January 5, 2007
The shift to
a part-time economy widens split between haves/have-nots
Metro North Terminal
CNN's Dobbs urges IBEW:
'raise some hell' about U.S. workers, trade policies
MASCI names Gedge
'Apprentice of The Year'
a beacon for bolstering OSHA enforcement
Safety Day expands training
shift to a part-time economy widens split between haves/have-nots
News item: In October, Wal-Mart, the largest employer in the
U.S. with revenues of $310 billion a year, announced it was going
to double the number of its workers employed part-time - from
20 percent to 40 percent of its total work force - while reducing
full-time jobs by yet unknown thousands at the company.
Given Wal-Mart's total U.S. employment of 1.3 million, that
means 260,000 more Wal-Mart workers will now make roughly half
of what full-time employees earn. What little health benefits
and other company-paid benefits the 260,000 had as full-time
employees will be reduced or eliminated. Wal-Mart will save an
estimated $3.042 billion a year in wages and benefits by doubling
its part-time work force to 40 percent, for a total of 520,000
Wal-Mart also announced in October a "cap" on wages
that will impact many thousands more of its workers. In addition,
both part-time and full-time workers will have to work erratic
work schedules and be on call nights and weekends, with as little
as 24-hour notice of work shift changes.
The combined total from the announced changes could easily
amount to $5 billion a year in direct savings to the company
and, in turn, in lost income to workers.
Wal-Mart is organized labor's favorite corporate whipping
boy - a retailing behemoth that has shown the rest of corporate
America how to cut employee-related costs while maximizing profits.
But Wal-Mart is only the most visible symbol of a massive corporate
restructuring that has shaken American industry - and its workforce
- to their core.
Jack Rasmus, author of The War At Home: The Corporate Offensive
From Ronald Reagan To George W. Bush, took a look at the affect
of that ongoing restructuring and offered a synopsis of his book
to the International Labor Communications Association.
"Both the dismantling of entire industries and the continuing
mass exportation of jobs, as well as today's continuing creation
of a two-tier work force with tens of millions of second-class
workers, must be checked before there can be an end to the current
massive shift of incomes between classes in America," Rasmus
Rasmus correlated today's economy with that of the Great Depression,
where "the picture was one of millions of U.S. workers on
the move, criss-crossing the country looking for any kind of
work. The overall picture today is one of millions of U.S. jobs
moving in, out, and across U.S. external borders or being radically
re-cast in new forms by corporations intent on reducing costs
and expanding profit margins."
He wrote that "vast armies of workers" are moving
across and between virtual internal borders of under-employment,
temporary and semi-employment and underground employment, as
they "desperately attempt to survive corporate restructuring
of jobs and the now three-decade-long freeze that has occurred
in the real value of their wages and earnings."
Corporate restructuring began in the 1980s, with the off-shoring
of U.S. manufacturing operations. That trend spread to the technology
industry in the mid-1990s and in recent years has migrated to
other major sectors of the economy. Rasmus pointed out that one
of the latest trends is off-shoring medical procedures: government
subsidized clinics in Singapore are urging American health insurance
companies to send them patients, since heart bypasses can be
performed there at one-third the cost - and that's including
"The dismantling of the U.S. manufacturing base, in particular,"
Rasmus wrote, "is about to enter a new phase with the imminent
exportation of at least 200,000 more U.S. auto industry jobs
to China, India, and Mexico over the next three years."
As Princeton University economist Alan Blinder, a former U.S.
Federal Reserve Board vice-chair, admitted in Foreign Affairs:
"We have so far barely seen the tip of the off-shoring iceberg,
the eventual dimensions of which may be staggering."
Corporate restructuring of jobs and job markets in the U.S.
has also taken other forms. Industry-wide collective bargaining
agreements are a thing of the past, with only 8 percent of the
nation's private sector workforce unionized. A reverse kind of
off-shoring brings in workers under H-1B visas, where jobs requiring
high skills are allocated under visas to foreign professionals.
They can at least be counted: Rasmus reports that nearly five
million workers have disappeared from official government totals
of those potentially available for work - apparently neither
employed or unemployed, "but labeled missing by economists
who can't seem to account for where they've gone."
