May 16, 2008
training program seeks new home, finds it at U-M
First' clears some hurdles, but many remain
are an investment worth protecting
growth for expanded eye center
record shows worker issues not his priority
show off new training center
IBEW training program seeks new home, finds it at U-M
By Marty Mulcahy
ANN ARBOR - Washtenaw County is proving to be a nationwide
magnet for building trades training.
For the last 19 years, nearly 2,000 instructors for the United
Association of Plumbers, Pipe Fitters and Sprinkler Fitters have
descended on Washtenaw Community College in August for the week-long
annual Instructor Training Program.
Now, the sparkies are coming. Last month The National Joint
Apprenticeship and Training Committee for the Electrical Industry
(NJATC) announced that their annual week-long National Training
Institute (NTI) program is moving to the University of Michigan's
main campus beginning in 2009. The train-the-trainer conference
is moving from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, bringing
in union instructors from around the U.S. and Canada.
"This just solidifies the relationship we have with the
University of Michigan and the community," said Ann Arbor
IBEW Local 252 Business Manager Greg Stephens. "I encouraged
the move, and I think it's directly attributable to the fact
that union electricians are doing about one-and-a-half million
man-hours of work per year here in Ann Arbor, and union electricians
are just about being shut out in Knoxville."
The NJATC expects total participation in the 2009 National
Training Institute to be well in excess of 2,000 industry representatives.
The U-M will host the NTI for the first time July 31 - Aug. 7,
Stephens said this is particularly good news because unions
are helping to stimulate the area's economy. It is estimated
that this will annually produce $4.5 million to $5 million in
new revenue for the economy of the Ann Arbor area. "The
community has really embraced the United Association," he
said. "We're hoping with this training program coming to
town, the local restaurants and businesses will see we're helping
them, and those who aren't using union construction will take
another look at us."
The National Training Institute, led by Executive Director
Michael Callanan, has grown into the most comprehensive training
program in the electrical construction industry. Serving all
sectors of the electrical construction market, NTI offers hands-on
technical training, advanced educational theories and practices
for the classroom, and cutting-edge workshops and seminars for
apprenticeship committee members and National Electrical Contractor
"The University of Michigan is pleased to host such an
important training program and provide the setting for ensuring
electrical workers and contractors have the most relevant skills
and knowledge for today's world," said University of Michigan
President Mary Sue Coleman. "A conference of this magnitude
is also an important catalyst for our economy, and we look forward
to welcoming so many visitors from around the country."
The NJATC had been in discussions about relocating with U-M
Marketing and Conference Services and the Ann Arbor Area Convention
& Visitors Bureau for the last year. The electricians will
meet in several U-M buildings.
A U-M spokesman told the Ann Arbor news that the NJATC group
"is far more significant in size than most of the other
conferences that come to campus."
The National Training Institute was jointly established in
1990 by the NJATC and the University of Tennessee. The University
of Michigan employs IBEW members full-time in its facilities
and operations departments. Additionally, the university retains
the services of NECA contractors employing IBEW members to complete
all of its electrical construction projects.
"We are so excited to welcome the NJATC to the Ann Arbor
community," said Mary Kerr, president and CEO of the Ann
Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "This announcement
was the result of phenomenal collaboration between the University
of Michigan and the CVB, and I'm very pleased that we're continuing
to seize opportunities of this magnitude that drive direct economic
impact to the area. "We're ready to roll out the red carpet
for them next August."
Michigan First' clears some hurdles, but many remain
By Marty Mulcahy
LANSING - A series of bills that make up the "Hire Michigan
First" initiative cleared the state House Labor and Commerce
Committee last month, but the future of the package isn't clear.
"The State of Michigan gives away about $1.25 billion
each year in the form of tax abatements and incentives to try
and lure companies here to Michigan," said State Rep. Fred
Miller (D-Mt. Clemens), "but what we find is that sometimes
those dollars go to companies who hire workers from other states,
sometimes from other countries. And so the 'Hire Michigan First'
package is a 12-bill package that would reform the way we do
economic development and state contracts to make sure that Michigan
workers are the ones that are hired first. If Michigan taxpayers
are putting their money towards creating jobs, it should be Michigan
workers that get those jobs."
Miller chairs the House Labor Committee and crafted the legislation.
State Sen. John Gleason (D-Flushing) is leading the legislation
in the Senate, where they are awaiting the final bill from the
House, which may come this month.
