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October 12, 2001

911 fund established to aid NY construction industry workers

Message to Michigan voters: Democrats support gun rights, too

Trades wrap up another outage at Mead paper mill

New hotel on the radar screen

Okies OK right to work…

Dedication scheduled for Michigan Vietnam Monument



911 fund established to aid NY construction industry workers

Building trades workers and their families have an opportunity to aid
both the current and long-term needs of construction industry workers and their families who were affected by the Sept. 11 disasters in New York and Washington, D.C.

The Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan (CFSM) will administer the fund. Initially monies designated for trade and construction worker victims will be granted by the CFSM to the "September 11th Fund" held at The New York Community Trust, the community foundation serving metropolitan New York.

Workers are asked to donate a minimum amount equal to one hour of wages. A special bulletin was also sent to presidents and CEOs of Michigan building trades and construction industry companies on Sept. 25 to invite them and their employees to participate in the Michigan Building Trades and Construction Industry 911 Relief Fund.

The co-advisors of the Michigan Building Trades and Construction Industry 911 Relief Fund are John Rakolta, Jr., President and CEO of Walbridge-Aldinger Co., and Patrick J. Devlin, Secretary-Treasurer, Greater Detroit Building and Construction Trades Council. Rakolta and Devlin will serve with a 10-member committee representing labor and management from the Michigan building trades and construction industry.

"We have spoken with New York construction and trade representatives who indicated to us that approximately 150 construction and trades people were killed or injured as a result of the World Trade Center disaster," said Devlin. "This fund is a symbol of our empathy with our counterparts as well as what we feel is our profound patriotic duty to assist victims and victim families to move forward with their lives."

Contributions are tax-deductible and workers can complete a payroll deduction form for the October 2001 payroll period, said Rakolta.

"We are encouraging contractors to match funds with their employee contributions," Rakolta said. "It is our goal to raise a minimum of $1 million to support this effort." Rakolta explained that the fund is a collaborative effort of construction industry labor and management because both workers and management people were killed or injured in the September 11 disasters.

Contributions from the general public will be accepted; checks should be made payable to the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan with a notation on the memo section of the check that the contribution is for the Michigan Building Trades and Construction Industry 911 Relief Fund.

Send contributions to Department 237701, Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan, PO BOX 67000, Detroit, MI, 48267-2377.


Message to Michigan voters: Democrats support gun rights, too

By John Hamilton,
President, Detroit Building Trades Council

I was recently elected as an officer in the State Democratic Party and am committed to promoting the issues commonly held by our party - better and more durable roads, improved public education and access to health care for all of our citizens in this state.

One misconception that I strongly feel needs to be changed, however, is the belief that the Democratic Party is unilaterally on record in opposition to gun ownership.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. Some of the most prominent Democratic lawmakers in the state, including Congressman John Dingell and Michigan Senate Minority Leader John Cherry, are active hunters and gun rights advocates.

The vast majority of Michigan Democrats want nothing to do with limiting or taking away our Second Amendment rights.

In an effort to dispel the misconception that Democrats are anti-gun and anti-hunting, a hunting and fishing caucus has been established. We are committed:

  • To encourage the Democratic party to continue protecting Second Amendment Rights and to expand the rights of those who enjoy hunting, fishing and shooting.
  • To protect constitutionally guaranteed firearm ownership rights.
  • To expand party membership to include non-members who are hunting, fishing, shooting enthusiasts.
  • To defend Democrat officials who are falsely attacked on these issues.
  • To educate Michigan Democrats on this issue.
  • To recruit candidates who respect and support the rights of hunting, fishing, and shooting enthusiasts.

To join this caucus, plan to attend the next meeting. Call Camiel at (517) 676-2295 for details.

On another front, Michigan's Unemployment Insurance benefit law is a mess. Businesses have received $1.07 billion in UI tax savings since 1995, while workers have lost $786 million in benefits.

Your maximum benefit, which has been frozen at $300 a week for five years, is now the lowest in the Midwest. By freezing the benefit, workers have lost $114 a week in benefit income.

That's not fair. It's bad enough if you lose your job. Having to feed the kids and pay the rent with sub-poverty benefits adds insult to injury. But you can fight back.

Legislation has been introduced in the Michigan legislature that would restore these benefit cuts and bring fairness to the system. House Bill 4188 would provide cost-of-living increases so that laid-off workers won't see their benefit checks eaten up by inflation. It would also make it easier for part-time, low-wage and seasonal workers to qualify for benefits.

HB 4188 is currently stuck in the House Employment Relations and Training Committee. Call or write your state representative and state senator and tell them to be fair to laid off workers by passing HB 4188 into law.