Like Wal-Mart, big-name retailers like Sears, Target, and
others are rapidly shifting to part-time jobs as well. The major
department store chain Mervyns announced it was terminating all
full-time employees and replacing them with part-time and temporary
employees. Soon big box retail will be virtually all part-time/temp
employment. A similar trend has been growing in the hotel, hospitality,
and related industries.
Trucking companies are dramatically reducing their traditional
work force of permanent drivers and leasing out their vehicles
to independent contractors. Workers in manufacturing, too, are
feeling the heat: 3,000 workers in the HP manufacturing facility
in Boise, Idaho in 2005 discovered that HP management overnight
arbitrarily reclassified everyone as "independent contractors"
instead of employees.
And as the dismantling of the U.S. auto industry accelerates,
tens of thousands of temporary workers in many plants in that
industry will receive wages about half of what unionized auto
workers once made and few if any benefits.
Even though the methodology for counting temporary workers
isn't consistent, the trend toward making workers part-time is
clear. Combined part-time and temp jobs have increased from a
combined 29.3 million in 2000 to 33.8 million by 2004 - a gain
of 15.3 percent in just four years.
Rasmus stated: "Those who wonder why there are 47 million
workers in the U.S. today without any form of health insurance
should consider the effects of corporate job restructuring
60 million workers in the U.S. don't have a regular, permanent,
full-time job any more in America.
"With 30 million new part-time, temp, and contract workers
getting on average a third less pay and 75 percent to 80 percent
less in benefits, the aggregate annual wage savings for corporate
America due to this restructuring amounts to roughly $350 billion
a year in pay and benefits alone.
"Any effective strategy aimed at restoring the growth
of union labor and the effectiveness of union bargaining in America,
and in turn halting the current $1 trillion shift in relative
income in the U.S., will have to address this corporate restructuring
of jobs in America."
North Terminal takes off
By Marty Mulcahy
ROMULUS - Across from the gleaming five-year-old McNamara
Terminal, and astride an active taxiway and runway, rises the
new North Terminal Redevelopment Project at Metro Airport.
The North Terminal is a half-mile-long, $443 million terminal
that will replace the airport's aging Berry and Smith terminals.
According to Wayne County Airport Authority, the new terminal,
which has been expanded to include about 31 gates, "will
complete the airport's mission of modernizing the entire airport
terminal complex and create a world-class facility that provides
the type of services all our passengers and visitors deserve."
Completion of this terminal, following the opening of the well-received
99-gate McNamara Terminal, is expected to rank the airport as
among the nation's best.
"With its simple linear design and modern conveniences,
the north terminal will represent a significant upgrade in customer
convenience compared to the Smith and Berry Terminals,"
said airport authority CEO Lester Robinson. "It will also
provide a considerable improvement in efficiency for the airlines."
The joint venture of Walbridge- Barton Malow are managing the
construction of the new terminal, which will encompass about
830,000 square feet in the vicinity of the demolished Davey Terminal
and old Westin Hotel. Foundation work began in September 2005.
Walbridge-Barton Malow General Supt. Al Stevens said approximately
200 construction workers are currently on the job, a number which
will increase to 700-750 at peak employment. The project is projected
to be complete in the summer of 2008
"It's a great crew," Stevens said. "One thing
about working in this region, you can't beat the construction
people around here." The trades are currently putting up
steel up, moving dirt, and installing underground utilities,
storm water lines and foundations.
The North Terminal will have two levels. The upper level will
have ticket areas, luggage check-in, security, shops and restaurants.
The lower level will be reserved for baggage and security functions.
Hardhats are currently able to park on in an area close to
their jobs on an area that will become a runway apron. As work
progresses, that space will that will become unavailable, and
they will have to be transported to their jobs from off-site
"We have a large project in a small location," Stevens
said. "It's a half-mile long project, but it's very narrow,
and we're utilizing the site to its fullest. We're trying to
make it as convenient as possible for the workers to get to the
site, for as long as we can."
Consideration is being given to workers on the project in
another form: safety. In May, Walbridge-Barton Malow, MIOSHA,
the Wayne County Airport Authority and the Michigan Building
and Construction Trades Council signed on to an unprecedented
commitment to making this a safe work site.
