July 25, 2008
to bring labor shortages, group predicts
town to college town' Trades help transform Flint
can replace the handshake
by surging material costs
trades endorse Obama
'He is simply on the right side of
the issues that matter to our collective membership'
By Mark Ayers
AFL-CIO Building Trades Department
On June 18, the Governing Board of Presidents of the Building
and Construction Trades Department voted unanimously to endorse
Sen. Barack Obama for President of the United States.
This was a decision that entailed months and months of discussion,
analysis and close examination of each candidate's record; issue
positions; as well as their overall vision for the future of
the United States of America.
In the end, it was a fairly easy decision, for it came down
to a choice between the candidacy of John McCain who has fundamentally
embraced the disastrous economic and foreign policies espoused
by the Bush Administration, or the candidacy of Barack Obama,
where the concerns of working families are placed front and center,
and where, amid the partisanship and bickering of today's public
debate, he still believes in the ability to unite people around
a politics of purpose - a politics that puts solving the challenges
of everyday Americans ahead of partisan calculation and political
We honor John McCain's service to our country. But when it
comes to having a true, innovative vision for America in the
21st century, John McCain offers nothing but warmed over Republican
rhetoric from the 1980s. Tax cuts for the wealthy so that economic
growth will then "trickle down" to American working
families. We heard it from Reagan, and we heard it from two Bushes.
And it never worked!
For all his talk of being a maverick, or his independence
from the Republican Party, the centerpiece of the John McCain
economic plan amounts to a full-throated endorsement of George
Bush's policies. According to McCain, "we've made great
progress in our economy these past eight years." He likes
to call himself a fiscal conservative. And on the campaign trail
he is a passionate critic of wasteful government spending.
Yet, he has no problem supporting hundreds of billions of
dollars in tax breaks for big corporations along with a continued
occupation of Iraq - policies that have produced a mountain of
debt which, in turn, will force us to eventually have to cut
back on spending for such critical programs as job training and
Our endorsement of Senator Obama is tantamount to a re-affirmation
that what we, as a nation and as a society, have to embrace the
idea that the government of the United States of America values
the labor of every hardworking citizen. For too long, our unions
and our members, and working people in general, have had to endure
the brutal consequences of a federal government apparatus that
was deliberately, with malice aforethought, directed to accomplish
1) Re-constitute the basic purpose and objectives of the federal
government so that they become in synch with the insatiable desires
and wishes of corporate America; and
2) Unleash the full fury and resources of the federal government
to dramatically weaken the American labor movement.
Sen. John McCain, through his actions, statements and policy
positions, has given every indication that he embraces this philosophical
vision of American governance.
Further, Sen. McCain is the chief architect of a disastrous
guest worker proposal that will exacerbate an already untenable
situation in the American construction industry - an industry
where current estimates show over 25 percent of the workforce
as being undocumented. Adding insult to injury, in 2007, during
negotiations over an immigration reform/guest worker bill, McCain
objected to a provision by Sen. Edward Kennedy that would have
required guest workers to receive the prevailing wage for the
industry and the region in which they work.
It's no wonder Senator McCain has no perspective when it comes
to America's working families. He's one of the richest people
in a Senate filled with millionaires. The Associated Press reports
he and his wife own at least eight homes! Yet McCain says the
solution to the housing crisis is for people facing foreclosure
to get a "second job" and "skip their vacations."
Many of McCain's fellow Republican senators say he's too reckless
to be commander in chief. One Republican senator said: "The
thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine.
He's erratic. He's hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries
And while McCain talks a lot about taking on special interests,
his campaign manager and top advisers are actually highly paid
lobbyists. The government watchdog group Public Citizen says
McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more
than any of the other presidential candidates.
And perhaps most telling, from our perspective, is the fact
that John McCain is the endorsed candidate of the Associated
Builders and Contractors
whose sole mission is to destroy
our unions! In the ABC's endorsement flyer, they applaud the
fact that John McCain opposes Project Labor Agreements, favors
repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act, and a weakening of jobsite safety
regulations and enforcement.