State Republicans either "dissented or abstained"
from voting on the package of bills last month, according to
the Gongwer News Service. The legislation is expected to similarly
proceed along party lines through the full House and Senate,
although Miller said he's looking forward to final approval on
a bipartisan basis.
Gongwer said dissenting Republicans feel that the legislation
would place more of a burden on businesses when Michigan needs
The Hire Michigan First plan would:
- Give preference for tax breaks and other economic development
tools to companies that will hire the most Michigan residents.
This rule would apply to projects handled by the Michigan Economic
Development Corp., and certain state-funded programs, including
the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, the Renaissance Zone
Act, and several others.
- Require companies that receive state construction contracts
to hire 100 percent Michigan residents, strengthening the current
requirement of 50 percent.
- Require companies that take economic development incentives
to report on who they are hiring to ensure that Michigan residents
are put first, encouraging transparency and accountability.
- Crack down on companies that exploit undocumented workers
by canceling their state contracts and tax incentives. A "clawback"
clause in the plan would require them to pay back incentives
already received and bar them from future contracts.
The driving force behind the Hire Michigan First policy is
the state's approval of a tax-free Agricultural Processing Renaissance
Zone to support the construction of an ethanol plant in Marysville.
An out-of-state company brought in its workers from Texas for
The Hire Michigan First concept has its share of loopholes
and potential pitfalls. For example, a bipartisan bill that was
signed into law last month by Gov. Jennifer Granholm created
some major tax incentives for filmmakers to do their work in
Michigan. In such a specialized industry, exemptions were included
to allow the hiring of "key management personnel or individuals
with special skills" who are not Michigan residents.
Furthermore, businesses in border counties with Indiana, Ohio
and Wisconsin- especially those in the construction industry
- are pushing for exemptions for businesses that hire workers
who move back and forth across state lines. Miller said there
are already exemptions in state law that allow for collective
bargaining agreements, and other issues "are being worked
Sen. Gleason hinted to the Michigan Building and Construction
Trades Council Legislative Conference in March that there may
be a battle over the bill when it hits the Republican-controlled
Senate. He said last year, when a limited version of the Hire
Michigan First policy was attached to Strategic Fund funding
and put to a vote, it went down along party lines, 21-17, with
all 21 Republicans voting against the measure.
"When you go home and talk to your members, let them
know about the Republicans, that that nice guy or nice lady representing
them isn't so nice at all," said Gleason. "People who
get grant money, which is our tax money, should employ Michigan
workers. We cannot expand our economy unless we put our hard
hats to work."
apprentices are an investment worth protecting
By Mark Breslin
(Eleventh in a series)
What would you do if you watched someone kick a big dent in
the door of your new F-150? Or someone spit on your new Justin
boots? Or let their dog crap on your front lawn right in front
of you? Or worse, what if someone was bullying your little brother
every day by treating him with disrespect and negativity? Would
you allow any of this? Would you take swift and terrible justice?
So why do we allow this to happen every day in our industry?
Why do contractors and unions sit back and watch our most precious
asset be dinged and damned and call it the price of admission.
The asset: the fine young men and women apprentices that come
to this industry hopeful, optimistic and malleable.
The scenario; the negative impact of 50 weeks a year being
around one or more journeymen who influences them in a manner
unacceptable to you, me and this proud industry. And it happens
all the time on nearly every jobsite and we are doing very little
to address it.
Before we look at the solutions, lets look at the impacts
to our young apprentices:
- How many of you have seen a fine young apprentice absolutely
ruined by the negativity, bad attitude or poor work ethics of
a limited number of journeymen?
- At the end of the day, what do you think the impact is on
our apprentice morale, buy-in, enthusiasm and retention?
- How do you think the apprentice feels when he or she is making
less money than some of these co-workers and they clearly see
that performance and compensation do not tie together?
- What do you think a third-year apprentice would say about
this and their career choice?
- How do we build an industry for the future if we allow the
rationalization of this to continue?
- How much money do we spend on training apprentices that do
not perform to their potential as a result of this?
Across the nation tens of millions of dollars are wasted and
thousands of impacted kids and careers are damaged every year;
it is time for us to say enough is enough. And several methods
need to be employed to protect both the apprentices and our investment
First we must include positive treatment of apprentices in
the various union codes of conduct and excellence. Apprentices
must be valued and mentored by their older peers, not beat down
or poorly led.
