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May 24, 2002
By Marty Mulcahy
Michigan's highway workers have been given another small measure of safety from state lawmakers.
Last year, Michigan became the first state in the nation to adopt stiffer penalties for motorists who injure or kill highway construction workers. That law created penalties of up to one year in prison for injury and up to 15 years for killing a highway construction or maintenance worker.
Another measure to increase penalties in a work zone was signed into law April 8 and takes effect July 1, 2002. P.A. 149 increases driver points for speeding in a work zone. For instance, a motorist found speeding between 11-15 mph over the speed limit will get four points under the new rule instead of three.
"It's quite simple - by slowing down and staying alert in work zones you can save more than just the cost of a ticket; you can save a life," said Michigan Attorney General Jennifer Granholm. "Michigan's new, tougher penalties show how serious we are about keeping work zones safe for everyone."
There are more than 6,000 work-zone crashes every year in Michigan and nearly 2,000 injuries each year. Impatience, speeding and driver inattention are the leading factors in work-zone crashes. Nationwide each year more than 80 percent of all fatalities in work-zone crashes are motor vehicle occupants.
The Michigan Department of Transportation has several new initiatives to help keep work zones safe. Research indicates that when police are in work zones, traffic really slows down. That's why again this year, MDOT will expand its effort to invest at least $350,000 in work-zone law enforcement patrols. Also, 2002 will be the first year that county and local law enforcement agencies are eligible to receive the funding, along with Michigan State Police.
"For the safety of workers and motorists, it is essential to drive carefully, especially through work zones," said MSP Lieutenant Colonel Tadarial J. Sturdivant. "Motorists should obey posted speed limits and other traffic control directions. Our troopers will be monitoring work zones, and taking enforcement action on drivers who violate the law."
Labor unions, contractors, law enforcement and government officials held a press conference at the state Capitol earlier this month to heighten awareness for maintaining safe driving conditions through Michigan work zones.
The Give 'em a Brake campaign has been in place for the last several years, and will spend more than $200,000 on a public awareness campaign in 2002, which includes statewide billboards, radio and television spots. In addition to the media campaign, MDOT has additional tools to keep work zones safer. The department will reduce speeds in 10 mph increments when necessary and continue to use "Do Not Pass" signs and enforcement to curb aggressive driving in selected work-zone areas. Motorists should merge early and watch for the signs in the merge lane that is closed ahead.
"Please respect the reduced speed limits in construction zones; this is our workplace," said Gary Jorgensen, business manager, Michigan Laborers District Council.
By Marty Mulcahy
WARREN - The largest new construction/renovation project ever at the massive General Motors Technical Center is changing the 630-acre campus into modern working space that's ready for the future.
The campus is in the fourth year of a six-year, $1 billion transformation. The largest portion of the project, currently under construction, is a nine-story, one million square-foot high-rise that is the signature building on the site. Numerous other buildings at the tech center have been or will be renovated as part of the project.
"It's the largest non-manufacturing construction investment G.M. has ever made," said David Witt, G.M.'s program manager, Worldwide Facilities Group. "The real challenge out here is that we're doing all this work while the existing buildings are still occupied. You cut off power and you hear about it very quickly. But we've been fortunate. Things have gone very well."
Approximately 650 construction workers are at the site, working for construction manager Parsons Brinckerhoff and a slew of subcontractors.
The nine-story tower, built next to an artificial lake, is the focal point of the 2.4 million square-foot Vehicle Engineering Center complex.
"The tower's distinctive form over the water will express a forward-looking image reflecting the spirit of innovation that has been at the heart of GM's history and tradition," said Gerald Elson, GM vice president and general manager, mid-size and luxury cars, North America Car Group. The VEC will bring 8,000 engineers and technicians of GM's North America Car Engineering together in one "flexible, worker-friendly, high-tech environment," he said.
The unified VEC will consolidate car engineering functions formerly performed at 14 locations throughout Southeast Michigan, and enable GM to design, develop, and deliver competitive vehicles on a global and timely basis. The entire tech center site can employ up to 20,000 workers; currently 17,000-18,000 work there.
The VEC includes the existing former Mid-size and Luxury Car headquarters building, a 3,200-space parking structure, a renovated 82,000-square-foot office building, formerly called the photographic building, and the tower.
