The Building Tradesman Current Issue | Back Issues Index

June 9, 2000

The Big Normal Majority needs your participation

UA Local 174's pride evident as new building is unveiled

Expo gives prospective Hardhats insight on construction industry

A dime at a time, trades help Make-A-Wish

THE GANGBOX: Building trades odds and ends

Ready to sign your life away?




The Big Normal Majority needs your participation

Are you one of Michigan's 7.1 million registered voters?

If not, why not?

Winston Churchill said "the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter." But as we noted in our last edition, humorist Will Rogers said our country is where it is today "on account of the common sense of the Big Normal Majority."

It's true that there's plenty of inattention and laziness by the electorate, but the United States has survived and thrived and received direction for more than 200 years from the common sense of the average voter.

This year, Michigan voters will have several opportunities to give direction to their local, county, state and national governments, when it comes time to vote. The statewide primary will take place Tuesday, Aug. 8, and the general election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7. But if you're not registered to vote, those dates and the opportunities they stand for mean nothing.

This is an especially important year. Voters will have the opportunity to elect our nation's next president, a U.S. Senator, Members of Congress, the makeup of the Michigan Supreme Court, as well as numerous county officials, local judges, and mayoral and city council members.

Voter registration is easy. Register for any federal, state and local elections by mail or by visiting your city, county or township clerk's office or any of the 178 Secretary of State branch offices.

The deadline to register to vote is 30 days before Election Day. In 2000, the last day to register for the state primary is July 10; the last day to register for the General Election is Oct. 10.

Once you register to vote, you can request an absentee ballot if you are 60 or older, disabled, or expect to be out of town on Election Day.

In Michigan, 3.9 million voters cast a ballot in the 1996 presidential election - 55.3 percent of the voting age population. Interestingly, we think voter apathy is something that has come about only in recent years. But in 1948, when Harry Truman defeated Thomas Dewey for the presidency, the percentage of voting age population in Michigan was 52.2 percent - even worse than it was in 1996.

The percent of Michigan's voting age population who cast ballots increased from 1948 to 1960 to 72.7 percent, when President Kennedy was elected. From there that percentage has gone steadily downhill, interrupted only by a bump up of 62.5 percent when President Clinton was first elected in 1992.


UA Local 174's pride evident as new building is unveiled

COOPERSVILLE - Plumbers, Pipe Fitters and Service Trades Local 174 is open for business in a beautiful new union hall and training center.

On May 19, the local welcomed United Association General President Martin Maddaloni and a bevy of other union officials, contractors and guests to an open house at the new facility, nestled along westbound I-96 with signage so big that the building itself is almost a billboard for union labor.

"This is a very proud day for all members of Local 174," Maddaloni said. "I share your pride, and everyone in your community appreciates your commitment to training the finest craftspeople in the industry. The consolidation of the local has made the UA a more influential presence in Western Michigan, and this facility is the proof."

Local 174 Business Manager Doug Bennett said completion of the new $1.7 million union hall and training center is the culmination of the merger of Grand Rapids UA Local 70 and Muskegon UA Local 154, which was instituted on July 1, 1998. The buildings of the old unions were sorely lacking in serving the combined local that now has more than 900 members, and is continuing to grow with successful organizing efforts.

"We combined resources so we could best serve our customers," Bennett said. "This facility will help our skilled tradespeople lead the way in productivity and training into the 21st Century."

The new 22,000 square-foot building is in Coopersville, between Grand Rapids and Muskegon. It includes union offices, a meeting hall, and a state-of-the-art training center.

The school "is awesome, it's an instructor's dream," said Local 174 Training Coordinator John Barry, who said the local can now offer members distance learning with computers, as well as computer-aided design and new tooling and other instructional equipment. "It's a great opportunity and I feel lucky to be a part of it."

Recognizing the quality of Local 174's training program, Maddaloni presented a five-year International Union accreditation from the United Association to the local's Joint Apprenticeship Committee.

"Back in the 1950s," said Western Michigan Mechanical Contractors Association President Jerry Holwerda, "we were taught in a classroom that was just a storage room with tables. We've obviously come a long way in training over the last 40 years. I give a lot of credit to Doug and his side of the table, and a lot of credit to our own contractors, to make this beautiful facility happen. We're all coming together to make this a better industry, and it will help make us work smarter, better and faster."

IN FRONT OF THE new Local 174 union hall during the May 19 open house are (l-r) UA International Rep. Joe Sposita, Local 174 Business Manager Doug Bennett and UA International President Martin Maddaloni.