With Senator Obama as president, we believe that the federal
government will be brought back into its original balance of
being "of the people, by the people, and for the people."
And with an Obama presidency, we will once again have a government
that is determined to respect a worker's labor and reward it
with a few basic guarantees - such as wages that can raise a
family, health care if we get sick, a retirement that's dignified,
and working conditions that are safe.
More specifically, we have endorsed Barack Obama because he
is simply on the right side of the issues that matter to our
collective membership. For starters, he has consistently voted
to protect the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires the payment of
prevailing wages on federally-financed construction projects.
And, he will make it a priority to rescind the Bush Executive
Order that bars the federal government from entering into project
Additionally, we are excited about Sen. Obama's detailed and
innovative plan to fund our nation's desperate need for critical
infrastructure improvements. Simply put, Barack Obama will make
strengthening our transportation systems, including our roads
and bridges, a top priority. As part of this effort, Obama will
create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to expand
and enhance, not supplant, existing federal transportation investments.
These projects will create up to two million new direct and indirect
jobs per year and stimulate approximately $35 billion per year
in new economic activity.
Sen. Obama believes that workers should have the freedom to
choose whether to join a union without harassment or intimidation
from their employers. To that end, he has cosponsored, and is
strong advocate for, the Employee Free Choice Act, a bipartisan
effort to assure that workers can exercise their right to organize.
He will continue to fight for EFCA's passage and sign it into
Further, Barack Obama has made it clear that he will ensure
that his labor appointees support workers' rights and will work
to ban the permanent replacement of striking workers. Sen. Obama
will also increase the minimum wage and index it to inflation
to ensure it rises every year.
Obama has fought the Bush National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
efforts to strip workers of their right to organize. He is a
cosponsor of legislation to overturn the NLRB's "Kentucky
River" decisions classifying hundreds of thousands of nurses,
construction, and professional workers as "supervisors"
who are not protected by federal labor laws.
The decision to endorse Barack Obama can easily be summed
up by comparing the views of each candidate through their own
Speaking about the issue of immigration and guest workers
at the 2006 Building and Construction Trades National Legislative
Conference, Sen. McCain had this to say when a delegate in the
audience had the audacity to suggest that American businesses
could find plenty of American workers if they would only pay
them a decent wage:
Let me tell you something
I'll pay any of you $50 an
hour to come to Yuma, Arizona to pick lettuce. You won't do it
can't do it!"
Senator Obama's vision for America provides a telling contrast:
"I understand that the challenges facing our economy
didn't start the day George Bush took office and they won't end
the day he leaves. But I also know that this nation has faced
such fundamental change before, and each time we've kept our
economy strong and competitive by making the decision to expand
opportunity outward; to grow our middle-class; to invest in innovation,
and most importantly, to invest in the education and well-being
of our workers.
"We've done this because in America, our prosperity
has always risen from the bottom-up. From the earliest days of
our founding, it has been the hard work and ingenuity of our
people that's served as the wellspring of our economic strength.
That's why we built a system of free public high schools when
we transitioned from a nation of farms to a nation of factories.
That's why we sent my grandfather's generation to college, and
declared a minimum wage for our workers, and promised to live
in dignity after they retire through the creation of Social Security.
That's why we've invested in the science and research that have
led to new discoveries and entire new industries. And that's
what this country will do again when I am President of the United
In the end, the choice was no choice at all.
construction to bring labor shortages, group predicts
By Guy Snyder
Michigan Construction News.com
In a national economy that's been softening in a direction
known too well by Michigan contractors, what's been happening
to the construction labor shortage crisis? It still exists, according
to the first summer National Safety-Labor Forum held July 9 in
Detroit by The Association of Union Constructors (TAUC). According
to that group, over the next generation we can expect it to get
Bob Santillo, vice president and president-elect of TAUC,
who's also president of McCarl's Inc., a mechanical contracting
company based in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, predicted "an
explosion in industrial construction" on the horizon, a
forecast also confirmed by Chris Hernandez, president of the
Northwestern Indiana Building Trades Council.
