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March 3, 2000
Nonunion contractors pushed hard for their top legislative priority, a bill in Congress that would give them relief from legal fees resulting from union organizing drives.
Despite a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, the bill, called the Fair Access to Indemnity and Reimbursement (FAIR) Act, never saw the light of day. A vote was expected on Feb. 17, but GOP leaders pulled it from consideration two days before because they lacked sufficient votes.
"Labor appeared to have the more successful grass roots lobbying campaign to thwart consideration of the FAIR Act," reported the Engineering News Record (ENR). Added House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois): "The unions had done their job."
Supported by the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Associated General Contractors, the bill sought to allow small businesses with 100 or fewer employees and a net worth of up to $7 million to recoup legal fees if a firm was victorious in fending off charges from such agencies as the National Labor Relations Board or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The "charges" they had in mind are unfair labor practice charges stemming from union salting, when union members apply for work at nonunion contractors with the intent to organize their workforce. Sometimes workers who have been denied a job have filed unfair labor charges with the NLRB, citing their union affiliation as the real reason they were denied work.
Calling it the "Unfair Act," AFL-CIO Building Trades Department President Robert Georgine said the legislation is "a back-door attempt to gut the effectiveness of the NLRB and OSHA laws."
Ironically, said the ENR, the bill was pulled the same day
more than 400 ABC members were on Capitol Hill to lobby for the
measure as part of the group's annual legislative conference.
By Marty Mulcahy
The massive 25-story J.L. Hudson's building in Detroit was brought to the ground in a matter of seconds in October 1998 by the largest urban implosion in our nation's history.
Now, the four basement levels of the building are quite literally having their day in the sun, in preparation for a below-ground parking deck and the Campus Martius development, which will include a new headquarters for 1,100 employees of Compuware.
"This is one hellacious hole," said operating engineer John Beesley.
Indeed it is. With the debris pile removed following the implosion, construction manager Turner-White, their subcontractors and the building trades are in the process of removing about 80,000 yards of dirt from the big hole, as well as tons of concrete footings, beams, re-rod and everything else that went into the foundation of the Hudson's building.
"When you're digging on a site like this, you never know what you'll find," said Project Supt. Kevin O'Neill of Turner. "There are all kinds of concealed conditions and obstructions out there. It's interesting work. This is definitely different than digging up farmland."
O'Neill said most of the original 40-foot deep, six-foot-thick perimeter foundations for the old Hudson's building will be retained. Those walls are being shored up by 70-foot long horizontal steel rod tie-backs that extend under the existing street grid. "Drilling those tie-backs is a slow process," O'Neill said. "We've already encountered one foundation wall that no one knew existed along Grand River."
More than 100 construction workers will be employed on the project when it peaks out next summer.
By April 2001, a new $33 million, four-deck parking structure with 1,100 parking spots is expected to be completed below ground. Above ground on the site will be a landscaped plaza, and the parking structure's foundations will support an18-story building. Eventually, the entire Campus Martius project could encompass nine blocks and will include the Compuware headquarters and a mix of office towers, stores, restaurants and maybe a hotel.
"We need parking spaces," said Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer. "At the same time, we're going to provide an opportunity for new retail and commercial office space above the Hudson's site."
The 1.1 million square-foot Compuware headquarters, estimated
to cost $800 million, will be placed on the old Kern Block, just
south of the old Hudson's building. Soil testing began on the
site last week, and the earth is expected to start moving in
The State of Michigan may yet get a tougher construction inspection standard for schools.
In the latest go-round to get a standard in place, State Rep. Deborah Cherry (D-Burton) will lead an effort by House Democrats to strengthen the rules for the construction and renovation of school buildings in Michigan.
"Every other public facility in Michigan must comply with the state's construction code," Cherry said. "Why shouldn't our schools?"
It has been at least 10 years since state Sen. Christopher Dingell began this fight, because with the exception of a state Fire Marshal inspection, Michigan has never had any regulatory authority over the mechanical, electrical or plumbing systems during school construction.
State legislators came close to an agreement last year, but Republicans wanted a plan that would allow local school districts to opt for local inspections instead.
This legislation addresses that desire. Local communities and school districts could retain regulatory authority if they certify that qualified, full-time code officials and inspectors are on the job making sure that any school construction meets the state standards.
This legislation would ensure that both public and private schools are constructed and renovated in accordance with the state construction code. The bill would grant regulatory and inspection authority over school construction to the state Fire Marshal and Department of Consumer and Industry Services.
Cherry has an interest in this law because of the tragic collapse of a block wall in 1998 at Flushing High School, which killed four tradesmen, including one of her constituents.
"This tragic accident could have been even more devastating
had any children been in the building when the wall collapsed,"
Cherry said. "A fitting legacy for the four men who died
at Flushing High School should be to make all schools safe for
By Michael C. McReynolds RN/EMT
While there are many injuries and health risks associated with all occupations, the highest risk of injury and illness occurs to construction workers.