Trades wrap up another outage at Mead paper mill

By Marty Mulcahy

ESCANABA - Turning wood pulp into paper is a power-intensive process, so having reliable, well-maintained boilers is vital to the Mead Corporation.

Every year, Mead's Escanaba division schedules an outage to take care of maintenance and renovation needs at the plant, and last month, the building trades successfully wrapped up another agenda of projects during a 10-day schedule.

The $2 million outage employed about 100 construction workers, about half of whom were Boilermakers working in Local 169's jurisdiction. Jamar was the project's primary contractor, and API and C.R. Meyer were also on the job.

"We had a very professional group on this shutdown," said Mike Fornetti, Mead's utilities and pulping director. "The safety program of the Boilermakers, called MOST, was particularly impressive." MOST is the Boilermaker International Union's Mobilization, Optimization and Training Fund, which provides instruction and data on worker skills and safety.

This outage focused on repairing and preventing leaks in the 18-year-old No. 11 Boiler, a combination coal, waste wood and natural gas burner.

The Mead plant has had controlling interest in the Escanaba plant since 1942, and today runs five boilers, although one is usually not operational. All told, they can produce 98 megawatts, which provides about 90 percent of the plant's energy needs and could, as the company says, power a city the size of Green Bay.

So much power is needed, said Kel Smyth of Mead's government and community relations, because the paper-making process involves dehydrating wood fiber product that contains 98 percent water, into a product with a moisture content of less than 5 percent.

Mead's Escanaba division operates three coated paper machines, and the integrated pulp & paper mill has a combined capacity of 700,000 tons per year. The company also operates mills in Chillicothe, Ohio and Rumford, Maine.

Mead, the largest forest products company in Michigan, manages 672,000 acres around Escanaba and directly employs about 1,400.

The plant located in Escanaba because of its close proximity to water on Little Bay De Noc and the great variety of hard and soft woods in the surrounding area. Smyth said it is currently a "tough market" for domestic coated paper products, with imports from European and Asian suppliers cutting into market share.

GRINDING OFF old buck stay clips, which support boiler tubes, is a job for Keith Paquette of Boilermakers Local 169 at the Mead Corp.'s Boiler No. 11 in Escanaba. He was working during a successful 10-day outage.

GRINDING A 4-INCH carbon steel pipe at the Mead plant is Les Elder of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 506.


New hotel on the radar screen

CONSTRUCTION OF THE massive Midfield Terminal at Metro Airport is starting to wind down, but another not-so-small project is just coming out of the ground. Westin Hotels and Resorts is building an $85.1 million, 11-floor, 404-room hotel adjacent to the mile-long Midfield Terminal. Managing the construction of the hotel is Walbridge-Aldinger. Completion is anticipated in September 2002.


Okies OK right to work…

Oklahoma is the nation's 22nd right-to-work state.

On Sept. 25, a statewide right-to-work ballot measure was adopted by a 54-46 percent margin, or 68,607 votes.

The anti-worker forces were bolstered by an estimated $5 million campaign kitty put up by more than 2,000 businesses - including $100,000 from anti-union retailer Wal-Mart - and wealthy individuals, including the publisher of the state's leading newspaper, who gave $250,000. They also were helped by Republican Gov. Frank Keating and the Oklahoma Right to Work Committee.

Right to work laws basically bust unions. They allow workers to enjoy the benefits and job protections of a collectively bargained contract at a company without the requirement of paying dues.

On average, workers in right-to-work states earn 18 percent lower wages than those in non-RTW states. If you are laid off in a right-to-work state, also count on getting 31 percent less in unemployment insurance benefits, and nearly $5,000 per year less in workers' compensation benefits if you're injured on the job.

The vote was the first time in 15 years any state passed this anti-worker law.
"On behalf of all Oklahoma labor, I want to express our sincerest 'thank you' to the thousands of union members, locals and internationals across America who helped us in the fight, from members and retirees sending $5 and $10 to lending us workers," said Oklahoma AFL-CIO President Jim Curry. " It was one of the finest shows of union brotherhood I've ever seen."

The last time right-to-work supporters won such a statewide election was in 1985. But now supporters could have new momentum, and have a list of several other states they are targeting to implement the law, including, surprisingly enough, Ohio.

…While Nissan workers snub UAW

Eight days after the vote in Oklahoma, the news just kept getting worse for organized labor.

The United Auto Workers were walloped in their effort to organize the Smyrna, Tenn. Nissan plant, losing a union representation election by a 3,103-against to 1,486-for margin on Oct. 3.