A great deal of it will be centered in energy construction,
such as petroleum refineries and electrical generating stations,
but even the steel industry is expected to expand and modernize.
Hernandez said in his market area he is expecting "seven
to eight years of good market opportunities," and is already
having to cope with skilled trade shortages, especially on short-term
Santillo said he's heard forecasts extending as far as 25
to 30 years. At the same time, there's supposed to be a loss
as high as 50% of the nation's skilled trades before 2018. By
then even older workers who have delayed retirement will be compelled
by age to drop out.
Their optimism is backed by data compiled by the U.S. Census
Bureau. While reporting overall construction dropped 5.1% during
the first five months of this year compared to the same period
in 2007, it was primarily due to a 27% decline in residential
construction. Non-residential construction actually increased
20%. Leading the charge was petroleum and chemical plant projects,
up 47%; power plant construction, up 38%; and manufacturing plant
construction, up 33%.
For Michigan the problem has been that many of these advancements
are occurring beyond its borders, though that picture is expected
to change. Shorty Gleason, president of the Michigan Building
and Construction Trades Council (MBCTC), told the TAUC audience
that the past five years "has been the slowest growth period
I've seen in 35 years in the industry." Union construction
in our state has been averaging about 93 million hours per year
and he expressed concerns that a movement toward enacting a right-to-work
law in the state could severely jeopardize Michigan's highly
successful union construction apprenticeship programs.
Even so, the light in industrial construction that has started
to shine at the end of Michigan's tunnel is coming from its electrical
utilities. Currently six coal-fired power plants are in the proposal
stage, including a $2 billion project in Midland and one of similar
size near Bay City. DTE Energy is also planning a $3 billion
nuclear power plant near Monroe. In Southwest Detroit, Marathon
has just begun work on a $1.9 billion refinery expansion and,
according to Ed Coffey, a business representative for the MBCTC,
difficulties in finding enough skilled trade workers qualified
to work on such a complicated job are already being encountered.
Michigan's unionized contractors have been lean and highly
competitive in a tough market, added Patrick Devlin, the MBCTC's
secretary-treasurer. He said it's all been due to outstanding
apprenticeship and journeyman skill upgrading programs, combined
with a culture of cooperation between contractors, owners, and
the building trades.
Some of it is illustrated in a drug and alcohol testing program
administered by MUST (Management and Unions Serving Together)
that's saving Michigan an estimated $1.5 million in annual safety
and drug testing costs while "providing a tremendous service
to promote convenience, verifiability, and affordability,"
Devlin said. "The MUST system is also tied in with the Michigan
Association for Responsible Contracting, a statewide coalition
of labor management groups that are involved with school districts'
hiring of responsible contractors for their facility projects."
The meeting's agenda included a report prepared by Bill Parsons
of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Among
his topics was an estimate on when the new standard for crane
and derrick operation will be ready. At the moment, he said,
the preamble to the standard is still being drafted and edited,
a document expected to be over 1,000 pages long.
o A report on owner expectations, presented by Bud Burns,
chairman of the TAUC Labor Committee, from J.J. White Inc., Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. He outlined five areas of concern, stressing that
owners should provide a single point of contact for project owner-contractor
communications on their construction projects, give contractors
exclusive responsibility for labor on project sites, communicate
effectively and provide as much information about a project as
possible, be prompt in contractor payment, and become involved
in safety and work rules through consistent polices.
o Bill Hering, chairman of TAUC's Safety Committee, from S.M.
Electric Company, Rahway, New Jersey, stressed in his "safety
minute" how complacency can severely damage any construction
site safety program. "You have to be fighting the danger
of drifting away," he said. "The race for safety never
ends. You've got to remember that." He also said management
has to convince workers they are empowered to make prudent safety
decisions, "so that they feel that, without negative consequences,
they can stop work if they feel it's unsafe."
o A panel of experts consisting of K.P. McBride from Chrysler
Corp., Ron Koshewitz of Ford Motor Corp. and Carl Gabbard of
General Motors Corp. discussed kit work (or kitting) under the
National Maintenance Agreement Policy Committee. The work regards
modifications to existing manufacturing equipment lines. The
three automotive representatives outlined a growing trend toward
the use of turnkey operations to perform such work, due to a
reduction in project owner staffing.
