The Building Tradesman Current Issue | Back Issues Index

May 26, 2006

'Buy American' campaign revs up to tout domestic automakers' impact

Reviled man's fountain restored to original glory

Reuniting doesn't feel so good, as Change-to-Win's attempt to link with AFL-CIO fails

Low-key start for National Construction Alliance

Where road workers are present, give 'em a brake

Trades ready to leave dock at luxury boathouse condos

News Briefs

 

'Buy American' campaign revs up to tout domestic automakers' impact

U.S. automakers have a new "lobbying" group that began an ad campaign this month, explaining why buying American-made vehicles helps America.

The "Level Field Institute" was founded by retirees of GM, Ford, Daimler-Chrysler and the companies that supply them. Their first television ads hit the airwaves this month, under the theme that made in America still matters.

"Our campaign seeks to educate consumers and public officials about how what we drive, drives America," said Level Field Institute President Jim Doyle, a former U.S. Department of Commerce official and the son of two former autoworkers.

"Ford and GM each employ more Americans than all foreign automakers combined," he said. "After this year's cuts, they will still employ more Americans. While foreign automakers own more than 40% of the market, they employ only 20% of the workers - and purchase about 20% of U.S. parts. The result? Each foreign auto purchase supports half the jobs buying a Ford, GM or Chrysler does."

The national paid media campaign will consist of TV, print and Internet ads, and published reports say the Big 3 automakers are contributing to their efforts. Domestic automakers have been mulling the use of a similar campaign with their own ads. Level Field's stated goal is to raise awareness about why made in America "still matters to our economy and our future competitiveness - and to give consumers and public officials information that helps them make their own choices."

The Reuters News Agency said "With Asian automakers shipping about $65 billion worth of autos and auto parts to the United States last year and U.S. automakers shedding tens of thousands of jobs, ad campaigns by Toyota and Hyundai touting the number of Americans they employ have hit a raw nerve."

To tout the U.S. perspective, The Level Field Institute came up with numerous facts and figures for U.S. consumers to consider when it comes time to purchase a new car:

  • A Center for Automotive Research study sponsored by foreign automakers found that 8 out of 10 foreign automaker jobs based here are in sales - not assembly lines, research labs and headquarters. "Dealer jobs can pay well, but America cannot compete in a global economy by selling cars," Doyle said. "It must compete by designing and building the next generation of them."
  • In 2004, GM employed about 5 times as many Americans as Toyota. In a year or two, even with a further downsized company, GM could still employ 4 times more Americans.
  • Deciding between a Honda and a Ford? Ford employs about four times more Americans than Honda. GM operates 23 plants to Honda's eight.
  • What's the jobs difference between a Honda and a Hyundai? Honda employs about seven times more Americans than Hyundai, and operates eight U.S. assembly plants to Hyundai's one.
  • The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association reports that the 14 Japanese automakers doing business in the U.S. employ 3,100 workers at 33 R&D facilities nationwide. U.S. automakers invest more in research and development than any other U.S. industry. Approximately 65,000 workers in more than 200 facilities and dozens of companies across Michigan perform $10 billion in new research each year.
  • If Ford, GM and Chrysler shrink to about 320,000 workers, and drop to the market share projected by Auto News last June, they will still employ about twice as many workers on a per car basis as Toyota. (About 33 cars per employee.) You can argue that some of this is due to comparative efficiencies, but a great deal of it has to do with where a company houses its researchers, its accountants, its engineers and designers.
  • One way to judge degrees of "made in America" is to look at "domestic content" - the percentage of a car's parts that were produced in the U.S. and Canada. Automakers report this information to the U.S. government each year. Domestic content varies from brand to brand and vehicle to vehicle.

Level Field said it believes a more reliable way to judge how much an automaker contributes to the U.S. economy is to look at how many jobs it produces here. Since so many Americans work for parts suppliers (about 2 to 3 times as many as work for the automakers themselves), domestic content can have a big impact on jobs.

For 2004 cars, domestic automakers' (DCX's Chrysler division, Ford and GM) automobiles contained 80 percent domestic content, while Japanese, European and Korean carmakers used 31, 5 and 3 percent domestic content, respectively.