The partnership agreement was established to raise awareness
and promote safety for all personnel employed in the Detroit
Metropolitan Airport construction project. Recognizing that engineering
techniques alone are not enough to ensure that exposure to hazards
are controlled, the program includes coordination, monitoring
and educating the personnel involved in the project. These components
will be implemented through the same principles of management
control applied throughout all phases of the project.
The goal: zero injuries on the project. Through November,
Stevens said, there were 208,000 man-hours worked on the project
with one recordable injury and no lost-time injuries.
Key elements of the safety and health program for the project
"Partnering with MIOSHA allows us to utilize all the
team members in the pursuit of that goal," said Mark S.
Klimbal, CSP, Corporate Safety Director, Barton Malow Company.
"Through this cooperative effort, we can focus even more
resources on the requirement to run a project driven by safety,
quality, and productivity."
STACKING CONCRETE FORMS at the Metropolitan
Airport North Terminal at Metro Airport is Jeff Roberts of Laborers
SETTING A COLUMN in an area that will be the
North Terminal's lower-level baggage-handling area are Cam Montour
and Ralph Birchmeier of Iron Workers Local 25 and Midwest Steel.
The crane operator is Mike Reynolds of Operating Engineers Local
WORKING IN THE Superior Electric trailer at
the North Terminal site are (l-r) electricians Ken Burnahm and
Dan Geppert of IBEW Local 58.
Dobbs urges IBEW: 'raise some hell' about U.S. workers, trade
(Editor's note: this article came from the IBEW, which
was covering TV anchor Lou Dobbs' speech to their convention
delegates in September. We only recently came across the article,
and thought Dobbs' worker-friendly views should be printed here,
albeit a little late).
CLEVELAND - Proclaiming pride in being called a "protectionist"
and a "populist" by corporate America, TV anchor Lou
Dobbs fired up delegates to the 37th convention of the International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, turning his speech into a
town hall meeting on trade, jobs and the needs of working families.
Dobbs, the anchor and managing editor of CNN's "Lou Dobbs
Tonight," was named the first recipient of IBEW's Voice
of Working America Award, presented by the union for telling
the true story, the real deal about what is happening to America's
Dobbs ripped into a critique of the U.S. political, corporate
and media elites. Our Constitution begins with the words, "We,
the people, not we the elitists, we the corporatists, we the
free-trade-at-any-price," said Dobbs. "Democracy is
fundamentally about us, the people. We're losing sight of that.
We are at a stage in our national life in which corporate America
has come to dominate every major facet of our economy and our
"The minimum wage hasn't been raised in nine years in
this country. The idea that this Congress could worry about an
estate tax for the wealthiest two percent of this nation, could
reform the bankruptcy law according to the exact details and
instructions of the financial services industry should be
repugnant to every American."
Dobbs continued, "Whether you're a Democrat or you're
a Republican or you're an Independent, please let us agree on
one thing: We must have countervailing influences to dominant
political power in this nation in order for this great democracy
"There is no excuse for those values in an American Congress,
whether Republican or Democrat," Dobbs added. "Democrats
voted along with Republicans on the bankruptcy law of 2005. Democrats
are voting along with Republicans on free trade agreements whether
it's CAFTA or it's NAFTA or, as so many of my viewers love to
talk about, SHAFTA."
"I'm one of those fools who said we should go ahead with
NAFTA in 1993. I did so with two very bad assumptions on my part.
One is that President Salinas of Mexico and President Clinton
of the United States were serious in the side agreements on environmental
and labor protection," said Dobbs. "I hate being wrong,
but I do admit one of those rare, infrequent, almost impossible
to recall occasions when I am."
The United States has contributed nearly 80 percent of the
total wealth created around the world over the course of the
last 30 years, he added. Yet, during that same period, real earnings
have been stagnant, and manufacturing wages have actually declined.
"Now (we are called protectionists) for suggesting that
it is unfair, that it is madness to destroy an industrial base
was the world's envy," said Dobbs.
Expressing anger at President Bush's contention that immigrants
are taking jobs that Americans don't want, Dobbs said, "This
president can't finish a sentence. Americans don't want jobs
that pay slave wages."
When social issues start clouding the political thinking of
Americans, Dobbs suggested, change the subject to talk about
the $5 trillion trade deficit, or the facts that 48 million people
in the United States don't have health care.