Plans are already underway for a second Safety-Labor Forum
to be held by the group in December in Washington, D.C.
factory town to college town' Trades help transform Flint
By Marty Mulcahy
There are new signs of life in this tough old town, in the
form of the sights and sounds of construction activity in the
Some $450 million in new, planned or ongoing construction
projects are transforming pockets of the downtown area into what
is hoped will be the start of an economic renaissance for Flint.
In our last issue, we described the nearly complete, $21.3 million,
311-bed student residence hall at the University of Michigan-Flint
near the downtown area, as part of an overall plan to leverage
the city's considerable student population, and tie it to new
But there are also several projects going on downtown. Two
signature developments face each other along Saginaw Street,
the city's main drag. Sponsored by Uptown Developments, the buildings
will be mixed use, including ground floor businesses, storefronts
and restaurants, as well as residential lofts on upper floors.
"We're trying to create an all-American downtown, the
way they used to be in the early 20th Century," said Scott
Whipple, development and project manager for Uptown Developments.
"When people live downtown, it creates a more vibrant and
stable economic base." Whipple said the Uptown group has
acquired about a dozen buildings, most on Saginaw Street. They
use grants, tax credits, low interest loans and traditional bank
financing to do these projects. "We're always looking for
new opportunities for redevelopment in downtown Flint,"
Saginaw Street is anchored by the Mott Foundation Building,
a beautifully restored 16-story tower built at the corner of
First Street in 1930. To the north along Saginaw Street is about
$8 million work of work. One side of the street will be anchored
by the adaptive re-use of three historic buildings, built between
1880 and 1920, now collectively known as the Rowe Building. About
100 employees from several of the engineering firm's southeast
Michigan offices will move into the building.
While Rowe will be the main tenant, the new four-story development
will also include a nightclub in the basement, themed restaurants
on the main level, and loft space above.
Across Saginaw is a development that will primarily house
one of Rowe's competitors, Wade Trim, another engineering firm.
The company signed a 12-year lease within the 27,000 square-foot
building, which will house 25 employees.
The new office complex, to be constructed in the middle of
the block, will have space for five entertainment-oriented restaurants
or retailers on the ground floor, 8,500 square feet of office
space for Wade Trim on the second floor, and four high-end lofts
on the third floor. The redevelopment will require the demolition
of the former Jewish Federation, NBD Trust, and Legal Services
of Eastern Michigan buildings in the middle of the block.
According to information by Uptown Developments, the construction
is designed to blend with the historic architecture of downtown.
The three-story façade of the new building will feature
dramatic, two-story red brick arches with a large, curved glass
curtain wall. The complex also will include an outdoor pedestrian
plaza through the center of the block that will provide a place
for outdoor dining and small community events.
The plans also call for complete interior and exterior renovations
to the former Copa and Blackstone's buildings to bring them up
The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is expected to provide
$4.2 million for the work on Saginaw Street. "It is heartening
to see the redevelopment of this property move forward,"
said William S. White, Mott Foundation president. "This
will leverage and complement efforts that are currently under
way across the street and on nearby blocks."
Whipple said demand for the lofts on the street have been
strong - "pretty much all of our units have been leased,"
he said, including 16 in the First Street Lofts, a recently redeveloped
seven story building erected in 1925.
All told, Whipple said Uptown Developments has $37 million
in recent real estate investments. And the work is being performed
by union trades people.
"What we're trying to do is reinvent Flint's economy
and Flint is a union town," said Whipple. "We're doing
great, everybody loves these projects and the quality is top-notch."
Saginaw Street isn't the only area in Flint getting redeveloped.
