November 24, 2006
time to try a little tenderness towards workers
union vote fuels election results in Michigan
Organized labor helps
itself by electing friends
SVSU readies for
bigger Pioneer hall
boycott still in place
Duchess of York
leaves good impression on plasterers
brewing on free trade pacts
message: time to try a little tenderness towards workers
By Geoffrey D. Garin
The economy and the state of working America certainly was
not the only issue that drove the outcome of the 2006 elections,
but economic issues certainly were an important part of the story
behind the political earthquake that took place Nov. 7.
Politicians from either party who ignore the voters' message
about the need for economic change will do so at their own peril.
In exit polls taken across America on Election Day, respondents
were asked about the importance of various issues and considerations
in determining their votes. Among those who voted Democratic,
three issue stood as the keys, all at a roughly equal level of
importance: Iraq, corruption and scandals in Washington and the
Among the total electorate, 39 percent of voters said the
economy was an extremely important issue for them in this election.
These voters broke solidly for the Democrats - voting for a Democratic
candidate in House races by a margin of 59 percent to 39 percent.
Similarly, 41 percent described the issue of corruption and
ethics to be extremely important - with these voters also breaking
59 percent to 39 percent for the Democrats. Thirty-five percent
of voters said the war in Iraq was extremely important in shaping
their vote; this group split 60 percent to 40 percent in favor
of the Democrats.
President Bush and many Republicans expected the economy to
be a strong issue for the GOP this year. Many of the so-called
pundits agreed with them - reasoning that the improvement in
the stock market and the relatively low unemployment rate would
drive voters to the Republican column. Of course, working Americans
who experience the reality of economic life today had a different
point of view - and acted upon it in the election.
Polling conducted before the election shows the employment
rate is not a good measure of Americans' real confidence in the
economy. A significant majority believe (rightly so) that the
new jobs we are adding to the economy are not as good as the
jobs we have lost, both in terms of pay and benefits. In polling
conducted for the AFL-CIO, most Americans say that even if you
get a good education and are willing to work hard, it is hard
to find a job in today's economy that is both secure and good
The key number from the national exit polling is that only
31 percent of voters feel they and their families are able to
get ahead financially in the current economy; the rest report
that they are just keeping up or falling behind. The Republicans
won handily in the election among the minority who feel they
are doing well economically, but they suffered major losses among
the majority of voters who don't feel they are benefiting from
The economic concerns that played out in this election were
not just about the conditions working families face today, but
also about real worries regarding what the economic future holds
for the next generation. Just one in three voters said they expect
life to be better for the next generation, while 40 percent said
things for the next generation will be worse than they are today.
Those who worry that the next generation will be worse off
voted decisively for change on Election Day - siding with the
Democrats over the Republicans by 66 percent to 32 percent.
2006 was a record-setting year for the AFL-CIO in terms of mobilizing
members to vote for change, with 74 percent of all members saying
they voted for the Democratic congressional candidate in their
As with the electorate as whole, the economy was not the only
issue for union members, but clearly it was a very major factor.
Overwhelmingly, union members want the new Congress to recognize
the economic challenges of working families and take action on
a working families' agenda-including priorities such as protecting
workers' wages and benefits in cases of corporate bankruptcies,
requiring Medicare to negotiate for lower drug prices, reforming
trade agreements to protect workers' rights, raising the minimum
wage and expanding health coverage. These economic priorities
of union members are shared and supported by voters across the
Americans were saying something important about the economy
when they voted on Tuesday. Their message about the need for
real economic change played a critical role in the outcome of
the election. The people they elected shouldn't forget it, and
the union movement will help lead the way to make sure they remember.
(The author is the president of Peter D. Hart Research
Associates, one of the nation's leading survey research firms.
Hart Research Associates conducted election night survey among
union members for the AFL-CIO).
union vote fuels election results in Michigan
Union members in political "battleground" states
rode the nationwide current toward Democrats in Congress and
away from Republicans, a poll conducted on Election Night, Nov.
And in Michigan, union support of Democrats at the top of
the ticket became a tidal wave. Citing an EPIC-MRA poll, Michigan
AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney said a whopping 82 percent of
union members in Michigan voted to re-elect Michigan Gov. Jennifer
Granholm, and 81 percent voted to re-elect Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
Gaffney said the poll shows union members made up 22 percent
of Michigan's workforce, but represented 28 percent of the total
statewide vote on Nov. 7. And that's not even counting union
family members, which could have pushed union influence on the
vote in Michigan over 40 percent.
"Those are extraordinary numbers," Gaffney said.
"But they didn't just happen. A lot of hard work by union
members across Michigan made those numbers possible."
