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May 12, 2000
LANSING - More MIOSHA inspectors and stiffer penalties against companies that violate worker safety standards - those are two ever-present objectives of the building trades, and they're actually getting some attention in our state capitol.
Late last month, to coincide with Workers' Memorial Day on April 28, state Sen. Ken DeBeaussaert (D-Chesterfield Twp.) introduced legislation to crack down on unsafe work sites and improve worker safety.
"I am announcing this legislation today in honor of the AFL-CIO Workers' Safety Conference that begins today in Lansing to let working men and women know that their concerns are not falling on deaf ears at the state capitol," said DeBeaussaert. "Work sites should not create dangerous situations for workers because of employer shortcuts to save time or money. More state MIOSHA inspectors could help ensure that workers are as safe as possible on the job."
And, on March 21, six state House Republicans joined a unanimous
delegation of Democrats to help squeak by an amendment to the
state Department of Consumer and Industry Services' budget to
approve financing for an additional 15 workplace safety inspectors.
Of the proposed additional 15 workplace inspectors, five would
go to the Construction Safety Division of MIOSHA, five to general
industry and five would go to industrial hygiene.
The state Senate was expected to take up the budget bill with the additional workplace inspector money this week, where it faces a dim future among the Republican majority. Meanwhile, the DeBeaussaert bill was expected to be referred to the GOP-run Senate Human Resources, Labor, Senior Citizens and Veterans Affairs Committee, where it could face an immediate roadblock.
"It's a good idea, but I wouldn't look for it to come up for a vote anytime soon," said Michigan AFL-CIO Legislative Director Tim Hughes. He said the only bright spot is that the committee's makeup is new and relatively unknown - but is still led by Republicans.
Currently, there are 51 state inspectors that inspect for general industry and construction safety in Michigan. According to the National Council of State Legislatures, Michigan lags behind other comparable states in the number of inspectors. Michigan's 51 inspectors cover a civilian labor force of over 4 million workers. Minnesota, with a labor force of slightly over 2.6 million, has 50 inspectors. North Carolina - remarkably for a right-to-work state - has 98 inspectors for a labor force of approximately 3.8 million.
The DeBeaussaert bill would increase the maximum fines for violating MIOSHA rules. This would mean that employers who have the worst safety record would actually pay to hire more inspectors.
"It is only right that the worst employers should pay
the inspectors we hire to protect workers," said DeBeaussaert.
"Michigan workers have helped create the booming state economy
we all enjoy now, and we can show our appreciation by cracking
down on these unsafe work sites and stepping up our workplace
When it comes to the frequency of workplace safety inspections in the U.S., Michigan stacks up pretty well. But it's another story when it comes to imposing fines on contractors who break the law.
According to a new report by the AFL-CIO, using 1997-98 numbers, it would take 34 years for the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration to inspect every job site in Michigan - which is fourth best in the nation. That compares to 19 years for Oregon (No. 1) and 259 years for Louisiana (No. 50).
But in 1997 Michigan ranked 48th when it came to imposing serious citations on employers "for conditions creating a substantial probability of death or physical harm to workers," according to the AFL-CIO. Michigan's average fine for citations in that category was $393, compared to No. 1 Montana, at $1,343.
That low level of fines in 1997 contrasted to the 174 worker deaths in Michigan - 12th highest in the nation.
In the eight worst states for jobsite safety inspections (Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas), it would take more than 150 years for OSHA to pay a single visit to each workplace. All but Oklahoma are right-to-work states.
All of the top ten states in terms of frequency of safety
inspections are governed by state-administered OSHA programs.
The building trades honored local union officers who have gone on to the International Union on March 30, then used the proceeds from the luncheon to do some good back home.
The Greater Detroit Building Trades Council and its affiliated unions handed out checks totaling $4,000 to the parish priests of St. Cecilia's and St. Rita's, two Detroit churches that do a lot of good for the community.
"It really means a lot to us," said Msg. Thomas Finnigan of St. Cecilia's, a parish which is renowned for sponsoring athletic programs that help inner-city youth. "Contributions like this help us keep going strong, and we're grateful for the generosity."
At St. Rita, Fr. Tim Kane said the money "is another
blessing for the youth of our neighborhood. A lot of these kids
don't know where their next meal is going to come from."
The parish sponsors an after-school study program, where it gives
kids a place to hit the books and get a good meal at the same
time. They service about 300 young people a week.
MARQUETTE - The wrestling match is over, and the trestle that once supported thousands of ore-carrying railroad cars to and from the city's docks is permanently down for the count.