Third Avenue will be re-worked as part of a strategy to link
the traffic flow between the University of Michigan-Flint and
Kettering University. The strategy will include streetscape improvements,
buried overhead utilities, landscaping, lighting, sidewalks,
and curbs as well as commercial, park and residential development.
A $20 million expansion and renovation of the Flint Museum
was completed two years ago. At 607 E. Second Ave, interior demolition
is ongoing in the process of renovating the old Durant Hotel
into student housing or commercial space. The $23 million project
will renovate what was once the city's grandest hotel, which
was built in 1920.
The nearby Berridge Hotel and Tinlinn Building, located just
west of M.L. King Avenue on Second Avenue, is undergoing a $6.2-million
project that will include 21 loft apartment units with two commercial
tenant spaces on the ground floor
"Flint is reinventing itself from a factory town to a
college town with a diverse economic base," said Tim Herman,
CEO of the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce. He called the
work along Saginaw Street "another step toward making our
downtown much stronger."
ON THE EAST SIDE of Saginaw Street in downtown
Flint, the renovated 16-story Mott Foundation Building at left,
dominates the streetscape. Renovations on the red Wade Trim building
are nearly complete. The rest of the buildings on the block with
either be renovated or torn down and replaced.
INSTALLING A VENT near a curtain wall at the
Wade Trim Building in Flint is Ken Krupp of Sheet Metal Workers
Local 7, working for Dee Cramer.
ACROSS SAGINAW STREET, three separate buildings
built between 1880 and 1920 are being modified and adapted to
house the Rowe Building.
ethics can replace the handshake
By Mark Breslin
I have heard for many years the lament over the loss of "the
handshake" that once defined our industry. An unspoken honor
system that governed contractor, union, and employee relations
more than any contract or attorney ever could.
Where did the handshake go? It was not just one great dark
cloud that swept away the handshake, but small chips knocked
out from the foundations of trust and ethics in business. Now,
many years and chips later the costs have become highly visible,
as has a general acceptance of "situational ethics"
as a price that must be paid if one is to avoid being "rolled."
Must it be this way? Not entirely.
There may be many who think that the words "ethical union
or ethical construction" are self-canceling. And in the
very complex, competitive and unforgiving world of our industry,
it often is. Survival in the business now demands that one look
over their shoulder at all times because the naïve or trusting
pay the price more often than the hardened cynic.
In 25 years I have seen it all, as have you; self-interested
leaders, delayed or denied contractor payments, ugly claims,
unacknowledged bad specs, brutal sub-contracts, jurisdictional
claim jumping, skimpy bid protests, back door PLA clauses, agency
false claim threats, specious employee lawsuits or workers comp
claims, change orders uncompensated, bid shopping, embezzlement,
bloody internal union betrayals, employee mistreatment, general
C-Y-A and worse.
So what to do in a Darwinian environment that does not provide
a direct incentive for ethical behavior and business practice?
Everybody bends. Everybody rationalizes. Everybody lives in the
gray area. Mine is not a foolish call for perfection or a judgment
of others. Simply an observation of an area of business in need
of improvement, with a significant potential for economic reward.
Organizational leadership requires alignment with some form
of values that you, your managers, employees, and clients clearly
understand. So the first question is; what are the values (visible
and invisible) at work in your organization? And are ethical
practices a part of this? According to the Conference Board,
a national business leadership organization, some 75%+ of companies
have a code of ethics as a part of their business plan and operation.
The question (besides to simply look good) is why?
Well, let's take a quick look at some of the building blocks
of ethical behavior:
- Wisdom & knowledge
- Self control & discipline
- Value of Others vs. self
- Courage & integrity
What business or union leader would not want an organization
populated by individuals who possess these characteristics? Is
it a stretch to think that having an organization built on these
values might have some inherent competitive advantages? Or even
defeat long-standing stereotypes of an industry that does not
The primary business benefits of good ethics are trust and
loyalty. Now, putting a price tag on these is pretty difficult;
especially if you stand to lose an opportunity now and then as
a result. But truth, trust and loyalty are foundational elements
that, in absence, kill a business' image, relationships and brand.