Expo gives prospective Hardhats insight on construction industry

If the 1,800 young people who visited Cobo Center on May 24 wanted to learn about a career in construction, they went to the right place.

The Detroit Construction Careers Expo brought together representatives from all the building trades and numerous contractor associations to sell the industry as a career choice. The day-long event, which hosted young people who were bussed in from all over the City of Detroit, was sponsored by the Detroit Human Rights Department, the Great Lakes Construction Alliance and Management and Unions Serving Together.

Reginia Simmons, director of the City of Detroit's Human Rights Department, said the expo "represents our ongoing commitment to workforce development and to the employment of Detroit's residents. This event is bound to empower teens and their families with information that could transform their lives."

The event included hands-on demonstrations by the iron workers and bricklayers, as well as descriptions of opportunities in project management, marketing, engineering and architectural design.

Reflecting how much of a tough sell the industry is to young people, Michael Thomas, 20, said construction isn't at the top of his list for job opportunities, but he's keeping an open mind. "I'm interested, and I'll take a look around," he said. "I watched them put up that stadium (Comerica Park) and that was really nice. I liked that."

AT THE DETROIT Construction Careers Expo were (l-r) Reginia Simmons, director of the City of Detroit's Human Rights Department, prospective construction worker Michael Thomas, Don O'Connell of MUST and the Great Lakes Construction Alliance, and Patrick Devlin, secretary-treasurer of the Greater Detroit Building Trades Council.


A dime at a time, trades help Make-A-Wish

The Make-A-Wish Foundation will be happy to hear that Hardhats on the National Steel galvanizer project enjoy soft drinks so much.

Over the course of the last 11 months, building trades workers installing the new galvanizing equipment in Ecorse have made it a habit to toss their empties into barrels set up around the job site. More than 20,000 bottles and cans have been contributed, and when combined with cash donations, a total of $2,178 has been collected and will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Darren Patterson, a Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 506 member working as safety engineer for National Steel, came up with the idea.

"I saw a bunch of pop cans laying around the job site and I tried to think of how to get rid of them," he said. "Then I heard on the radio about the kid whose wish was to go bear hunting with his dad in Canada, and I thought it would be a good idea to contribute to them. That's when I put out the barrels."

Patterson said on weekends, he and his son exchanged the empties for money, and he kept trades workers up on the progress of the collections during stewards' meetings.

He said in addition to contributing empties, other tradesmen contributed $20 here and there, and operator Glen Reid generously tossed in $300. Last week, Patterson said he was ready to send the check to Make-A-Wish.

"There's enough negative publicity about construction workers out there," he said. "I thought that this was something good we can do."

HERE IS PART of the building trades crew on the National Steel galvanizer project who contributed their empty pop bottles and cans to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation.


THE GANGBOX: Building trades odds and ends

Barton Malow Co. was the 38th largest contractor in the nation last year in terms of revenue - and the largest in Michigan - according to annual rankings released last month by the Engineering News Record.

Acting as a general contractor, the firm earned $969 million in 1999, according to Crain's Detroit Business. Other Michigan-based contractors in the top 100 are Walbridge-Aldinger (No. 45, earning $775 million as a general) and Ellis-Don Michigan Inc. (No. 62, $105 million). Angelo Iafrate came in on the list at No. 64.

Other non-Michigan-based contractors appearing on the list that are familiar to Hardhats in our state are the Bechtel Group Inc. (No. 1); Turner Corp. (No. 4); Raytheon Engineers and Constructors (No. 12); Clark Construction Group Inc. (No. 15); Black & Veatch (No 16); Huber, Hunt and Nichols, Inc. (No. 22), Perini Corp. (No. 34); J.S. Alberici Construction Co., Inc. (No. 55), Oscar J. Boldt (No. 90) and W.E. O'Neil Construction (No. 95).

Michigan's booming economy and low unemployment produced a 30-year low in claims for state jobless benefits in 1999.

"The number of claims handled by the Unemployment Agency dropped by slightly more than 13 percent in 1999," said agency Director Jack Wheatley last week. "The total number of weeks of unemployment that jobless workers claimed last year fell to 4.9 million from 5.6 million in 1998."

The last time unemployment claims were lower was in 1969, when the state processed claims for 3.5 million unemployed.

The strength of the state's construction industry is evident in the jobless numbers. Leading the pack among the jobless claimants were workers in manufacturing, who filed 25 percent of the claims. They were followed by the service sector (21.9 percent) and then the construction industry (17.8 percent).