Data for 2005 remains incomplete. However, the group pointed to a recent Detroit Free Press article found that the average content of GM, Ford and Chrysler were 81, 82 and 75 percent, respectively. Toyota, Honda and Nissan automobiles contained, on average, 49.9, 58.5 and 48 percent domestic content.

Level Field's national media campaign said it is responding to new PR and lobbying campaigns by foreign automakers. "While Level Field welcomes foreign investment by foreign automakers," Doyle said, "it believes those who care about how automakers contribute to our economy should have all the facts. With one foreign company spending approximately $18 million on print and TV ads on its first U.S. assembly plant, many Americans are not aware that GM, Ford and Chrysler operate more than 150 major facilities nationwide."

Doyle continued: "We believe that many reporters and public officials have stopped focusing on these issues because they believe that consumers do not care, that losing manufacturing jobs is inevitable, and because they simply don't appreciate the scale of jobs at stake.

"The fact that foreign automakers are spending so much energy promoting their job footprints suggests that consumers do care. And so does today's interest in hybrids. For millions of Americans, buying a car is clearly a principled decision.

"Level Field does not expect every consumer to respond to our campaign, and we believe the answer to 'What is an American automobile?' is up to you. But we believe that many consumers care - and they will care more if they have all the facts."


TOP

Reviled man's fountain restored to original glory

By Marty Mulcahy
Managing Editor

Upon his death in 1910, Detroiter James Scott bequeathed $500,000 to his hometown for the construction of a fountain in his honor on Belle Isle, a city-owned park in the Detroit River.

It's safe to say that Scott himself was the only person who felt he deserved to be memorialized by a fountain. Scott had the reputation among his contemporaries as a loafer and a gambler. One story said he spent $20,000 on a sham house that looked elegant from one view, but had a high wall on one side to block the view of a neighbor he didn't like. But he was wealthy from inherited money - and when Scott died, he decided to have the last laugh on Detroit by leaving city fathers the money to build a memorial to himself: a man few liked or admired.

The city eventually used Scott's money to have a majestic, artistic fountain built, and it was completed in 1925. Over the years, the fountain has had a minimum of maintenance, but due to good work by the original craftsmen, the fountain still looks great today. Now, work is wrapping up on the first significant revitalization of the fountain's masonry.

"The fountain is in really good shape," said project foreman Tim Levely of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1. "God knows how many millions of gallons of water have flowed over this fountain, and it looks like the original joints are still in place. It has held up really well."

Masonry contractor Chezcore is acting as general contractor on the project, which began earlier this spring. A crew of six masons from Chezcore have been grinding out and replacing every white mortar seam on the fountain They're also installing a new urethane deck coat, welding and patching a lead liner inside the fountain's bowl, using some urethane caulk here and there, performing some surface cleaning, as well as taking the grime and oxidation off of several decorative brass water-spouting turtles.

Local 58 electricians from Expo Electric and plumbers from John E. Green are also revamping the fountain's three pumps and associated wiring. MBM Fabricators is performing work on the fountain's lead liners.

The outer pool has a diameter of 112 feet, and is lined with Pewabic Pottery tiles. The fountain probably has its share of leaks, Levely said, although the water has been shut off during the repair process. Work is expected to wrap up before Memorial Day.

According to the Friends of Belle Isle, the fountain is constructed of Vermont White Marble and has 109 water outlets in the shape of human heads, dolphins, turtles, lionesses and animal horns. Only students of antiquity can figure out the meaning of some of the figures represented on the fountain.

"I don't know what half this stuff means, but the stone work is fantastic," Levely said.

Some art work is in the form of statues, others are carved into panels on the fountain. A male mermaid ties off a ship's anchor. Angels ride on dolphins. There is a ram with wings. There are figures of pioneers, loggers and Native Americans.

The masons said there isn't anything particularly difficult about repairing the fountain. The mortar joints are mostly easy to access and everything is out in the open. The only problem: the fountain was built for the flow of water, not trades people, so there aren't any stairs to make it easier to go from place to place.