Secondly we must put the apprentices under "game conditions"
before they go to the field. By using role-playing exercises
in the classroom we can help apprentices prepare for many real-life
challenges that absolutely will occur on the jobsite. Today,
how do you think the average apprentice would react to:
- Journeymen telling him or her to slow down?
- Working on a crew where guys are cutting corners on quality
- Witnessing drug use on the job?
- Hearing a journeymen run down the contractor, the union or
- Seeing someone sexually or racially harassed?
- Being asked to pad a time card or be complicit in something
This is real life. This is the jobsite. This is peer pressure
in their face. What do you think they do today? Nothing. They
go with the flow because they have not been prepared for that
very difficult moment. Whether you use the role-playing exercises
in the Survival of the Fittest apprenticeship curriculum (see
www.Breslin.biz) or develop your own, this is a critical model
that is used by police, fire, the military and other organizations
to improve performance under game conditions.
These young candidates are the best asset we have. They deserve
more from us.
They deserve to be protected from negativity and disrespect.
They deserve to be well-prepared for difficult jobsite circumstances.
They deserve to have someone they can go to that they trust to
help them sort these issues out. Because if they do not receive
this support our entire investment in them and their future can
be wiped out by a very small subset of journeymen who have personal
issues and problems that they take out on others in the jobsite
Now some guys will write this message off as too touchy feely.
Old school says, "hey you just have to deal with it."
Or "that is part of paying your dues."
But we are talking about people's lives and careers. We are
talking about people's fulfillment and happiness at work. We
are talking about hundreds of millions of training dollars on
the line. It is time to protect our investment. We need to provide
support for our greatest asset and bring the hammer down on those
who put it at risk.
Yeah, like you're just going to sit there while someone kicks
in the door on your truck.
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
envisions growth for expanded eye center
ANN ARBOR - When the $121 million expansion of the Kellogg
Eye Center is complete, it will be "the largest and most
comprehensive eye center in the Midwest," according to the
University of Michigan.
The eight-story, 222,000 square-foot expansion project will
nearly double the university's current space for eye care, education
and research when it opens in 2010. It is being constructed adjacent
to the existing eye center on Wall Street. Gilbane-Clark is managing
The Kellogg Eye Center has experienced 11 percent growth in
patient visits in each of the last seven years and expects even
faster growth as the aging boomer population peaks in the next
10 to 15 years. The center has current projections forecasting
growing demand for technological vision-care advances, ranging
from genetic testing for eye disease, to "bladeless"
laser surgery, to new kinds of lenses that can be implanted to
improve vision after cataract surgery.
The building's upper two floors will house advanced laboratories
for Type 1 diabetes research, and cutting-edge facilities for
communication and data-sharing among diabetes researchers throughout
U-M and beyond. The setup will foster programs and that will
allow collaboration for researching eye-related complications
In part due to Michigan's aging population, outpatient visits
to the main Kellogg location in Ann Arbor increased from 36,852
in 1985 to 78,228 in 2005. When this project is complete, clinical
space with the expansion will increase from 50 examination rooms
today to 73 rooms.
"Models for understanding and treating eye disorders
are emerging from our laboratories right now," said Paul
R. Lichter, M.D., director of the Kellogg Eye Center "With
additional resources and space, we will be able to transform
these concepts into technologies for treatment. Several current
projects have potential to yield major breakthroughs, including
drug development, gene therapy, and a novel device that will
detect eye disease well before symptoms appear."
THE EIGHT-STORY Kellogg Eye Center at the
University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
PLUMBING an examination room inside the Kellogg
Eye Center addition is Jack Colegrove of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters
Local 190 and Western Mechanical.
voting record shows worker issues not his priority
Republican presidential nominee John McCain has been a
U.S. senator from Arizona since 1987, after serving as a U.S.
House member for four years. His 25 years of service as a lawmaker
in the federal government has created an extensive paper trail
in Congress that helps voters see where he stands.
Following is a record of votes and quotes by McCain as
they pertain to union members and other working Americans, provided
by the AFL-CIO.
McCain voted against a clean minimum wage increase for working
families. McCain voted with the Republicans in 2007 to stall
a clean minimum wage increase for working families - before bowing
to public pressure and voting to pass the final bill that included
tax breaks for businesses. He also voted to completely repeal
the minimum wage laws in 45 states and allow the other five states
to opt out of any future minimum wage increases above $5.15 an
hour. [H.R. 2, Vote #23, 1/24/07; Vote #24, 1/24/07; Vote #25,
1/25/07; Vote #37, 1/31/07; Vote #39, 1/31/07; Vote #42, 1/31/07;
S. 2766, Vote #179, 6/21/06; S. 256, Vote #26, 3/7/05]
Minimum wage II. When the Senate was debating a minimum wage
increase in 2006 and the Senate's many pay raises over the past
decade were brought up, McCain called the comparison "a
very clever ploy." He defended his opposition to the minimum
wage increase, saying he had foregone Senate pay raises, "
to the dismay of my family."