Women made up 47 percent of the entire U.S. workforce, but only 14 percent of the construction industry.

The report released on April 20 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, used 1998 numbers and said 94,263 of the nation's 769,253 construction workers were women.

"We know and the industry as a whole knows that we've got our work cut out for us," said Dede Hughes, executive vice president of the National Association of Women in Construction, to the Construction Labor Report. She added that between 1995 and 1998, the number of women in construction rose by 3 percent.

Now, wood dust is being considered for addition to the list of "known or probable human carcinogens."

Other potential bad-guy substances being looked at by the National Toxicology Program include talc, vinyl bromide and vinyl fluoride. Nominated chemicals undergo three separate reviews by federal government scientists and an outside peer review panel.

If any are declared carcinogens, it would take years - if ever - for OSHA and the federal government to draw up regulations for working safely around the substances.

Job-related injuries that require a day or more away from work in the construction industry dropped to a six-year low of 1.7 million, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last month.

Among construction laborers, for example, injuries and illness dropped from 91,300 in 1997 to 84,100 in 1998. Overall, among all crafts, the better injury and illness numbers represent a drop of 4 percent from 1997 to 1998.


Ready to sign your life away?

This affidavit is for all individuals who think that taking safety precautions is a waste of time. It was brought to us by the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning National Association.

I hereby attest that I prefer:

  • Seeing-eye dogs to safety glasses.
  • Silence to ear plugs.
  • Brain damage to hard hats.
  • Lung damage to respirators.
  • Club feet to safety boots.
  • Missing fingers to saw guards.
  • Broken limbs and backs to safety belts and nets.
  • Death and disability to common sense.

Because I realize that my actions affect others, I have:

  • Assured my family that they won't miss me.
  • Found someone else to keep my family safe and financially secure when I'm not around.
  • Assured my family that my being crippled won't be any hardship.

Because no one can persuade me that being safe is better, I do hereby execute this document and waive all my rights to a long, happy, fruitful and productive life.




Correct Zip Code for Vietnam Monument
In our last edition, we published an article regarding fundraising for the Michigan Vietnam Monument Commission. The Zip Code we printed was wrong. Here's the correct address:

To make a tax-deductible contribution, send a check payable to the Michigan Vietnam Monument Commission, 611 West Ottawa, Lansing, MI 48913. For more information, call (800) 492-2649.

China trade vote presents dilemma
Withhold political money? Accept the vote and get on with life? Support Ralph Nader for U.S. president?

The nation's union leaders who have strongly protested normalizing trade relations with China are struggling with a strategy for what to do next after the House last month voted 237-197 to grant permanent normal trade relations with Beijing and end 20 years of turbulent annual reviews. The U.S. Senate and President Clinton are expected to approve the bill.

"We stood for what's right, but big money won," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. "It's going to be hard for working men and women not to look at this vote and become more cynical about whether people and principles can pay off in politics, or whether big money is all-powerful."

Few would argue that China has a lousy record on human rights, with rampant child labor, few safety provisions for workers and ultra-low pay scales. Detractors of the trade policy argued that the U.S. would send the wrong message in normalizing trade relations and would lose its only trump card with China.

Proponents of the bill, including most Republicans, President Clinton and presidential candidate Al Gore, argued that the U.S. is shooting itself in the foot by refusing to open up trading with one of the most populous nations on earth.

Both labor and the GOP said language inserted by U.S. Rep. Sander Levin was key to bringing enough Democrats over to push the China bill through. The language inserted, described by Sweeney as "toothless," has provisions for monitoring human rights and anti-dumping matters.

UAW President Stephen Yokich raised a few eyebrows last week by hinting that the Green Party's Ralph Nader should get their union's endorsement for U.S. president - but despite his vote on China, few other labor leaders are straying from endorsing Gore.

Trades gear up for DAD's Day collections
Michigan did its share in 1999 to support the building trades' favorite charity, Dollars Against Diabetes, as $79,148 was raised in Detroit and another $38,583 was raised in Lansing.

Softball tournaments and golf outings raised much of the money, but a lot of it comes in through annual collection efforts on the days leading up to Father's Day.

Volunteer collectors are needed on the streets of numerous Detroit suburbs. If you can help, please contact Jerry Pauzus at (313) 215-4693. Volunteers who put in four or more hours are eligible for a trip for two to Florida.

In Lansing, DAD's Day collection efforts will be focused on job sites, said Laborers Local 665 Secretary-Treas. Joe Guenther. He said if you would like to contribute, contact your steward.


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