Just as water has softened the edges of the fountain, it took a little more than a decade before the memory of the deceased Scott softened, and the city's leaders decided to stop looking at the gift horse in the mouth. The city decided to go ahead with the fountain, as well as a life-sized statue of Scott seated nearby. As recorded in the Detroit News, then-Mayor Philip Breitmeyer said, "I don't believe the city has a right to insult any of her citizens by refusing a gift for such a good cause."

The masons renovating the fountain expressed overwhelming admiration for the fountain, and its works of art. "Isn't this stuff great?" asked mason Mike Hamblin. "It's a shame there isn't more of this around, I really enjoy working on it."

Following is a description of the Scott Fountain, from the Free Press' Detroit Almanac:

"Landowner James Scott left $500,000 to the City of Detroit to build a lavish fountain on Belle Isle featuring a life-sized statue of himself. This was in 1910, when $500,000 would buy more than a utility infielder. But it would be a while before the fountain spit water. Scott was so reviled that many prominent citizens campaigned against taking the money. A boor, a bore and a bully, Scott was known for telling long, loud and profane tales of his days as a roving gambler. The ever-so-distinguished J.L. Hudson growled that the fountain "would be a monument to nastiness and filthy stories. Mr. Scott never did anything for Detroit in his lifetime." The debate raged for years until the fountain was finally dedicated on May 30, 1925."

JAMES SCOTT's life-size statue seemingly lords over his namesake fountain on Belle Isle in Detroit. Scott bequeathed the money to erect the fountain, but he was such a reviled figure in his day that it took 15 years after his death in 1910 to approve and complete the structure. More than 80 years after it was completed, the fountain is undergoing its first significant restoration.

TUCK-POINTING A JOINT in the Scott Fountain marble is Mike Hamblin of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1, working for Chezcore.


TOP

Reuniting doesn't feel so good, as Change-to-Win's attempt to link with AFL-CIO fails

The nation's old and new labor federations aren't playing nice.

The fledgling Change-to-Win (CTW) Federation proposed a plan last month to develop a link with the 51-year-old AFL-CIO, in an effort to find ways for the two federations "to work together at the local level on issues of common concern."

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney mocked the idea, saying in an April 19 letter that the "last thing we can imagine doing - less than a year (after CTW unions) voluntarily left the federation - is investing time and resources into 'co-founding' yet a third labor federation, with all the bureaucracy, expense, and additional staffing that would entail."

He told he New York Times that there's "obvious irony" in the idea to "essentially recreate the AFL-CIO as it existed prior to" the formation of the Change-to-Win Coalition.

That prompted a return salvo from Change-to-Win federation chair Anna Burger, who said she wanted to correct Sweeney's public "mischaracterizations" of the CTW proposal, called the "Alliance for Worker Justice."

The CTW proposal, she wrote, would not require the "creation of a bureaucracy, staff, and new resources," but would "enable us to bring the best of all our organizations together at critical times. It also recognizes our differences and would enable us to implement our different strategies." Specific issues could include working conditions, health and safety and political action.

Lane Windham, a spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO, then told the Associated Press that the breakaway unions "could stay involved by staying in the AFL-CIO."

This disagreement is an extension of the lack of a meeting of the minds that drove the Change-to-Win unions away from the AFL-CIO last year, which then lost about one-third of its membership. The Service Employees International Union, Teamsters and United Food and Commercial Workers Union broke away from the AFL-CIO on July 25, 2005. They were joined by the Carpenters, Laborers, Farm Workers and UNITE-HERE (Needletrades and Restaurant employees).

Change-to-Win unions protested the direction of the AFL-CIO, especially its inability to grow America's unions and the spending of dues money on political action, rather than organizing, among other grievances. "It's a new era. This is not the (19)30s any more. Companies, not countries, run the economy," said Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern when the break was made.

The AFL-CIO's plan to keep unions on the same page is through the use of "solidarity charters," which allows local participation by the disaffiliated unions with AFL-CIO unions on issues of mutual interest.

Despite the rebuff by Sweeney, Burger said the CTW will continue to deal "in good faith" with the AFL-CIO "where it is possible… and we will not allow perceived institutional rivalries to divert us from that course."