The building trades and Lunda Construction recently completed the process of bringing down a 70-year-old landmark trestle that has dominated the city since 1930. The trestle had been unused since the early 1970s, but the city's leaders and residents debated tearing down the structure, since it went right over the downtown area and was such a visible part of the city.
Late last year, the City Commission voted to tear down the 200-yard-long trestle, and the people wearing hard hats took over from there.
"I never thought the trestle was very attractive to begin with," said Marquette-based Michigan Building Trades Council Business Rep. Jack LaSalle. "I think it looks fine now, and the city will be able to make better use of the space that's available."
By Tom Boensch
A few affiliates have inquired about holding a labor rally this fall at the State Capitol.
As I explained at the March Michigan Building Trades Legislative Conference, the upcoming elections will be the most important of the decade for the labor movement. Consider what 5,000 members at a labor rally means in terms of time and money; at least 40,000 work hours and over $1 million dollars in lost wages and benefits. Estimates put the number of rally participants at a far higher figure. Let's capture that energy this year for a more significant purpose.
That is why I am asking Michigan Building Trades members to contribute any resources they would have directed to a rally to their local communities. For example: contribute a day to a local candidate by staffing telephone banks, registering voters, putting up yard signs or going door to door in your neighborhood with a candidate. Donate a day's wages to a candidate's campaign fund. These resources will impact the political process far more than any rally can.
Recent polling indicates that the next President of the United
States will be elected by voters in five states. Michigan is
one of them! Your help in getting building trades members registered
and to the polls will mean the difference between electing a
President who will not have Labor's best interests at heart or
a President who supports the working people in our nation.
The Greater Detroit Building and Construction Trades Council, along with Detroit Public Schools and Barton Malow Co., were recipients of one of the 2000 GARDE Awards for work performed during the Detroit Public Schools Summer Emergency Maintenance Program.
The Gender and Race Diversification Excellence Award was established five years ago to recognize owners, contractors, labor organizations or individuals for achieving the best results in increasing the employment of women and minorities in organized construction.
"What you're doing is making a world of difference to people who don't have a clue as to what the GARDE Award is," said keynote speaker Helen Love, former Ford Motor Co. vice president in charge of diversity. "When you bring diverse people together you get a payoff in increased ideas and productivity."
Last summer, with the help of 130 students (all minorities, and 37 percent female), a $79.4 million effort took place to repair Detroit's schools during a 70-day period when school was out. Through the coordination of the building trades, 20 management teams with Barton Malow and the school district, the students were assigned a mentor to help take care of care of administrative activity and construction job assignments.
"What happened over the course of last summer is that the industry put its best foot forward for those 130 kids, and showed them what construction is all about," said Greater Detroit Building Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Devlin. "They're the future of our industry."
Also winning a GARDE Awards was the collaborative effort by Hunt, Turner and White Construction management team, as well as a group of public and private organizations for exceeding the goals of minority participation during Comerica Park construction.
And, the City of Detroit won an award for gearing up its effort
to meet its goal of employing 50 percent Detroit residents, 25
percent minorities, and 5 percent women in city-sponsored construction.
By Marty Mulcahy
One of the largest construction projects ever undertaken in Michigan is moving nonstop toward completion.
Few people who have flown in or out of Metropolitan Airport in Romulus would disagree that the current airport complex, with origins in the 1950s, is stretched way beyond its capacity to serve the burgeoning numbers of air traffic and passengers.
The cramped airport has developed a lousy reputation among the air-traveling public, but help is on the way with the ongoing construction of the massive midfield terminal, set for completion late next year.
"The biggest challenge is working between two active runways and coordinating with the control tower," said Charles Prewitt, construction manager for the project's general contractor, Huber, Hunt & Nichols, Inc. "It's difficult some days, but we've been successful. If you look back, you could see areas where we could have speeded things up a little bit, but all in all, we're right where we want to be - right on schedule. The craft workers and subcontractors have been working hard and doing a good job."
Just under 800 building trades workers are on the job, which is on the way to employing about 1,200 by late summer, Prewitt said.
Few jobs in Michigan have ever put so many Hardhats to work in a single place, and there are plenty of other big numbers associated with this project.
An expandable remote boarding area, for commuter and other domestic aircraft, will connect to the main terminal by means of an underground tunnel equipped with a moving walkway.
"We've had such an aggressive schedule, from the design,
to the hiring of the contractors, to the administration of the
contracts," said Northwest Airlines Midfield Terminal Director
of Construction Charles McCloskey. "It's a challenge out
there every day, but we have a good crew of contractors and a
good labor force, and we're confident that we will open a great
new terminal in December of next year."