The UAW had high hopes for winning this election, and threw a lot of money and resources into the effort. But it was all for naught - the UAW has repeatedly been unable to successfully organize workers at foreign-owned manufacturing plants on U.S. soil.

The union's membership has dwindled from 1.5 million in 1979 to less than 700,000 today.

Nissan wooed workers in recent days by pledging to build additional vehicles at the plant as part of a previously announced $1 billion expansion.


Dedication scheduled for Michigan Vietnam Monument

LANSING - More than a quarter of a century after the U.S. pulled out of the Vietnam War, Michigan soldiers who died in the conflict will be getting a lasting tribute.

Ceremonies are scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 11 - Veterans' Day - for the dedication of the Michigan Vietnam Monument, a memorial to the 2,649 Michigan veterans who lost their lives in the Vietnam War. More Michigan lives were lost as a percentage of the U.S. population in Vietnam than any other state in the nation.

Christman Co. is managing the project at Ottawa and Butler street, two blocks west of the State Capitol building. The monument consists of a curved110-foot steel beam that will cradle the names of the 2,649 deceased veterans.

"The entire project will be nearly complete by the time we dedicate it," said Keith King, project commissioner. "The most important part of this process is to get the names right."

Former President Gerald Ford and Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumous are expected to be among the dignitaries in attendance.

Getting the $3.2 million monument built has been no small feat. A state law adopted in 1992 established the one-acre monument site, and the design for the memorial was chosen from among 200 entries in a national competition. Private and public monies were used to fund the project, with the last $600,000 coming from a grant from the UAW.

Now, King said, any future money donated to the project will be used for maintenance of the site. He said project coordinators have learned lessons from other memorials, which have deteriorated because there was no money dedicated to their upkeep.

To make a tax-deductible contribution, send a check payable to the Michigan Vietnam Monument Commission, 611 West Ottawa, Lansing, MI 48913. For more information, call (517) 373-3131 or (800) 492-2649.

HERE'S A rendering of the monument.




More of the same in 2002 road work
Construction activity is winding down this year on the process of rebuilding Michigan's roads.

But Michigan's Hardhats and the equipment they operate will be back next spring at about the same level of activity in 2001.

The Michigan Department of Transportation announced Sept. 27 that it will invest more than $1.5 billion in repairing state roads in 2002 - about the same amount that was spent this year.

"We continue to fix the worst roads first, and to make significant strides in returning our roads and bridges to the world-class level they should be," said State Transportation Director Gregory Rosine. "Having two years in a row where we can invest more than $1.5 billion in the backbone of the state's transportation network is outstanding."

MDOT plans to rehabilitate 1,600 miles of road and more than 200 bridges statewide in 2002. This is the fifth year in a row that MDOT has broken the $1 billion mark for road and bridge repair work. In "the next few years" after 2002, MDOT said the repair bills are expected to be less than $1.5 billion, but more than $1 billion.

Huron Valley voters approve bond issue
Building trades members who live in the Huron Valley School District helped themselves and their community on Sept. 25, in voting to approve a $103.9 million bond issue that will fund various construction projects.

Building trades unions contributed $5,000 to promote passage of the bond, which was easily adopted by more than 600 votes. A coalition including the school district, the local teachers' union, administrators, parent groups and construction unions supported the bond issue. Building trades representatives have met with school district officials and have a strong degree of confidence that the work will go all-union.

"The neat part of this is that we were able to pull together a coalition of internal and external union groups to approach the voters and make this happen," said Len Radjewski, president of the Huron Valley Education Association and brother of IBEW Local 58 Business Manager Jeff Radjewski. "The school district really needs the money. This will put union people to work, and we know we will have quality work right down the line."

The money will fund a complete overhaul of technology systems at the schools, mechanical systems upgrades at various facilities and new athletic field houses and pools.

Blue Water Dems meet Nov. 3
Democrats in St. Clair, Sanilac and Lapeer counties are invited to attend a workshop to set "a strategy and vision" for the 2002 election year on Saturday, Nov. 3.

The meeting will start at 9 a.m. with a breakfast buffet. The goal is to attract people who don't know how to get involved in the political process and build a network of people to help in future elections.

Hosts include St. Clair Co. Democrats Chair Pamela Wall, Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney, and Greater Detroit Building Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Devlin and President John Hamilton.

Speakers will include Michigan Senate Minority Leader John Cherry and Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer.

The meeting will conclude at 12:30 p.m. It will be held at the Wadhams Banquet Center, 5078 Lapeer Rd. in Kimball Twp. near Port Huron. There is no charge.

"It is a grievous error to forget for one second the might and power of this great republic." - President Dwight D. Eisenhower


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