"Talk about the fact that we can drop hundreds of billions
of dollars into overseas adventures and nation building, but
we can't spend a billion dollars to secure our ports and borders."
When a delegate asked Dobbs what he would think about providing
tax breaks to companies that would bring manufacturing back to
the United States, he said, "I guess I'd be all right with
that." But he also offered a different view.
"How about this - a company that off-shores American
production, exports American jobs, and then exports back those
goods and services to this country, how about we tax the bloody
hell out of them?"
Saying that he was tired of people sitting and simply "discussing
the sociopolitical economic situation," Dobbs drew thundering
applause when he shouted, "No. Raise some hell. Give a damn.
And don't be embarrassed to be a little passionate
honest with one another and demand the truth, you and I will
have a great deal to be proud of and we'll assure our children
a bright future that otherwise would be denied them."
names Gedge 'Apprentice of The Year'
A former Georgia police officer has been named the 2006 "Apprentice
of the Year" by the Michigan Apprenticeship Steering Committee
Inc. (MASCI). Kerry Gedge of Alanson, an Operating Engineer apprentice,
was selected for her "integrity, work ethic, and commitment,"
according to Barbara S. Strachan, a spokeswoman for the committee.
MASCI is a partnership of labor, management, education, and
the public, founded in 1977 to promote apprenticeship in Michigan.
Now in its sixth year, the MASCI Apprentice of the Year award
is open to all active apprentices in the more than 100 building
and manufacturing trades in Michigan.
Gregg A. Newsom, training director of the Journeyman &
Apprentice Training Fund's Howell Education Center for Operating
Engineers Local 324, where Gedge has trained for the last four
years, says she will make an outstanding journeyman operating
"Kerry Gedge is a remarkable young woman, who has demonstrated
over and over the importance of having a positive attitude, self
respect, and a strong work ethic," says Newsom. "Even
as an apprentice, Kerry leads by example and positively affects
those around her. She will make a valuable addition to any contractor's
According to MASCI, criteria for the award include attendance
and punctuality in class and on the job; outstanding craft mastery
and productivity; leadership skills and teamwork; safety awareness;
spirit of competitiveness; community service; and commitment
to their craft, their employer, their union, and their community.
"One of the reasons we do this is to help promote pride
in the lives of the apprentices," says Strachan. "When
an apprentice is finished with their program, that's really an
accomplishment, and they should be proud of it. It all boils
down to work ethic and personal integrity. Kerry Gedge has both."
According to Strachan, Gedge is the third Operating Engineer
apprentice to win the award in Michigan since 2003. The others
were Pam Walker and Clenton Weston Jr.
Gedge, who will graduate this month as a Journeyman Operating
Engineer, is currently working as a crane oiler at the Consumers
Energy J.J. Campbell Power Plant in West Olive, near Grand Haven.
Previously she was a police officer in Statesboro, Georgia. She
earned a bachelor of science in criminal justice from Georgia
case a beacon for bolstering OSHA enforcement
The issue of how to enhance efforts to enforce worksite safety
standards was taken up in two venues last month - in the U.S.
Senate and in the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Responding to demands for stepped up enforcement to counteract
dangerous conditions at the nation's worksites, Sen. Edward Kennedy
(D-MA) - incoming chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor
and Pensions Committee - announced last month that he will introduce
legislation to reform the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) when he takes office in January.
Among the reforms he said he would pursue are:
- extension of OSHA protections to federal and state employees
- application of "meaningful penalties" against employers
whose willful violation of standards results in workers' deaths
or serious injuries;
- protection of safety "whistleblowers" and the public's
right to know about employer safety violations; and
- clarification of employer obligations to provide personal
protective equipment (PPE) and other safety protections to workers.
Kennedy chaired the same committee when the Democrats last
controlled the Senate, and he introduced legislation at that
time that sought to strengthen OSHA's standards-setting and enforcement
authority, both of which have waned under Republican domination
Laborers International Union General President Terence M.