The nationwide polling numbers show similar strong numbers
for union voting. The poll of 810 union members, by Peter Hart
Associates, found that union members in battleground states voted
for House Democrats by a 74-26 percent margin. Among all voters
in battleground states, the win rate was 55-45 percent for House
Democrats. For Senate candidates, union members supported Dems
by a similar 73-27 percent.
The trend of union members supporting Democratic candidates
has been growing: the survey found that 70 percent of union members
supported House Dems in 2004, preceded by 68 percent in 2002.
The top concerns of those votes: the war in Iraq (41 percent),
economy and jobs (32 percent), health care/ prescription drugs
(26 percent) and Social Security/ retirement (26 percent). Members
who voted for Democrats for House seats said their biggest concern
about the GOP Congress was they care "more about political
power than doing right" (37 percent).
Overall, union households accounted for roughly one out of
four U.S. voters.
"We're very proud and excited to see from the numbers
that union voters drove a wave that elected a pro-working families
majority in the House and in the Senate," said AFL-CIO President
John Sweeney. "The leaders in control of Congress neglected
the needs of working Americans while catering to corrupt special
interests, and working people said 'no more'."
labor helps itself by electing friends
By Marty Mulcahy
LANSING - Organized labor in Michigan was a major winner
following the Nov. 7 general election.
In the past several years, the threat of Gov. Jennifer Granholm's
veto pen has been the only counter-balance to anti-worker and
anti-union legislation. Now, with the state House in Democratic
control, labor and the Dems they supported can go on offense
in support of workers.
"I fully expect the governor and the Michigan House will
be more helpful to Michigan's working families," said state
AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney. "We have far more hope and
confidence now than we did before Nov. 7."
- Labor-friendly Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) was voted back
into office by a margin of 56-42 percent, beating billionaire
businessman Dick DeVos, who spent about $50 million of his own
- U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) retained her seat for six more
years, trouncing Republican challenger Mike Bouchard by 57-41
- In the Michigan House, Democrats picked up six seats, and
now enjoy a 58-52 margin, which means they will control that
legislative body for the first time since 1997. The GOP fared
better in the Michigan Senate, where they lost one seat but still
retain control with a 21-17 margin.
Tim Hughes, legislative director for the Granholm Administration,
said the governor's record of standing up for Michigan's working
families paid off at the polls.
"The labor vote was very helpful," he said. "I
think union members and a lot of other Michigan voters know what
kind of trade policies that have come out of Washington, and
they voted for their own economic self-interest."
Hughes said in dealing with the Republican House and Senate the
last four years, "the governor may have stopped more bad
legislation than any governor in the country. Republicans would
send all kinds of bad stuff to her desk that they know she would
veto, just so that they could say she was standing in the way
of progress. That won't happen any more."
Some issues the governor would like to promulgate, Hughes
said include expanding health care coverage for the uninsured,
allowing no-reason absentee ballot voting and making it easier
for small business owners to back 401-k plans.
Gaffney said his wish list includes improving unemployment
and workers' compensation benefits for workers - but that's tempered
with the fact that the state may be facing another $500 million
shortfall in its budget.
In Congress, labor-backed candidates in Michigan's congressional
delegation didn't make any gains, but the six Democratic members
of the delegation were returned to office. With Democrats winning
control of the U.S. House, several Dems from Michigan are in
line to take over as chairs of important committees and subcommittees.
In the House, Rep. John Dingell will chair the Energy and
Commerce Committee. Rep. John Conyers will be chairman of the
House Judiciary Committee. Rep. Bart Stupak will run the Oversight
and Investigations Subcommittee. Rep. Sander Levin Levin could
chair the House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee and
Rep. Dale Kildee could be in line to a lead a subcommittee on
In the U.S. Senate, Michigan's Carl Levin will become chairman
of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Stabenow will retain
her seat on the Senate Budget Committee.
Races for the state Board of Education and university Board
of Education seats were a sweep for Dems:
Reginald Turner, Jr. and Casandra Ulbrich were elected to
the State Board of Education.
Faylene Owen and George Perles were elected to the Michigan
State University Board of Trustees.
Katherine White and Julia Darlow were elected to the University
of Michigan Board of Regents.
Eugene Driker and Debbie Dingell were elected to the Wayne
State University Board of Governors.
readies for bigger Pioneer hall
By Marty Mulcahy
SAGINAW - Saginaw Valley State University is sponsoring
a $16 million project to make Pioneer Hall bigger, better - and
Construction manager Spence Brothers and the building trades
are renovating existing space at the 30-year-old hall, and adding
about 28,000 square feet on two stories on the south side of
the building to accommodate the needs of the university's growing
mechanical and electrical engineering programs.
The project began last spring and is expected to be complete
next August. The building was cleared out to accommodate the
renovation work, and students and teaching labs have relocated
to another part of the campus.