TOP

Low-key start for National Construction Alliance

Until this month, there hasn't been much news about the formation of the new National Construction Alliance, which was announced in February.

Now there are now some answers, and still a few questions, about the structure of the alliance. The NCA opened for business with little fanfare on May 1, and the founding members include the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Laborers International Union and the Operating Engineers. Three other unions may participate, but in an indirect manner.

Established in 1908, the Building Trades Department had operated as the umbrella group for all construction craft unions - until recent years. The Carpenters were the first to bolt from the department in a dispute over how their dues money was being spent on organizing.

Presidents of the Operating Engineers and the Laborers, who have led the latest break, said in a statement at the time that "we must - and we will - pursue a course of action that best serves the interests of our members, our local unions and the construction industry in which we work."

Laborers President Terrence O'Sullivan and Operating Engineers President Vincent Giblin said in a joint statement that "persistent and lengthy attempts to reform the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department were not successful." They said needed reforms included changing the Building Trades Department's governance structure and changing jurisdictional rule, because they no longer reflect today's construction industry and "hurt union contractors."

Originally, the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, the Iron Workers and the Teamsters were going to join the alliance (while staying affiliated with the Building Trades Department), but the BAC and Iron Workers are expected to participate "indirectly, instead of directly" with the NCA according to a source familiar with developments as quoted by the Construction Labor Report.

The Construction Labor Report also said:

  • The Heavy and Highway Alliance, which already includes road-building unions, would be merged into the National Construction Alliance.
  • The Bricklayers and Iron Workers are expected to pay fees to the NCA to continue participating in the heavy and highway project agreement.
  • The Teamsters returned to the Building Trades Department in April under a Solidarity Charter arrangement, which allows the union to participate in project labor agreements, but limits voting rights within the department.
  • Building trades councils in Michigan and other states report that to date, there have been no changes in their relationships with the local NCA unions.

    TOP

    Where road workers are present, give 'em a brake

    Michigan's Give 'em a Brake Safety Coalition kicked-off its annual highway work safety campaign on May 11 at a news conference held at the State Capitol, urging motorists to pay close attention to a new highway work zone speed limit sign.

    The new sign, "Where Workers Present 45," means that motorists must reduce their speed to 45 miles per hour where workers are present in highway work zones. Last year, motorists were required to reduce their speed to 45 in highway work zones - even where workers were not present.

    This new speed limit change is expected to improve traffic flow and enhance safety in work zones.

    "We need to give all road workers a safe work environment," said Kirk Steudle, director, Michigan Department of Transportation. "Highway road workers deserve all motorists' utmost devotion to safety. If we just give road workers some room to do their job, they'll be finished much more quickly. And, more important, they'll be able to go home to their families every night."

    Approximately two dozen MDOT volunteers wearing T-shirts, each with a portion of the new message, brought the sign to life by standing next to each other in strategic arrangement to spell out the message: Where Workers Present 45. A new radio spot and bumper sticker campaign also were announced.

    Throughout the 2006 construction season, motorists will be advised to "Look, Locate, and Lower" when traveling through work zones.

    Specifically, when approaching "Road Work Ahead" signs, motorists should maintain the posted speed limit, look for workers, locate workers, and lower speed to 45 where workers are present.

    Michigan's Give 'em a Brake Safety Coalition, representing union road workers, law enforcement, road builders and transportation interests, hopes that establishment and use of the new requirements will provide consistent application of speed limits in all work zones in order to protect highway workers and motorists.

    "We believe the new speed rules, which were established by the Michigan Department of Transportation, labor organizations and the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association, will provide consistent application of speed limits in all work zones to promote the safety and protection of workers and motorists," said Dennis Gillow, infrastructure director, Operating Engineers Local 324.

    Fines for motorists who are caught speeding in construction zones are doubled. A motorist who injures or kills a road worker faces up to 10 years in jail and $7,500 in fines.

    In 2005, there were 20 fatalities, with 1,811 injuries and 6,569 work zone crashes in Michigan, a slight improvement over 2004 data.