O'Sullivan welcomed Kennedy's initiative. "In recent years
under the Bush Administration, OSHA has stepped back from its
responsibility to enforce its own safety regulations," he
said. "With lagging enforcement, we're drifting back toward
the days when unscrupulous contractors cut corners on safety,
taking advantage of the situation to maximize profits at the
expense of responsible competitors. OSHA enforcement is absolutely
necessary, not only to ensure safety for the workforce, but also
to maintain a level playing field in the industry."
One key issue in enforcement is criminal liability. Because
under OSHA even a willful violation that results in the death
of a worker can be prosecuted only as a misdemeanor, federal
prosecutors are reluctant to pursue criminal cases. Despite more
than 200,000 on-the-job deaths in the U.S. since OSHA was created
in 1972, only 151 were referred to the Justice Department for
prosecution. Of these, only eight company officials received
jail time. The longest sentence was six months.
Because the federal government has been so reluctant to pursue
criminal prosecutions, some state officials have stepped into
the gap. In November in Michigan - in a decision that attracted
national attention because the original prosecutor was running
for re-election as the state's governor (Gov. Granholm, Michigan's
former attorney general, was re-elected governor) - one of these
state convictions was upheld on appeal.
In 1999, a Lanzo Construction Company worker was killed in
a trench collapse after the company foreman ignored workers'
request to stop excavation work due to sporadic rain. Despite
Michigan OSHA (MIOSHA) regulations, the 15-foot deep trench was
not shored, and a trench box on the site was not in use. At its
trial, the company asserted that it could not be held criminally
liable for the actions of its employees. The company was acquitted
on an involuntary manslaughter charge but given a $10,000 fine
and two years' probation for willful violation of the MIOSHA
The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the trial
court, saying that the Lanzo foreman and its superintendent were
"high management officials" who had "supervisory
responsibility over the subject matter of the offense" and
acted "within the scope of [their] employment in behalf
of the corporation."
The foreman, the court determined, was a "qualified person"
under MIOSHA and was responsible for work site safety and could
decide whether extra precautions were required. The superintendent,
also a "qualified person," was culpable because his
responsibilities included employee safety. It was the superintendent
who acknowledged that, though the failure to shore the trench
violated MIOSHA regulations, he believed it was safe for employees
to work in it for a short period of time. He also acknowledged
that he had failed to provide trench safety training to the crew,
relying instead on their experience as pipe layers.
As for the meaning of "willful," the other issue
on appeal, the court said it "requires only that a defendant
either intentionally disregard a requirement of MIOSHA or be
knowingly or purposely indifferent to a requirement of MIOSHA."
The evidence of disregard was the lack of required trench protection
and the failure to shut down operations despite workers' complaints
that the rain had increased the danger.
The decision in Michigan - along with similar cases in Arizona
- may bolster Kennedy's case when he introduces his legislation
in January. In some quarters, at least, concern about willful
disregard of workplace safety regulations seems to be mounting.
Nevertheless, it remains uncertain whether Kennedy's bill will
be adopted by the full Senate and the House, much less signed
by the President.
(From the Laborers Health and Safety Fund).
Construction Safety Day expands training
Safety training is being expanded once again to serve even
more of the employees and contractors throughout Michigan. New
in 2007, Michigan Construction Safety Day will be presented not
only in East Lansing but also in Livonia and Marquette.
Michigan Construction Safety Day is a program designed for
key leaders of Michigan's commercial construction industry including
CEO's, managers, safety directors, field engineers, supervisors,
foremen and trades workers. Owners or representatives of the
construction user community are also encouraged to attend one
of three daylong programs.
- The 16th Annual Michigan Construction Safety Day will be
held Tuesday, Jan. 30 from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Kellogg
Hotel & Conference Center in East Lansing.
- The Michigan Construction Safety Day program in Livonia will
take place Thursday, Feb. 1, 2007 from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
at VistaTech/Schoolcraft College.
- The 6th Annual Upper Peninsula Michigan Construction Day
will be held Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007 at the University Center
on the campus of Northern Michigan University, Marquette, from
9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Attendees will take part in four of ten key safety-training
sessions offered during the day. Topics include: Rigging Safety,
Health Dangers on a Construction Site, Guidelines for a MIOSHA
Inspection & Common Violations Cited, Fall Protection, Asbestos
Awareness, Masonry Wall Bracing, Effective Tool Box Talks, Avoiding
Electrocution, Excavation Safety: Dirt Safety, and Implementation
of an Effective Company Safety Program.