The occupational environment associated with construction exacerbates this hazard. Construction workers erect, renovate and demolish buildings. There is an extensive range of job descriptions, everything from automated activities to physical labor. Work is performed in extreme temperatures, under enforced timelines and in unfamiliar work environments.
Fifty percent of new construction workers will have some kind of traumatic injury within their first 30 days of hire. The annual work-related death rate for construction workers is rarely surpassed by other occupational groups. On average, three construction workers die in the U.S. every day as a result of traumatic injury at the job site.
In 1999 Michigan had 87 occupational related deaths. The construction industry, while representing only 6% of the work force, accounted for 31 of the 87 recorded fatalities. At least 29 of these fatalities were a result of trauma. The traumatic injuries that account for the most fatalities are recorded under the categories of "struck by, falls, electrocutions, & caught between."
Other common occupational traumatic injuries include:
Degloving injuries - occurs when skin and soft tissues are stripped away from the body. This usually takes place when clothing or jewelry becomes caught in a machine, pulling a victim into the machinery.
Traumatic amputations - can occur from saws, cutting instruments and other types of machinery.
Long bone fractures - can result from many mechanisms including falls, crush and penetrating injuries.
Trauma is the leading cause of death and disability for people ages 1 through 44. Approximately 39.6 million people are treated in hospital emergency departments and 2.6 million Americans are hospitalized each year for traumatic injuries. Experts claim, even with these large numbers, that most injuries are not reported. Trauma is one of the most pressing public health problems in the U.S. today. One in four American workers is affected by traumatic injury, yet this problem is largely unrecognized. Occupational trauma awareness must be promoted.
Traumatic injury accounts for more lost years of life than heart disease and cancer combined. While some deaths related to cancer and heart disease can be prevented with lifestyle changes, trauma is truly preventable. The term "accident" is a misnomer when discussing traumatic injury. The word accident refers to an unexpected, unforeseen and unpreventable event. In reality, most traumatic injuries are preventable with only a small amount of planning. An injury is a definable, correctable event, with a specific risk for occurrence. It is the consequence of many interactions that arrive together at a particular split second.
The economical impact of trauma is staggering. Not only in terms of physical injuries and property damage, but also to the profitability of the company. Accidents create non-recoverable overhead cost such as downtime, failure to complete the job on time, damaged equipment, lawsuits and assessed fines, customer dissatisfaction, loss of future jobs, and increased insurance costs.
According to the American Trauma Society, fatal and nonfatal unintentional injuries amounted to $478.3 billion during 1997. This figure includes wage and productivity losses, administrative expenses, medical expenses, motor vehicle damage, employer costs, and fire losses.
Adequate knowledge of treatment and arrival at an appropriate medical facility will provide the best possible outcome after injury and have a significant influence on construction safety. Trauma centers have long been the principal provider of care following major injury.
While effective in dramatically improving treatment and implementing sophisticated trauma care, until recently trauma care has not been directly involved in occupational injury prevention programs. With respect to this, The University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center has developed an occupational injury prevention program. The purpose of the program will be to educate workers on such issues as the initial management and the consequences of occupational injury. Researching occupational trauma is also key to the program.
Trauma injury prevention is vital in the building trades. Programs that raise injury awareness and increase knowledge that change attitudes are needed to make a positive contribution in the war against trauma.
Current job site emergency response systems are poor; having a minimum of one qualified person on a job site trained in CPR and First Aid is not adequate. Designing a successful trauma injury prevention program requires legislation, education and economical incentives, as well as penalties. Evaluating and tracking an injury prevention program's effectiveness is essential. Financial benefits must also be included in the evaluation process.
While substantial research has been conducted defining the
magnitude of the injury problems, addressing injuries at the
local level is still more the exception than the rule.
By Marty Mulcahy
The UAW and General Motors are using 100 percent union resources to jointly build the 420,000-square-foot Center for Human Resources building that's going up on Detroit's riverfront.
The joint education and training facility will be placed in a campus-like setting, featuring a seven-story office tower, a variety of classrooms, a high-bay hands-on training area, a state-of-the-art auditorium, and a promenade open to the public along the water's edge.
Barton-Malow is acting as construction manager on the project, and Doring Inc. is the project manager. Completion is expected later this year. The project will peak out this spring or summer employing about 300 construction workers.
Currently the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources is working out of two separate facilites in Auburn Hills and in Royal Oak, where about 325 labor and management employees work side by side to develop and administer a variety of joint education activities. They include specific job training, an assembly line mock-up, and education courses in health and safety, product quality, tuition assistance, retirement planning, employee assistance, child care and elder care.
The theme of safety and good health on the project is apparent. "Both union and management have taken exhaustive steps to ensure the safety of the site," said Howard Erickson, communications manager for the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources.
