The Building Tradesman Current Issue | Back Issues Index

January 7, 2000

OSHA slow to move sanitation Standard

'Senate Bill 32 is clearly about union busting'

Building Condat plant is a smooth operation

Milder climate for labor in D.C.

New union hall ready for action

Help wanted: Construction employment wide open through 2008




OSHA slow to move sanitation Standard

An OSHA standard that would require hand-washing facilities on all construction sites is still a priority. But it depends on your definition of "priority."

OSHA Administrator Charles Jeffress said Dec. 9 that "because of other priorities," the agency cannot give a date for when a beefed-up sanitation rule would be put in place.

That statement is a step backward in the process of initiating a toilet/hand-washing standard. In October 1998, the Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health recommended that OSHA require a place to wash for construction workers on nearly all job sites, along with separate men's and ladies' toilet facilities and changing rooms.

The advisory committee recommended that OSHA put the sanitation standard above ergonomics and noise rules, two front-burner issues.

"All of the other standards do not matter if the agency can't get this one resolved fast," said advisory committee member Stephen Cooper, who was quoted in the Construction Labor Report. He is also executive director, safety and health, for the Iron Workers International Union.

OSHA's agenda has the sanitation rule on its long-term agenda, which means a rule could come in December 2000. However, a rule would not take effect until about 12 months after that.

In the past, Cooper has offered us some colorful quotes about OSHA's foot-dragging on the sanitation rule. "American labor law treats construction workers like farm animals," he said. "On jobs where there are only a few workers, there are no requirements for portable toilets, so the workers are expected to relieve themselves in the field. That's inhuman. That's bull----."


'Senate Bill 32 is clearly about union busting'

By David Woodward
D-34th District
Michigan House

As you may know, the Republican-controlled legislature in Michigan has been making strong policy statements about its dislike of unions and their role in our society.

There have been jabs and picks at unions for years as the GOP has tried to dismantle them piece by piece and eliminate their role in protecting workers, their families, and a democratic approach to government.

Among the latest of these attempts is a bill which would require a union to receive the annual signature of every member before it expends any portion of the member's union dues for "political, social, charitable or other activities not related to collective bargaining, contract administration or the grievance process.

Translation: tie the hands of unions in supporting political causes through monetary donations. Currently, union members can prevent, by their signatures, the spending of their dues on the above, thereby already giving them full authority to exercise the rights granted to them in the Beck case.

However, Senate Bill 32 would turn the tables and put the burden on the unions to get each and every signature before any action could be taken. And burden it would be. There are hundreds of thousands of union members in this state. No matter how organized a system might be developed, it would be logistically impossible to collect all of these signatures.

What is the motive behind this legislation, if union members already have the ability to restrict their dues from going to nonunion activities? Many of us have asked the same question.

I think Republicans are touting this as campaign finance reform, but if that were truly the case, they would be willing to support some changes which would have a significant impact.

For example, during a heated debate on the House floor a few weeks ago regarding legislation that would require the reporting of every $1 contributed by an individual to a campaign (the current threshold is $20), the GOP was unwilling to buy into requiring the reporting of contributions to political foundations by corporations. Now why do you think that was the case?

Could it be because the small, $1 contributions are usually made to the Democrats and the large dollar sums that are made by corporations are usually made to Republicans?

Perhaps the answer us that Senate Bill 32 is clearly about union busting. The Republicans have lumped this bill under the misnomer of "paycheck protection" in the package they have deceptively called the "Union Worker's Bill of Rights."

This package would require union members to sign cards every year before dues money could be used for anything other than collective bargaining. Such activities include organizing new members, communicating with you, or lobbying the legislature on labor issues important to you. In addition, the package would also dramatically change various laws which have helped form the foundation of unions in this state.

While at first glance some workers might find the package appealing, we must look at the critical concerns facing working people of this state and the Republicans' history on such issues. Until they are willing to look at concerns like prevailing wage, minimum wage, stronger workplace safety measures, quality education and job training, decent health and child care - which are the things that are important to workers - I question the credibility they have with unions and their claim to be promoting a pro-worker agenda.

Republicans never have been about the business of supporting unions, the rights of workers and organized labor in general, and they aren't about to change their tune now. Although the legislation is in the early stages of the process, I urge you to keep close tabs on its progress.