However, McCain's 2005 personal financial disclosure reported
that his family held assets worth between $27 million and $42
million, which generated income between $1.8 million and $4.6
million. [ABC News, 7/2/06; McCain 2005 Personal Financial Disclosure
But McCain supported tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
McCain voted for a budget reconciliation bill in 2005 that included
a $60 billion tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, with more
than three quarters of the benefits going to families with $100,000
or more in annual income. [S. 2020, Vote #26, 11/18/05]
McCain tried to limit the nation's prevailing wage law. McCain
supported an amendment to prohibit application of Davis-Bacon
(prevailing wage) requirements for fair wages in declared federal
disaster areas. It would have undercut the wages of people working
in the harshest conditions. Prevailing wage laws are the single
most important factor in upholding construction worker wages,
both union and nonunion. [S. 1650, Vote #320, 10/7/99]
Then he did it again. McCain voted to table - but not approve
- a "sense of the Senate" measure saying the Davis-Bacon
Act, which protects workers' paychecks on public construction
projects, should not be repealed. [S Amdt. 4031, Vote #134, 5/22/96]
And again. McCain voted to waive Davis-Bacon Act wage
requirements for contractors on federal drinking water projects.
[S. 2019, Vote #118, 5/18/94; H.R. 5132, Vote #105, 5/21/92;
H.R. 2916, Vote #181, 9/19/89]
McCain voted to create an underclass of construction workers
not subject to prevailing wage laws. He voted to allow the Bush
administration to create a new class of workers called "helpers,"
who would have no formal training and would not fall under Davis-
Bacon wage protection requirements. [H.R. 2518, Vote #289, 9/28/93]
McCain voted against protections for workers' overtime rights.
McCain voted against protecting workers' overtime pay from Bush
administration rules that would remove the overtime rights of
6 million workers. [S. 1637, Vote #79, 5/4/04]
McCain opposed worker safety and ergonomic standards. McCain
voted to block the Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) from issuing, implementing or enforcing standards to protect
workers from ergonomic injuries. [H.R. 4577, Vote #143, 6/22/00]
McCain voted to gut the Family and Medical Leave Act. In 1993,
before finally voting for the Family and Medical Leave Act, McCain
voted to jeopardize leave for millions of workers by gutting
the bill. He voted to suspend the act unless the federal government
either certified that compliance would not increase costs for
business or provided financial assistance to businesses to cover
any costs associated with implementing the law. [S. Amdt. 16,
S. 5, Vote #7, 2/4/93; H.R. 1, Vote #11, 2/4/93]
McCain opposed extending federal unemployment insurance benefits
for jobless workers. McCain voted against extending the expiring
Temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for another
six months, with an additional 13 weeks of benefits for workers
who exhaust their federal benefits while looking for a new job.
The amendment also called for unemployment benefits for low-wage
workers and workers seeking part-time employment. At the time
the program was due to expire, more than 1 million long-term
jobless workers were nearing the end of their state benefits.
[S. 1054, Vote #152, 5/15/03]
Workers show off new training center
By Marty Mulcahy
WIXOM - The new and improved Iron Workers Local 25 Training
Center is open for business.
A ribbon-cutting on April 25 marked the grand opening of the
facility. It was attended by Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry, local
officers, and contractors. A similar celebration and open house
for members and their families was held the following day.
"This facility empowers members of the iron workers to
keep abreast of their craft, and make sure jobs are done safely
and well," said Lt. Gov. John Cherry, who was on hand for
the ribbon-cutting. "On behalf of the state, congratulations
on putting this facility here and making sure our society's workforce
is trained and ready."
Ground was broken on the project in November 2006 after a
process that involved several years of consideration, site selection
and design. Local 25 and its contractors were looking to replace
a cramped facility along I-96 in Livonia, and opted to purchase
a six-acre site off Pontiac Trail. Schonsheck, Inc. managed the
construction of the new building.
Also in attendance was Walt Wise, general secretary of Iron
Workers International Union, who called the new training center
"a flagship facility."