The tower includes a two-story, 1,400-seat, multi-function "cafetorium" to be used for dining and as an auditorium conference center, and seven stories of office space above. The office space is designed for maximum flexibility, with routes for wiring underneath the floors.
The GM Tech Center was dedicated on May 16, 1956, marking the creation of the world's first campus of buildings designed with a specific function to support a corporation's technological research and development. The site created history: In 2000, the tech center site was put on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Michigan Historical Center marker at the site hails the tech center as "an American icon of modern architecture," adding that the GM Technical Center's campus plan and International Style buildings influenced the development of corporate research parks nationwide.
Over the last few years, trades workers have been in and out of numerous buildings on the site performing renovations. Those Hardhats would be familiar with the old Cadillac Building, the Manufacturing A and B buildings, the old Engineering Building and the Powertrain Building.
"The work has been done under the National Maintenance Agreements, and we've been very happy with the NMA because it has helped us get the issues out on the table," Witt said. "The work has been done very well."
The tradition of straight-party voting in Michigan may have life after all.
Earlier this year, Gov. John Engler and the Republican-controlled Michigan legislature eliminated straight-party voting in Michigan. No longer are voters able to bump out a single chad and vote for all Democrats or all Republican candidates on a ballot.
Passage of that law didn't sit well with the 250,000 Michiganians who signed a petition to overturn the law and restore straight-party voting. Sponsors of the petition, including the Michigan AFL-CIO and a group called "Pro-Voters," gathered 100,000 signatures more than were necessary to have the matter placed on a statewide ballot. On May 14, the State Board of Canvassers voted unanimously to certify petitions.
As a result, voters will have an opportunity to restore straight-party voting on the Nov. 5 general election ballot.
"Michigan voters - not the Legislature - should decide whether the right to vote straight party should be retained," said Mark Brewer, Michigan Democratic Party chairman. "Today's certification of the Pro-Voters petition signatures means that the voters' right to vote straight party will be protected in November."
The Michigan electorate has had the option of voting a straight-party
ticket for more than 100 years. Touted as election "reform"
by Republicans, Dems said the bill adopted this year was a thinly
disguised attempt to suppress the vote among Democratic
The legislation to implement straight-party voting was passed
almost completely along party lines, with Republicans voting
in favor and Democrats voting against. Only Republican Sen. Mike
Goschka of Saginaw joined with Democrats against the bill.
WASHINGTON (PAI) - The long debate in Congress over giving the president Fast-Track trade authority took another twist on May 15, when the Senate voted 61-38 to allow separate votes on any section of any treaty that would weaken existing U.S. trade laws.
Organized labor hailed the vote, but the Bush administration threatened to veto the entire Fast-Track package - a scenario that organized labor would prefer. The Republican-run House passed Bush's version of fast track, 215-214 last December.
Bush's bill lacked provisions for labor rights, and it mandated that future Fast Track treaties must go to Congress for up-or-down votes, without amendments, as he wants. That would shut lawmakers, and workers, out of the trade treaties and negotiations. The Senate version also includes restrictions that would outlaw dumping of cheap, foreign imports.
The Senate amendment "ensures that U.S. trade remedy laws are not weakened in international negotiations," said AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney.
Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer, called the Senate amendment "a show stopper" and denounced its supporters as "protectionist."
Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone (D) represents a state like Michigan that has been hit hard by free trade. The ore industry in both states is in dire straits because of the dumping of cheap foreign steel.
"There can be no doubt about adverse effects of so-called globalization and trade on jobs and job security," Wellstone said. "In Minnesota alone, Steel Workers on the Iron Range, workers at Potlach and Northwest Airlines workers statewide, along with many other workers, have all lost their jobs, their health care and in some cases a significant portion of their pension benefits, as a result of unfair trade."
In concert with its contractor association, Sheet Metal Workers Local 80 took the wraps off their new identification logo on May 5, and unveiled the local's new Southfield union hall, too.
"Together we do it better" is the new logo that can be used by Local 80 members in the form of hard hat and bumper stickers. And Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association (SMACNA) Metro Detroit Chapter contractors will use the new slogan on their company trucks.
"The unveiling of our new identity today, 'Together we do it better,' means changes to the look of our vehicles and hard hats, but it also further solidifies what SMACNA and Local 80 have always stood for," said Local 80 Business Manager Tom Ingalls.