And be assured that we, as Democrats in the Michigan House, will continue to fight on your behalf.

Advocating on behalf of the working men and women of this state, and their families, will always be a top priority for House Democrats.

Mr. Woodward's district includes southern Oakland County.


Building Condat plant is a smooth operation

SALINE - Manufacturing and industrial plant owners want their machinery's gears to mesh properly, they don't want their drill bits to overheat, and they want their motors to operate at peak efficiency.

The right lubricant and metalworking fluids for the job makes all that happen.

The U.S. market is about to get another major player in the lubricant industry: Condat Corp. is opening a 75,000 square-foot facility here that will allow the French company to put more than 200 of its own "specialty blend" lubricant and metalworking fluids on the market.

New technology and the firm's proprietary lubricant blends that will be manufactured at the plant "will technically put us a step ahead of the competition," said Jeff Milligan, manufacturing and transportation manager for Condat Corp. in the U.S.

The building trades began construction of the plant in the fall of 1998, and work is expected to wrap up next spring. The building contains numerous tanks that are holding areas for processed and to-be-processed lubricants. Servicing the tanks are thousands of feet of precisely placed pumps and piping, installed by mechanical contractor John E. Green and Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 190 members.

"It's beautiful work," said Local 190 Business Manager Ron House.

Milligan said while the labor market has been tight for some trades, "the work has been fantastic."

John E. Green foreman Gary Stalker said a crew of about 10 plumbers and pipe fitters have installed the pipe. For the first time, he said Local 190 members have used the orbital welding process to install some of the piping, a machine process that results in better, faster welds.

"Any surprises?" Stalker said. "I'd say it's been a pleasant surprise how well the project has gone," he said.

DIGITAL CONTROLS on a pump serving the Condat plant are checked by electricians Dave Sisk (left) of IBEW Local 252, and Tom Cummings of Local 25, Long Island.

AN ORBITAL WELDER is set up by fitter Mike "No-Leak" Seyfried at the Condat plant.



Milder climate for labor in D.C.

While Republican lawmakers were taking bites out of unions in Lansing in 1999, GOP lawmakers in Congress were barely nipping at labor's heels.

"Nearly all bills (both pro- and anti-labor) in the Republican-controlled 106th Congress that affect construction employment have languished since being introduced," according to the Construction Labor Report.

A House Bill that would have made it easier for nonunion employers to refuse to hire union salts - who apply for employment at nonunion shops with the intent to organize - made it out of a House subcommittee but didn't receive a hearing in the Senate.

Numerous bills that would provide tax incentives for school construction were introduced, including four that had Davis-Bacon wage provisions attached. None were adopted. However, one union official told the Bureau of National Affairs that labor sees it's a positive long-term step to have the Davis-Bacon provisions attached.

"Perennial GOP-backed bills to repeal Davis-Bacon received lukewarm reception in both houses with no hearings in either body and a certain veto by President Clinton if passed," said the Construction Labor Report. As we have reported previously, all the academic studies that have come out this year indicating the prevailing wage repeal doesn't have much affect on the bottom-line cost of construction has cooled Republican lawmakers' enthusiasm for Davis-Bacon repeal.

Also getting the cold shoulder is a GOP amendment to limit the use of union-only project labor agreements (PLAs) on publicly funded construction projects. The U.S. Supreme Court and numerous state courts have ruled that PLAs are an acceptable way for governments to solicit contractors.

Labor Secretary Alexis Herman is recommending a presidential veto of a proposal that would allow qualifying small businesses and labor unions to recoup attorney fees if they prevail in judicial or administrative actions brought against them by either the National Labor Relations Board or OSHA.



New union hall ready for action

SCIO TOWNSHIP - It's beginning to look a lot like a union hall.

More than nine months after ground was broken on the new 18,000 square-foot building that will house Electrical Workers Local 252 and Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 190, working is rapidly wrapping up.

Office staff from the two Washtenaw County local unions are set to move into the building early next month. Managing the project is Rand Construction Engineering, Inc., a Brighton-based design and build firm.

Construction began last spring on the $2 million project west of Ann Arbor.

