use of TV ads, rebate programs and the highly
successful truck logo program where a uniform Union/SMACNA logo
appears on company trucks along with their individual names.
He said they all have helped increase man-hours.
"It's been an honor to know that the membership has had
the confidence in me to keep me in office for the last 24 years
as a BA and as Business Manager," Ingalls said.
'Wrong for Michigan' says anti-RTW effort
A proactive effort to inform and sway Michigan residents about
a potential right-to-work law for our state began a few weeks
ago with a television and radio ad campaign.
Sponsored by the Union Laborers Community Investment Fund,
the goal of the ads is to blunt an effort that's widely anticipated
to start on primary Election Day - Jan. 15. Over the last few
months, the Michigan AFL-CIO has sponsored a number of meetings
informing organized labor communicators and affiliated unions
about the anticipated effort to implement a right-to-work law
With the state House and governor's office currently controlled
by Democrats, a legislative right-to-work effort has no chance
of getting off the ground - in fact, it never got off the ground
when the state was under the complete control of GOP Gov. John
Engler and a Republican House and Senate.
But with the state's economy in the tank - and conservative
pundits pushing the anti-union legislation as an economic cure-all
in the state's newspapers just about every week - the National
Right-to-Work Committee sees an opening.
One of their publications said last year "that the committee
would do everything possible to assist the efforts of right-to-work
advocates in Michigan, who are currently in the process of establishing
a new state organization dedicated to prohibiting forced union
dues and fees."
"Obviously, passing a right-to-work law in Walter Reuther's
old stomping ground won't be easy," said Matthew Leen, vice
president of the National Right-To-Work Committee. "But
we are prepared to give our support to pro-right- to-work Michiganians
for as long as it takes them to succeed."
Right-to-work laws basically gut the ability of unions to
represent their members by allowing workers to opt out of paying
union dues - while still enjoying the benefits of union affiliation.
According to the state AFL-CIO, Michigan workers are paid an
average of $7,601 more than workers in the average right-to-work
In addition, the percentage of people without health care
coverage in right-to-work states is almost 33 percent greater
than in Michigan. Seventy percent of Michiganians younger than
65 have employer-provided health insurance, compared with only
62 percent in "right-to-work" states.
The national groups behind the right-to-work effort in Michigan
aren't known for sure, but it's expected that the money will
come from big business groups. In addition to the TV and radio
ads, union workers will be going to the polls around the state
on Jan. 15 and urge voters not to sign petitions as part of a
"decline to sign" campaign.
The unions' anti-right-to-work effort may be premature - no
one is sure about the extent of the petition campaign or their
specific plans. But organized labor is determined to be on top
of the issue - and public education is the first step.
For more, go to www. wrongformichigan.org.