This is a lesson that some unions have had to really consider:
when no one wants to do business with you, it is time to take
a very hard look at your ethics in policy and practice.
Leadership ethic is most important of all. If leaders cannot
display uncompromising integrity and ethics, they simply invite
less than that among their employees and associates. For many
years as a CEO I made every employee goes through a 360 Review
process with every other employee they work with at the end of
each year. Everyone anonymously rated each other on 16 key attributes
that we used to define our organizational values.
Each person's tabulated summary data was given only to me
and the individual only to improve performance. As CEO I was
rated along with everyone else; including on trustworthiness,
office politics and integrity. I chose year after year to publicly
post the entire results of my 360 Review on my door for all to
see. Why? I must be both transparent and bulletproof. If not,
I am just B.S.ing myself at the expense of others. And more importantly,
"leading by example" in the area of ethical practices
can have no compromise. This we must teach.
A leader is being watched every minute and every action is
a signal of what is acceptable or encouraged. No organization
can, in my opinion, create business success and fulfilled, motivated
employees with an internal ethical disconnect. A devolving ethic
in a union or a company leads to all kinds of discord, conflict,
politics and financial impacts.
Also critical to the future of our industry is the coming
demographic shift of both Generation X and Y into the workplace.
Ethics, integrity and a sense of purpose is valued in most surveys
even higher than money by these young and talented prospects.
And it is because they have become so cynical at seeing everyone
in the public eye talk the talk but rarely walk the walk.
Attracting and retaining the best talent will soon have as
much to do with "how you ethically do business" vs.
"how much you pay someone" to do it. Values and attitudes
influence performance more than any other factors; what kind
of values and attitudes are you recruiting, promoting and training
for within your union, contracting firm or agency?
There are proactive steps you can take within your union,
company or even our industry. Some basics you should consider
might include the following;
1.) Identify the values and principles by which you want your
organization and your people to be known by.
2.) Adopt or develop an ethics policy for your organization
or agency that directly supports these values.
3.) Include training on it as mandatory for all managers (not
only situational ethical policies like harassment, safety, discrimination
etc.) that identifies the purpose and benefit to the company
4.) Reward and highlight ethical practices by staff
5.) Outline and enforce consequences for unethical practices
and do not compromise
6.) Promote your ethical values, principles and policies as
part of your organizational brand, culture and identity to your
Though the handshake may be almost dead, that does not mean
that honor and integrity are not still a choice. An individual
choice, best influenced by leaders, businesses, unions and an
industry that values it.
(Content excerpted from Mark Breslin's keynote speech to
the American Institute of Ethics program, "Ethics in the
Construction Industry: The Good, Bad & Ugly."
Mark Breslin is a strategist and author specializing in
labor-management challenges. He is the author of Survival of
the Fittest, Organize or Die and coming in 2008 Alpha Dog. He
addresses more than 50,000 labor and business leaders each year
in North America. More on his work and profile is available at
'clobbered' by surging material costs
WASHINGTON, D.C. - "Surging prices for diesel fuel, asphalt,
steel and other materials are clobbering construction budgets,"
Ken Simonson, Chief Economist for The Associated General Contractors
of America (AGC), said July 17. Simonson was commenting on the
producer price index (PPI) for June reported that day by the
Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The PPI for inputs to construction industries - materials
used in all types of construction plus items consumed by contractors,
such as diesel fuel - surged 10.4 percent over the past 12 months.
The index for highway and street construction leaped 18.9 percent.
"Bad as those figures sound, the increases in asphalt
and steel costs have been even worse since these prices were
collected in mid-June," Simonson said. "In the first
two weeks of July, asphalt prices have jumped by 40 percent in
several parts of the country. He said prices for reinforcing
steel used to reinforce concrete in highways, bridges and buildings
soared $200 per ton.
Regarding diesel fuel, the Energy Information Administration
reported that the average price of highway diesel hit a new record
of $4.76 per gallon, up 12 cents just in the past two weeks.