While not looking forward to the headaches associated with moving their operations, both Local 252 Business Manager Greg Stephens and Local 190 Business Manager Ron House said the new hall will be a big improvement over their current shared 30-year-old facility on Michigan Ave. in Ypsilanti, which has seen better days.

"It's really taking shape and we're looking forward to moving in," said Local 190 Business Manager Ron House.

THE NEW UNION hall for IBEW Local 252 and Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 190 will be open in less than a month. In front of the new building are (l-r) Local 252 Business Mgr. Greg Stephens, Local 190 BA Mike Kemp, and Local 190 Business Mgr. Ron House.



Help wanted: Construction employment wide open through 2008

If you or someone you know is planning on staking out a career in construction over the next eight years…your skills are probably going to be in demand.

The U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released a projection for occupations in which job growth is expected to take place from 1998 through 2008. Construction, the BLS concluded, is the only goods-producing industry expected to experience job growth during that period.

Taking new jobs and retirement of existing workers into account, the industry is expected to grow at 14 percent over the next 10 years, with the need to fill 550,000 jobs. Future construction job growth is expected to be slower than the 17 percent growth rate from 1988-1998.

Following are some construction crafts and their anticipated growth rate, according to the BLS:

Bricklayers - employment up 12.3 percent; 19,000 new jobs, and a net increase of 48,000 jobs taking retirements and attrition into account.

Electricians - employment up 10.3 percent; 68,000 new jobs, net increase of 202,000 jobs.

Elevator installers and repairers - employment up 12.2 percent; 4,000 new jobs, net increase of 11,000 jobs.

Hazardous materials removers - employment up 19.3 percent; 7,000 new jobs, net increase of 16,000 jobs.

Plasterers and stucco masons - employment up 17.1 percent; 17,000 new jobs, net increase of 73,000 jobs.

Sheet metal workers - employment up 14.1 percent; 32,000 new jobs, net increase of 89,000 jobs.



10-year contract sets new record
Anyone who has been in the organized construction industry knows that three-year labor contracts have been the norm for decades. In St. Louis, the pipe trades and their contractors broke the mold, to say the least.

Local 562 union plumbers and pipe fitters signed a 10½-year contract with the local Mechanical Contractors Association and Plumbing Industry Council, which is believed to be the longest labor contract ever negotiated, according to the Engineering News Record.

In each year of the contract, a $1 per hour increase will go on the paycheck and a 25-cent per hour increase will go toward health and welfare benefits. In the first year of the contract, which began Jan. 1, that represents a 3 percent increase.

The wage and fringe provisions in the contract can be reopened in the fourth and seventh years. Working foremen get an additional $1 per hour over the wage increase.

"We felt it was important to create a contract that would create a 'win-win' for everyone, the consumer, the contractors who hire our people and our members," said Local 562 Business Manager Jim O'Mara. The local has 2,500 active members.

The ENR said the contract also includes an industry first: all journeymen will be required to have 24 hours of upgrade training programs over three years.

Lying to OSHA nets 6 months jail time
Jeffrey Highfield, an employee of Mason, Ohio-based LeMaster Steel Co., fell 25 feet to his death in 1998 while working on the roof at a construction site.

Instead of immediately calling 911, company foreman Ronald Lee Creighton instructed workers to quickly install fall protection cable at the accident site. The company neglected to have the required safety gear in place, according to OSHA's chief investigator in the case, Bill Murphy.

Murphy said at first Creighton stuck to his story that the fall protection was in place prior to the accident, but he ultimately changed his story after witnesses were interviewed. However, two company managers, LeMaster's safety director Michael Onyon and regional director Jay Holloman, continued to lie to OSHA.

To make the punishment fit the crime, OSHA saw to it that the case was prosecuted criminally. Now Onyon and Holloman are serving six months in jail for obstruction of justice. Creighton confessed to making false statements and served four months in jail.

OSHA rarely prosecutes in criminal court, but "this is a particularly tragic and flagrant case where the employer not only failed to adequately protect its workers, but then tried to deceive OSHA in the investigation of the fatality," said Charles Jeffress, assistant secretary of labor.

LeMaster has closed down its operation in Mason, which is nonunion.


The Building Tradesman Current Issue | Back Issues Index