"This building reflects a commitment to provide good
jobs and good futures for workers in the community by iron workers
and their contractors," he said.
Bill Treharne of Midwest Steel, chairman of the Joint Apprenticeship
Committee, told attendees that the new facility will teach skills
that have been handed down from generation - "skills that
you can sell in the marketplace."
"We train apprentices and journeymen to be the best that
they can be," Treharne said. "Today we dedicate this
training center so that iron workers can enjoy a successful career."
The new facility offers 31,560 square feet of space - three
times larger than the old training center. It includes three
classrooms, an indoor shop, and extensive mockups of all facets
of the trade.
"We have a new facility that will provide apprentices
with skills and hands-on training that will benefit our workforce
now and into the future," said Local 25 Business Manager
The training center is a collaboration between Iron Workers
Local 25, the Great Lakes Fabricators and Erectors Association,
the Associated General Contractors of Michigan, Inc., the Michigan
Conveyor Manufacturers Association, the ReSteel Contractors Association
and the Great Lakes Metal Building Erectors Association.
"The key to this whole industry and the livelihood of
the contractors rests on their shoulders" - apprentices,
said Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council President
Patrick "Shorty" Gleason, a former Local 25 business
manager. "Now they have all the tools in their gangbox that
they need, going forward."
Training Coordinator Mike Relyin said a total of 43 technical,
safety and certification courses will be offered at the school.
He said the additional space at the school not only allows the
school to expand teaching opportunities, it allows them to offer
"on-demand" courses for contractors with special training
requests. Currently, the center has 190 apprentices on its roster.
He said the actual move from Livonia to Wixom took place last
summer, but it took months to get all the equipment set up in
the new facility.
"During the planning we tried to think of everything
we would need for classroom and hands-on training that would
be second to none," Relyin said. "We incorporated ideas
from training centers around the country, and I think we've built
one of the best."
LISTENING TO Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry
at the mike during the dedication of the new Training Center
are (seated l-r) J. Michael Dornan, (City Manager-Wixom); William
Treharne (Chairman IW Local 25 JATC, Midwest Steel); Patrick
"Shorty" Gleason (President-Michigan Building and Construction
Trades Council, former Business Manager IW Local 25); Greg Hicks
(General Organizer for the Iron Workers International Union,
former Business Manager IW Local 25); Walter Wise (General Secretary
for the Iron Workers IU) and Jim Hamric (Business Manager, Local
Still good news in nonresidential
Washington, D.C. - The nation's nonresidential construction market
apparently hasn't received the memo that the nation is teetering
toward a recession.
"Nonresidential construction spending rose an impressive
1.3 percent in March and 12 percent compared to March 2007,"
said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General
Contractors of America (AGC) on May 1.
He was commenting on the March construction spending figures
released by the Census Bureau the same day. "The housing
slump buried this news by dragging total spending down by 1.1
percent for the month and 3.4 percent for the year," Simonson
added. "Yet nearly every category of nonresidential spending
continued to exceed year-ago levels."
Simonson said private and public nonresidential construction
is a sector that's still growing, "although public spending
is losing speed." He said private nonresidential spending
was up 15 percent from March 2007, while public spending grew
The AGC forecaster said public spending on construction is
expected to flatten or shrink for highways, schools and other
public projects. For private construction, he expects "ongoing
vigor" in spending on power, energy, communications, hospital,
higher education and military base-related projects, offset by
a likely retreat by office and retail construction.
The biggest challenge this year: "runaway materials costs,"
Simonson warned. "Yesterday, a steel supplier told customers
the price of re-bar was rising another $100 overnight, compounding
increases of 40 to 70 percent earlier this year. The retail price
of diesel fuel is now almost 50 percent higher than a year ago.
Copper is close to its all-time high set in May 2006, and near-record
prices for oil and natural gas may push up asphalt and plastics
Laborers leave; alliance dissolves
Average hourly construction earnings moved up 4.4 percent from
March 2007 to February 2008, according to a report issued last
month by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
However, taking the inflation rate into account, the increase
only amounted to .01 percent.
The pay hikes for construction were an improvement over the
average U.S. workforce, which jumped 3.9 percent. But adjusted
for inflation, the pay hikes weren't hikes at all: the BLS numbers
show that in real dollars, all non-supervisory American workers
saw their earning power drop by .4 percent.
The average weekly wage in America for all workers as of February
is $607.49, or $31,589 per year. The nation's construction workers
do even better, on average earning $828.36 per week, or $43,074