For instance, one worker's only job is to walk the site and monitor air quality. Visitors sign off on a 15-minute safety education class. And the site's toilet facilities go above and beyond what's required by OSHA.
Project Manager Harold Rogers said the most unusual aspect of the job is a railroad car and track that will be place in the building. It will be used for teaching workers how to properly use a hi-lo to safely unload the cars. "You don't see that every day," he said.
With the UAW-GM involvement in the project, it's no surprise that it's an all-union project. But another thing you won't see every day is the project's commitment to using union and American-made materials.
"Our first criteria in buying materials is to try to get American and union-made," Rogers said. "Second, we try to get American-made. So far, I can't tell you about every nut and bolt, but we're doing pretty well, the percentage is high."
When this project is completed, the UAW will have each of its education and training facilities with the Big Three automakers along Jefferson Avenue. This site also places GM's facility a mile-and-a-half east of the automaker's new headquarters at the Renaissance Center.
Since 1984, UAW and General Motors have committee more than
$3.5 billion toward joint education, training and re-training
programs. Thousands of workers take advantage of the training
In the November general election, Michigan voters will have an opportunity to restore some pro-worker balance to the state Supreme Court.
On Feb. 21, Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga threw his hat into the ring, declaring himself a candidate for one of the open seats on the state's highest court. Marlinga has an exemplary criminal justice record as well as a high-profile name whom voters recognize.
"For those who have been injured, for those who have suffered, for those who have been wronged, for those who need and deserve justice, our courts must be a place of welcome," Marlinga said. "Help me make it so."
Marshall Lasser, a Southfield attorney who has frequently written letters to us to regarding the Michigan Supreme Court, called Marlinga, "a recognizable name and a great advocate for working people." Lasser several times has warned the labor community about the pro-business rulings of the state's high court.
"There's no question there has been an anti-worker trend in Supreme Court decisions," he said. "It's a trend that has uniformly been reinforced by Engler's appointments."
Three of the seven seats on the state Supreme Court are up for grabs in November, and Lasser said labor-backed candidates need to win two of them in order to gain a worker-friendly majority.
Marlinga said the majority of the current Supreme Court is intent on re-interpreting, re-writing and re-shaping nearly a half-century of established precedent.
"In the first 10 months of the current majority's tenure, they overturned 10 cases - one a month," Marlinga said. "In the previous 10 years cases were overturned on an average of one per year. We need a new majority to bring the court back into the mainstream."
Macomb County's prosecutor since 1985, the last seven years of Marlinga's tenure has seen crime fall 42 percent in Macomb County. He has also served as assistant U.S. Attorney with the Organized Crime Strike Force and as assistant state Attorney General.
"The Michigan Supreme Court must return to the standards
of fairness and integrity that Michigan's working families expect
and deserve," said State Sen. Ken DeBeaussaert. "And
I can think of no better individual with more honesty and integrity
to do that than Prosecutor Carl Marlinga."
O'Malley appointed to BAC International
The former BAC Local 1 Michigan business manager began his new duties immediately, filling the unexpired term of retiring Executive Vice President Frank Stupar. He will be one of three BAC executive vice presidents.
"It's quite an honor to be chosen for this position," O'Malley said. "I miss being home already, but this is a tremendous opportunity. I'm up for the challenge." He said he will get a better ideas of his new duties in the near future.
A Detroit native, O'Malley, 56, began his apprenticeship with former Local 2 in 1964. He became Local 2 business agent in 1988, later serving as secretary-treasurer. In 1994, he assumed the business manager/presidency of the newly merged Local 1. He has also been an executive board member of the Detroit Building Trades Council
Current Local 1 Secretary-Treasurer Ray Chapman will take
over as business manager/president while Field Rep. Charlie Colo
will now become secretary-treasurer.
Speedier system for jobless claims
The U.S. Department of Labor recently gave the agency $5.8 million, on top of $3.9 million last October, to complete work on the agency's wage record system. The money will be used for computer programming changes, improvements in wage data collection and staff education and procedures.
Wage record is a process of using quarterly employee wage information supplied by employers to establish unemployment benefit claims.
"For the unemployed, wage record will let them know immediately after filing their claims how much they may be entitled to and for how long," said Unemployment Agency Director Jack Wheatley. "Wage record will save Michigan employers the time and expense of filling out and mailing in half a million unemployment insurance forms annually."
Claimants currently wait up to two weeks after filing a claim
before learning what they may receive in jobless benefits.
More money sought for federal building
Proposed spending on highways ($30 billion) and transit ($6
billion) are at all-time highs.
If Clinton's budget is approved, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration budget would jumps 12%, to $426 million. The biggest increases are for federal compliance assistance and enforcement. OSHA wants $1 million for a survey aimed at large construction contractors at high-risk job sites.