"Everyone is excited about the new classrooms, as well
as foundry, bio-fuels, engine dyno, and automotive performance
labs that are being added to Pioneer Hall," said Robert
Tuttle, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. "When
all is said and done, the inconvenience of the move will be more
than worth it."
The first floor of the renovated Pioneer Hall will hold engineering
laboratory space. Class rooms, faculty offices, the Dean's suite,
and computer labs will be housed on the second floor.
Bob Saunders, project superintendent for Spence Brothers,
said about 70 trades workers are on the job. "The project
has gone well," he said. ""We've had tremendous
contractors and very good trades people out here."
The renovated Pioneer Hall is being built with a number of
earth-friendly features, which were highlighted recently by the
Bay City Times since the building is the first in the Bay area
to seek LEED certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy
and Environmental Design, and is a standard which offers varying
levels of certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. The
building will include waterless urinals, a system that diverts
rainwater to a nearby wetland area, the use of recycled aggregate
in the building's concrete blocks, more use of task lighting
instead of general lighting, and steel beams that have holes
in them to save on the use of steel, among numerous other features.
Saunders said the LEED-related construction has added complexity
to the job - but only because of the added paperwork that has
been necessary. The impact of building green on the construction
process has been minimal, he said.
More challenging, he said, has been to work in a major construction
project "without impacting the college campus, which is
functioning all around us."
A $16 MILLION project will add 28,000 square
feet to Saginaw Valley State University's Pioneer hall.
PUTTING A TORCH to a hot water line at the
expanded Pioneer Hall at Saginaw Valley State University is Charlie
Cline of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 85.
Kroger boycott still in place
(In our last issue, based on a Teamsters press release
and our subsequent conversation with a media representative from
the union, we reported that the union boycott of Kroger stores
had been called off. Not so fast, said Teamsters Local 337 Business
Agent and Trustee Bob Barnes, who issued the following clarification
of the union's stance).
We want to thank Michigan families and shoppers for their tremendous
support of Teamsters Local 337's "Don't Shop Kroger"
Thanks to your help, the families of Michigan's Teamsters
who were laid off from Kroger's Livonia warehouse last July will
be able to enjoy this holiday season. We also thank the Detroit
community, religious and labor organizations that fought side
by side with us to keep Kroger from shipping these jobs and potentially
hundreds of others from this warehouse out of state.
We also thank Gov. Jennifer Granholm for her incredible support.
She is a true friend to working families.
When the layoffs were announced, Local 337 urged Kroger to
consider alternatives to outsourcing. Kroger has now acted on
a strategy we suggested, to assign the servicing from several
stores in Toledo to the Livonia facility. Livonia is one of the
most efficient warehouses in the Kroger operation, and this will
be a good move for both the company and the workers.
However, Kroger has not met with us directly about the long-term
prospects for Livonia workers. We have learned that the workers
who were laid off will keep their jobs at least until February
2007. But we have not received any assurances from Kroger about
what will happen to those jobs after February, nor about the
remaining 320 warehouse jobs.
Like most of us, these hardworking men and women have ongoing
financial obligations. After years of dedication to Kroger, they
deserve better than being left in limbo about their financial
As a sign of good faith, we are not expanding the "Don't
Shop" campaign. However, unless and until Kroger gives a
direct assurance to this union and its members that its long-range
plan protects Livonia jobs, our coalition is not rescinding its
call for Michigan shoppers to stop buying at Kroger.
of York leaves good impression on plasterers
By Marty Mulcahy
Two Plasterers Local 67 members enjoyed a unique opportunity
to welcome a duchess to Detroit.
Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, who was married to Prince
Andrew and has two daughters who are fifth and sixth in line
of succession to the British throne, visited Children's Hospital
of Michigan on Nov. 14 in her role as global ambassador for World's
Children's Day at McDonald's.
At the hospital, Ferguson visited children and Ronald McDonald
House families, read them a story and then joined about 20 kids
in making plaster molds of their hands. Ferguson's plaster hands
impression will be displayed at the local Ronald McDonald House.
"Nothing is more important than helping children of the
world who are in need," the Duchess of York said. "Through
my role as global ambassador for World Children's Day, I hope
to be a voice for children and families whose needs and critical
issues may not otherwise be known."
Other World Children's Day stops for the duchess include Tokyo,
Beijing, Seattle, Dallas, Boston and New York. Each November,
more than 100 countries participate in World Children's Day by
hosting fundraising events and activities in McDonald's restaurants,
raising $75 million in the program's first four years.
Using materials donated by Russell Plastering, Plasterers
Local 67 Business Manager Jack McCool and journeyman Chris Richardson
were asked to prepare the hand molds for the children and Ferguson
during her visit. Intermingled with small children and photographers
and watched by a hospital audience, McCool and Richardson deftly
mixed plaster to the proper consistency and poured them into
molds for the kids and the duchess to make hand prints.