On company trucks, the "Together" slogan and "SMACNA" logos will appear in blue, the company name and phone number in black will allow individual firms to retain their own identity, and "Sheet Metal Workers Local 80" will appear in gray. With the logos appearing on more than 1,500 company trucks, the advertising people estimate the "rolling billboards" will generate some $5 million in advertising. Television and radio ads will follow.
Sheet Metal Workers International President Mike Sullivan told the assembly that the new slogan "is not only a statement of purpose, of brotherhood, of teamwork, but also a statement of pride. For owners and consumers, the value is in the piece of mind they receive when they see 'together we do it better' on a hard hat or truck. They know we stand behind our work and take pride in our craft."
This is the first such labor-management sheet metal identity program in the nation.
"SMACNA contractors and Local 80 members are focused and committed experts in the areas of architectural, heating and cooling, residential, commercial and industrial disciplines of sheet metal construction," said SMACNA Detroit Metropolitan Chapter President Ray Schemanske. "As we all know, there is strength in numbers, so when these two very committed professional organizations join forces, 'together we do it better.'"
The unveiling of the new logo took place during an open house at the new Local 80 union hall in Southfield. Several months ago, Local 80 moved a short distance from its old 4,000-square-foot union hall into a building a few miles away that's 20,000 square feet. Their new facility was built in 1976, but was completely renovated, and has room for tenants to help with the mortgage payment.
"We were so cramped in the old building," Ingalls said. "The new building gives us room to do our jobs a lot more effectively. We had a lot of input on the design of the hall from contractors and members, and it really shows. There's a lot of pride in this place."
Medical reports last year called into question the effectiveness of giving CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, to heart attack victims.
On May 6, two iron workers showed that sometimes, CPR works, and it's a procedure worth knowing.
Brothers Dan and Brian Foco, working for Whaley Steel at an ethanol plant in Caro, revived a bolt supplier after he dropped in front of Dan. The brothers gave the victim mouth to mouth resuscitation and chest compressions for eight to ten minutes until emergency medical technicians arrived and used a defibrillator to revive the man. He was transported to a hospital, and his prognosis is good.
The 46-year old victim "had a funny look on his face, and then he just collapsed," said Dan Foco, 40, a foreman on the project. "I knelt next to him, and felt his pulse, but he didn't have one. And he was already turning blue. So I told another foreman to call 911, and I called my brother over, and then we started CPR."
Three different times the man started breathing on his own during the CPR, but each time he stopped a short time later. Dan Foco, who was doing the mouth to mouth, said he was nauseated when the victim vomited (a common occurance) but continued out of a strong desire to save the man's life and the verbal encouragement of his co-workers.
"Without their help, the victim probably wouldn't have survived," said Randy Gerber, vice president of Mobile Medical Response, the ambulance company that responded to the incident. "Using CPR, they were probably able to circulate just enough oxygen and blood to keep the victim from getting brain damage. It's true that CPR doesn't always work, but it did this time. That's important to the victim, and it's a big deal to us."
Gerber said he's looking into getting a citation awarded to the Foco brothers for the great deed they did.
Iron workers are taught CPR as part of their training, and Brian had recently re-certified. And remarkably, Dan had the opportunity to perform CPR about eight years ago, but that victim died.
"That's something you don't forget, and I could see it happening all over again," Dan said. "People say that CPR training is no big deal. But I've used it twice now. I feel really good about what happened."
By Marty Mulcahy
HOWELL - The ties that bind iron workers and crane operators on construction sites are well-established.
But until now, the interaction of iron workers and operating engineers on construction sites has never been the subject of formal, structured training: on-the-job instruction has been virtually the only method of teaching.
May 6 was the start-up date of a new, joint training program at the Operating Engineers Local 324 Howell Education Center. Apprenticeship course curriculums for both Local 324 and Iron Workers Local 25 members will now include 40 hours of working together, doing all the tasks necessary to erect structural steel under the watchful eyes of instructors.
"The operating engineers and the iron workers have had a long working relationship in structural steel assembly," said Gary Ganton, apprentice coordinator for Local 324. "It's vital that a raising gang and crane operator work in unison. Having the frame on this site is a great way for our apprentices to develop that working relationship."
Remarkably, this is thought to be the first joint apprenticeship iron erection curriculum in the nation between iron workers and operators. One of the major reasons that it has been slow to catch on is the cost. Ganton figures it took more than $1 million to start this program, including an $800,000 crane, $250,000 in iron, and $100,000 in permanent footings.