"These figures won't show up in the PPI until next month,
but contractors are paying them now," Simonson noted.
"Suppliers have been announcing price increases for many
other products as well," Simonson added. "Yesterday,
two gypsum makers told contractors that wallboard prices would
rise at double-digit rates in each of the next three months."
In the futures markets, aluminum has been setting records,
while natural gas has doubled in price from a year ago. In turn,
that has triggered jumps in the cost of construction plastics
- such as polyvinyl chloride pipe, insulation and flooring that
use natural gas as a feedstock. "Unless Congress passes
additional funding in the next few weeks to keep highway construction
funds flowing, many states will stop awarding contracts,"
Simonson warned. "Other public agencies, as well as private
owners, must adjust their budgets promptly to reflect the new
price realities for construction."
13 weeks added to jobless benefits
The following is an excerpt of a July 9 letter from U.S.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow to Michigan union leaders:
"I am pleased to report that the President finally signed
the 13-week extension of unemployment benefits on June 30. As
I wrote to you last month, I worked hard with Sen. Ted Kennedy
to lead this critical fight.
"As you know, current law allows for unemployed workers
to receive up to 26 weeks of benefits. This extension will add
an additional 13 weeks for a total of 39 possible weeks. Individuals
that have received unemployment benefits in the past two years
and are still unable to find work may apply for this extension.
In addition, this extension is also open to individuals that
receive benefits at any time between now and next March. For
example, someone who has already exhausted their unemployment
benefits can apply for an extra 13 weeks of benefits, and someone
who starts receiving unemployment benefits between now and anytime
until March may apply.
"Over the last six months our nation has lost 324,000
manufacturing jobs. Since the president has been in office, over
3.5 million manufacturing have been lost. More and more families
in Michigan and across the country are finding themselves living
in poverty and lacking health insurance. For those who have been
hit the hardest and cannot find work this 13-week extension will
provide critical help to make ends meet."
AFL-CIO to approach vets at election time
WASHINGTON (PAI) - Saying that unionists who are veterans should
band together to protect their interests as veterans as well
as their interests as workers, the AFL-CIO launched a new union
veterans' organization on July 10.
Headed by Building and Construction Trades Department President
Mark Ayers, an IBEW member who is a Vietnam veteran, the group
will also tell union veterans and other veterans that while it
honors Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), his record on veterans' issues
is not good enough to let them vote him into the White House
That theme will also be emphasized in TV ads the group began
running in 15 media markets in six swing states--including Ohio
and Pennsylvania--featuring another Vietnam vet, Jim Wasser of
IBEW Local 176 in Kankakee, Ill.
"We'll start by educating our veteran members on votes"
by McCain and the presumed Democratic nominee, Sen. Barack Obama
(D-Ill.) on issues such as health care, the minimum wage, an
expanded GI Bill and GI health benefit funding, Ayers said.
"As veterans, we respect McCain's military service to
his country, but not his voting record," added Ayers, whose
construction unions include a lot of military retirees and reservists.
An estimated 2 million union members are veterans.
The group's criticism includes not just McCain's vote against
the larger GI bill--because of concerns it could hamper re-enlistment--but
his votes against adding $400 million to the veterans health
care budget. McCain also voted against a $1 billion trust fund
for military health facilities and against $500 million for military
mental health treatment, Ayers added. The military estimates
that some 25% of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan
need such treatment.
But the AFL-CIO's military vets group, which will continue
after the election to lobby lawmakers on veterans' issues, faces
the entrenched power of pro-Republican veterans organizations,
like the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Those groups see McCain's years as a prisoner of war in North
Vietnam as a positive. And they see Obama's lack of military
service and his party label as an automatic reason to oppose
the Illinoisan. To them, all Democrats are suspect.
To counter that tilt, Wasser says, he'll urge vets in the
TV ads "that they need to look at the broad picture"
about Obama's policies for veterans and their families.
But he admits some vets "will be hard core" to convince,
especially "we Vietnam vets who will go to our graves fighting
that war--inner demons or not."