The conference also offers an opportunity for safety professionals
to talk with vendors, inspect safety equipment and see demonstrations
of the newest safety devices at vendor exhibit booths. The booths
will be open for viewing from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Michigan Construction Safety Day is sponsored exclusively
for Michigan's construction industry employees by the Michigan
Association of Constructors (now in transition from the Michigan
Chapter Associated General Contractors), the Michigan Department
of Labor and Economic Growth, and the Michigan Occupational Safety
& Health Administration.
Bob Pawlowski, Director, Construction Safety & Health
Division MIOSHA, will give his annual State of the Industry address
during the program.
The cost to attend the program is $100 per attendee when registering
on-line at www.constructionsafetyday.com. There is a discount
for registering five or more from the same firm. To mail in or
fax your registration the cost is $110 per person.
Questions about all three programs can be directed to either
Pete Anderson, Safety Director with the Michigan Chapter Associated
General Contractors, (517) 371-1550/ e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org;
or Rick Mee, Safety Director with the Greater Detroit Chapter
Associated General Contractors, (248) 948-7000/ email email@example.com.
Overall 5% hike expected for wages
Wages for U.S. building trades workers are projected to increase
5 percent in 2007, an increase from 4.6 percent in 2006 and 4
percent in 2005.
The information, gathered by Personnel Administration Services
(PAS), was reported by the Construction Labor Report. The PAS
report cautioned, however, that due to the slump in housing industry
construction, construction worker wages will vary widely across
Construction costs outpace inflation
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A dip in construction material prices in November
is not a trend expected to continue into 2007.
"Construction materials costs took a pleasing plunge
in November, while other producer prices rose," said Ken
Simonson, chief economist for The Associated General Contractors
of America (AGC), commenting on the Dec. 19 producer price index
(PPI) report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. "But the
next 12 months are still likely to show higher costs for construction
than for the economy as a whole."
Simonson said the index for construction materials and components
dropped half a percent in November, even as the overall PPI for
finished goods climbed 0.8 percent. To compare, over the last
12 months, construction costs have jumped five percent, vs. two
percent for the consumer price index and a skimpy 0.9 percent
for the finished-goods PPI.
The retreat in construction costs included declines for diesel
fuel and asphalt, plastic construction products, lumber and plywood,
gypsum products and steel and copper products. But there were
continuing increases in the prices of most concrete products,
brick, and aluminum mill shapes. Lower U.S. residential construction
will maintain downward pressure of gypsum and wood prices, but
Simonson said as long as demand in industrializing nations continues,
"construction is likely to face higher costs for materials
that depend on world markets."
Goodyear strikers making tires again
More than 15,000 striking United Steelworkers members have reached
a tentative agreement with Goodyear after a labor dispute that
lasted nearly three months.
The workers had been on strike in a fight "for good U.S.
jobs with good benefits promised by the company," according
to the AFL-CIO.
"On behalf of 15,000 brave workers who courageously battled
to last one day longer than the company, their families and more
than 30,000 Goodyear retirees and surviving spouses, allow me
to thank everybody who contributed to this victory," said
United Steel Workers (USW) President Leo W. Gerard. "As
we said from the beginning, this contract campaign went far beyond
a labor-management dispute. It was a battle to make a
company live up to its commitments to past and current employees,
and to secure a future for manufacturing in North America. While
no settlement is ever perfect, we all deserve congratulations
in successfully working together to resolve the critical issues
that confronted us when the bargaining process began."
The agreement with Goodyear:
- Establishes an innovative company-financed trust of more
than $1 billion that will secure medical and prescription drug
benefits for current and future retirees.
- Enhances the ability of USW-represented plants to meet the
challenges of global competition by having Goodyear triple its
capital investments to at least $550 million in those unionized
- Maintains affordable, high-quality medical and prescription
drug coverage for active members and retirees.
- Requires Goodyear to rescind its demand for immediate closure
of its Tyler, Texas, plant and instead provide for a one-year
period of transition during which workers will have the opportunity
to take advantage of sizeable retirement buyouts.
Goodyear sought to close the Tyler plant - its third plant
closure in four years - despite making nearly $500 million in
profit last year.