The Great Lakes Fabricators and Erectors Association (GLFEA) provided a large grant and made the project possible with the purchase of more than 200 tons of iron. Douglas Steel and Midwest Steel were also major contributors of materials.
The iron frame can be erected as high as six stories, and can be built in four different configurations. Layouts can include different types of iron and a variety of floor systems, for maximum instructional flexibility. "A lot of thought went into the design," Ganton said.
The course curriculum for both trades requires the operators and iron workers to work together on the steel framework for 40 hours. There are usually 10 iron workers and two operators in each class, which extends over the period of a week.
"You can look at books and videos all day, but until you get your feet on the steel, you can't understand what iron work is all about," said Local 25 Apprenticeship Coordinator Doug Levack. "That's what makes this frame so valuable. We've re-written our curriculum to incorporate it. This is the kind of thing that keeps us ahead of the nonunion."
A different raising gang "foreman" among the iron worker apprentices is named each day during the training. On May 8, that title belonged to Dave Nelson.
"It's really valuable, everybody has learned a lot," he said. "You get a lot of hands-on experience, look at the blueprints, and they explain a lot of techniques you'd probably never hear on the job."
Ganton and Levack said input from a number of people made the steel framework possible, including: Jim Walker and Jerry Mendek of the GLFEA; Bill Treharne of Midwest Steel; iron workers Al Friend and Dave Hannah; retired iron workers Gary Monte, Mark Morton and Sonny Wilburn; current iron worker instructor Dallas Campeau, and operators Mike Sherwood and John Hartwell.
Union officers who sat on the committee or approved of the unique training program include Local 324 Business Manager Sam T. Hart and President John Hamilton, and from the Iron Workers, past Business Manager Greg Hicks and current Business Manager Frank Kavanaugh, President Shorty Gleason, V.P. Jim Hamric, and BAs Art Ellul and Bill Sennett.
ENR lists top contractors
Barton Malow of Southfield was the state's largest contractor in the nation (#34), followed by Walbridge-Aldinger of Detroit (#54), Angelo Iafrate of Warren (#61) and Ellis-Donn Construction of Northville (#62). All four contractors moved up on the list from last year's rankings.
Other Michigan's based contractors on the top 400 list include The Christman Co. of Lansing (#122), John Carlo Inc. of Clinton Twp. (#208); Roncelli, Inc. of Sterling Heights (#251); Clark Construction of Lansing (#286), and George W. Auch of Pontiac (#308).
San Francisco-based Bechtel was again the nation's largest contractor.
Some other contractors familiar to the Michigan construction
industry include: The Turner Corp. of Dallas (#5); Washington
Group International of Boise (#8); Hunt Construction Group of
Indianapolis (#19); Perini Corp. of Framingham, Mass. (#23);
The Walsh Group of Chicago (#26); Black and Veatch of Kansas
City, Mo. (#27); The Boldt Co. of Appleton Wis. (#109); and Parsons
Brinckerhoff of New York, (#340).
Michigan lawyer tapped to lead NLRB
Management attorney Robert Battista of the Detroit law firm of Butzel Long was not only nominated by President George Bush for a seat on the board, he would be designated chairman of the five-member panel upon Senate confirmation.
Battista has practiced law since 1965, and has served as a member of the Advisory Committee to the Michigan Employment Relations Commission since 1999. Peter Schaumber, a labor arbitrator in Washington, was also nominated to a seat on the commission.
Battista's term on the NLRB would fill the remainder of a five-year term expiring Aug. 27, 2006. The appointments were generally seen as acceptable by the labor community and are expected to be approved by the Senate
"We consider these appointments to be indicative of a genuine effort by the administration to appoint a fair labor board," Carpenters union President Douglas J. McCarron told the Engineering News Record.
Teamsters President James Hoffa was more cautious. Bush's NLRB nominations "indicate recognition the board should be brought up to full strength through appointees who balance the interests of labor and management," he said.
Mr. Battista said in a published report that he wants to keep the NLRB above political partisanship and solve cases on the basis of facts.
The National Labor Relations Board's impact on the construction industry and the rest of organized labor cannot be understated. The NLRB makes rulings and sets precedent on a myriad of employer-employee, union-management issues, related to strikes, handbilling, proper payment of wages and benefits, and others.