"She was very nice, she leaned over and said to me, 'thanks
for doing this,' " McCool said. "I was glad to help
Richardson, a native Brit, had only a slightly more involved
interaction with the duchess, who was surrounded by a whirlwind
of activity. The British military veteran wore his Royal Artillery
shirt, which drew a smile from Ferguson. Richardson also told
her that he grew up near her when she lived in Windsor (about
20 miles from London), and that his dad and her father used to
play cricket together.
"I think she got a kick out of my being from her hometown,"
said Richardson, who became a U.S. citizen in 1989. He said growing
up, he only had rare glimpses at the royal family.
"It strikes me as funny that years ago, in England, we'd
have to bow and all that in the presence of royalty," Richardson
said. "Here it's a lot less formal. They asked us to address
her as 'duchess,' but that was about it for formality. All in
all, she was a nice lady; very agreeable. When she came in the
room, it was all about the children."
PLASTERERS LOCAL 67 member Chris Richardson
helps Duchess Sarah Ferguson and some kids at Children's Hospital
of Michigan with plaster hand prints. Local 67 Business Manager
Jack McCool (light blue shirt, at left) helps out.
fight brewing on free trade pacts
WASHINGTON (PAI) - The incoming 110th Congress, with
a Democratic-run House and a 51-49 Democratic edge in the Senate,
will see "a major fight" on trade, three newly elected
lawmakers predict. And the fight will spread to the Senate, which
has been historically more pro-"free trade" than the
House, a new senator adds.
"The White House can't come to us with a prototype fast
track bill without labor and environmental standards," said
Senator-elect Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) "They understand that
if they do so, they will lose."
In the roll-call on the last trade pact, the job-losing Central
American Free Trade Agreement, 15 Democrats deserted workers
and voted for it, giving GOP President George W. Bush a narrow
win. It lacked enforceable labor protections. Bush is pushing
similar no-labor-rights free trade pacts with Peru, Vietnam and
"The first battle will be to halt fast track," which
expires in June, United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard added.
Fast track lets GOP President George W. Bush bargain trade treaties
and send them to Congress for up-or-down votes, without change.
The Journal pointed out that the bloc of Democrats who support
free trade agreements like NAFTA and CAFTA has diminished over
the years with the American job losses that have taken place.
Since 1999, according to the AFL-CIO Industrial Unions Council,
the U.S. has lost 3 million factory jobs, half of them unionized.
In addition, the U.S. trade deficit is headed towards a record
$800 billion this year.
Greetings go out to Iron Workers Local 8
The Building Tradesman sends out a hearty to welcome members
of Iron Workers Local 8, who are subscribing to the paper for
the first time.
Local 8 is based in Milwaukee, but has an office in Marquette.
Active members who live in the Upper Peninsula will receive the
The Building Tradesman's subscriber base continues at about
48,500, making it the largest labor newspaper in Michigan and
one of the largest in the nation.
New MUST website: www.mustonline.org
Thousands of building trades workers across Michigan work on
MUST job sites, and use the MUST web site for safety information
Please note: MUST - or Management and Unions Working Together
- has a new URL to access their site on the Internet: www. mustonline.org.
Please put the new site in your bookmark or favorites.
Walbridge wins top safety award
DETROIT - Walbridge-Aldinger, a Detroit-based worldwide full-service
construction company, earned the recognition of America's Safest
Company for 2006 by Occupational Hazards magazine.
The magazine named 10 new companies to its list of America's
Safest Companies. Walbridge - usually listed every year as the
first or second largest general contracting company in the state
- was the only honoree from Michigan.
Walbridge Assistant Vice President-Safety Steve Clabaugh accepted
the award on behalf of the company. "We are dedicated to
providing employees and other valued stakeholders with a safe
and healthy working environment on every project, at every level,"
he said. "Walbridge-Aldinger's program has the total commitment
of all management levels and receives top priority in its application."
Since Occupational Hazards began its safety recognition program
in 2002, editors found that comprehensive training, employee
and involvement and safety as a day-to-day integral part of operations
each play a significant role in the companies that received the
America's Safest Company award.
"America's safest companies serve as inspiration to employers
across the country that sometimes lack a determined commitment
to occupational safety and health," said Occupational Hazards
Chief Editor Sandy Smith. "Whether they have 10,000 employees
or 100 employees, the 2006 ASC companies have demonstrated a
commitment to safety and believe that a strong commitment to
safety reflects positively on their bottom line."
Occupational Hazards noted that award winners understand the
importance of safety committees, training, job-hazard analyses,
audits, stop-work authority, employee involvement and management
visibility. They also get the symbiotic relationship between
safety and productivity, profits, morale and employee retention.