    Michigan's Give 'em a Brake Safety Coalition members include: Michigan Department of Transportation; Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association; Michigan Laborers' District Council; Michigan Building & Construction Trades Council; Operating Engineers Local 324; and, the Michigan Highway Traffic Safety Alliance.

    TOP

    Trades ready to leave dock at luxury boathouse condos

    By Marty Mulcahy
    Managing Editor

    BAY CITY - Another major development along the Saginaw River is keeping the building trades busy.

    The $16 million Boathouse Condominiums are going up at the north end of Water Street, a development that will add 37 condominiums in prime real estate to the city's housing stock.

    The Boathouse Condominiums is being built by a group of 23 investors, led by William Gregory and Paul Rowley, who also successfully converted the old Jennison hardware building further south on Water Street into a condo complex. Two years ago, the nearby Doubletree Hotel was completed on the riverfront.

    "Our primary motivation to improve downtown Bay City is to get more feet on the street," said Rowley. "After we completed Jennison Place, we felt we had a pretty good grip on the community."

    The 165,000 square-foot building will have condos on five levels with ground floor parking. The work, led by general contractor Gregory Construction, is expected to be complete next month. Numerous high-end features and fixtures are being built into the condos, which are priced from $384,000 to $724,000. The development is 60 percent sold.

    The building was constructed about 1921, with an addition built in 1935. Over the years it had been used as a marina and for boat sales, and as a warehouse. At one time a railroad siding ran right through the building, which was used to drop off steel shipments. The building also had a 78-foot bridge crane that moved 10,000-lb. boats.

    "Knowledge and technology in the 1920s and 30s about inertia and building loads are not what we have today," Gregory said. "And with that crane, there were obviously forces exerted on the building, so we had to make some corrections in the structure. But it is a damn-well built building. And the trades people have done very well."

    INSTALLING A DISHWASHER at one of the Boathouse condominium units are Tom Hindman and Jack Ferchau of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 85.

    THE BOATHOUSE condominiums on the Saginaw River.

    TOP.

    News Briefs

    Granholm's Jobs Today OK'd
    LANSING - The Michigan House and Senate overwhelmingly approved Gov. Jennifer Granholm's "Local Jobs Today" plan on May 10. It's a three-bill package that will pave the way for the creation of more than 7,000 jobs and $400 million in accelerated road and transit projects.

    "This plan will put people to work, improve local roads, and strengthen economic development efforts in communities across Michigan," Granholm said. "I appreciate the strong bipartisan support this plan received in the Legislature."

    The Local Jobs Today plan provides grants and loans to cities, counties, and local transit agencies, enabling them to take advantage of available federal transportation funding and create more than 7,100 jobs in Michigan in 2006 and 2007.

    Accelerated projects include environmental cleanup sites, nursing home renovations, sewer upgrades and transportation projects.

    The Local Jobs Today plan was first announced by the Governor and the original bill sponsor, Senator Mike Prusi (D-Ishpeming) in March as an effort to improve local road and transit facilities.

    CWA spotlights pro-union Cingular
    The Communication Workers of America (CWA) has launched an online and radio advertising campaign, urging the public to switch their wireless phone service to Cingular, the only unionized wireless service.

    Cingular Wireless agreed to remain neutral in its employees' efforts to form a union. As a result, a year after its merger with AT&T, some 17,000 former AT&T employees have joined CWA. Overall, the union represents some 40,000 Cingular employees who work under union contracts providing regular wage increases, good benefits and a voice on the job.
    "Cingular Wireless respects workers' rights to organize and bargain collectively," said CWA President Larry Cohen. "Before the merger with Cingular, 15,000 service reps, technicians and retail store employees at AT&T Wireless faced total management opposition when they joined our union.

    "But once the merger with Cingular was announced, CWA locals around the country reached out, explained what neutrality would mean and began committee-building inside. We negotiated neutrality and card-check. Even before that, Cingular management told the former AT&T managers that neutrality at Cingular would be enforced."

    Cingular's Don't Cell Out ads are running nationwide, urging consumers to make the switch to "the company that cares about workers' rights." The AFL-CIO said union members receive a 5 percent discount when they switch.


     

    TOP

    The Building Tradesman Current Issue | Back Issues Index