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September 1, 2000

Labor Day 2000 'When Working Families Vote, We All Win'

State Supreme Court makeup has far-reaching implications

We mourn death of building trades giant Jack Wood

Topping out of Rouge powerhouse another step toward more power

Michigan, unions key to presidency as campaign heats up

Pipe trades instructors back for more instruction

NEWS BRIEFS

 

 

Labor Day 2000 'When Working Families Vote, We All Win'

By Marty Mulcahy
Editor

Every four years, Labor Day is traditionally the kickoff date for the presidential election season, and this year the first Monday in September has even more significance.

The nation will elect a new president, but in Michigan, voters will also be electing Supreme Court justices, appellate, county and local judges, a U.S. senator, congressional representatives, state representatives, and hundreds of local offices.

Celebrations of labor's solidarity will take place on Monday, Sept. 4 with parades in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Marquette and Muskegon.

Some 100,000 workers annually attend the Detroit Labor Day parade.

"We think this is a winning parade that thousands of working families will participate in," said Michigan AFL-CIO Parade Coordinator Mark Alexander. "With that in mind and this being an election year, we didn't have to go far to develop the theme which is, "When Working Families Vote, We All Win."

The Detroit march is set to start at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 4. Parade participants will meet at the usual gathering spots along Trumbull south of Michigan Ave. and There is no change in the meeting area for parade participants, who will gather along Trumbull south of Michigan Avenue at around 8-9 a.m.

However, there is a change in how the parade will be routed: in the past few years, the building trades have marched east along Michigan Avenue. This year, because of construction in the Kern Block area, the building trades will proceed north along Trumbull, turning right on Grand River and finishing at the Lodge Freeway near the Motor City Casino.

The rest of organized labor marching in the parade will also change the direction of their march: the Woodward parade participants will begin at Michigan Avenue and proceed north to Mack Avenue. A LaborFest celebration will take place at the Carpenters Union Hall at Woodward and Mack after the parade.

Also, make plans to give blood before or after the parade, as the American Red Cross will be setting up shop at the IBEW Local 58 hall on Abbott, east of Trumbull, once again this year from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

If you want to make your Labor Day an even longer one downtown, a number of unions have $8 tickets available for the 5 p.m. Detroit Tiger game that day. Contact your local union.

In Grand Rapids, parade-goers will gather at John Ball Park, where buses will take participants to the start of the parade at Winter and Fulton streets. The parade starts at 10 a.m. After the parade at 12:30 p.m., a picnic with rides and entertainment will take place at John Ball Park.

In Marquette, the 2000 Labor Day Festival will start with an 11 a.m. parade along Third Street, followed by a picnic and other activities at Mattson Lower Harbor Park. The event, which usually attracts 2,500, is sponsored by the Marquette County Labor Council.

In Muskegon, parade-goers from the building trades are invited to meet at the old Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 154 union hall at 1341 Getty St. The parade is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. along Lake Shore Dr.

The first Labor Day -noted as a "workingmen's holiday" - was a product of the labor movement in New York, first celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882. By 1894, 23 states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday.

According to the AFL-CIO, some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

 

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State Supreme Court makeup has far-reaching implications

By Tim Hughes
Michigan AFL-CIO
Legislative Director

The next elected Michigan legislature will draft a plan for reapportionment that will draw the legislative and congressional district lines for the next 10 years.

If the next legislature has the same composition as the current legislature, the reapportionment plans will favor the Republican Party. And if the next Supreme Court that decides legal challenges to these plans has the same composition as the current court, that plan will be sustained.

And if that happens, we all will be in big trouble.

The Republicans will be able to draft a plan that will ensure a sizeable Republican legislative majority for at least a decade and will cut the Democratic 10-6 majority in our state's congressional delegation.

At the state Republican convention last year, Senate Majority leader Dan DeGrow told a district caucus that re-electing a House Republican majority is their top priority. "If they can make it," he said, "we'll redistrict and we'll control the state forever." "That's the war we're in now. And they're going to throw everything at us because they don't want us to redistrict."

If the Republicans win, DeGrow said, "Democrats will never get off the mat and rebound and get back in the game. And they'll be holding some very small conventions."

Reapportionment is accomplished by passing a law. It requires 56 votes in the House, 20 votes in the Senate and the governor's signature. Republicans currently have a 23-15 majority in the Senate, a 58-52 edge in the House and control the governor's office.

Since the Senate and governor are not up for election this fall, Democrats need to gain a majority in the House to even have a place at the table when the reapportionment plan is drafted.

In the '70s, '80s and the early '90s, there was always a Democratic House or governor to keep balance in the reapportionment process. When those bodies deadlocked, the courts took over the responsibility for drafting a plan.

It used to be that state legislative reapportionment was handled by the state Supreme Court and congressional reapportionment was handled by the federal courts. Recent federal court decisions and state legislation make it clear that congressional redistricting questions also can be handled by the state Supreme Court.

Reapportionment-gerrymandering
Even if Democrats win the House, it will be more difficult to draw a fair plan because the rules have been changed. Last year, the principle of one person/one vote was dealt a serious blow with the passage of a package of bills (SB 810, 811 and 814) changing the standards for reapportionment of legislative and congressional districts.

The bills allow the state to use outdated census methods in redrawing district lines, a move that will likely undercount minority populations that vote heavily Democratic. The package also allows districts to be drawn with population differences of up to 10 percent from one district to another.

This allows the "packing" of Democrats and minorities in a smaller number of districts while "spreading out" Republicans in a greater number of districts.

The net result of the package is to maximize the impact of Republican votes to rate more Republican districts. The entire package is of questionable constitutionality and will likely be challenged in court.

Although Michigan Supreme Court justices are elected on a nonpartisan basis, they are nominated at Democratic and Republican Party conventions. Based on their partisan connections, the court is currently controlled by a 5-2 Republican majority.

Three incumbent Republicans are up for election this November: Cliff Taylor, Robert Young and Stephen Markman. Control of the court is literally up in the air. The three Republican incumbents can be expected to vote on reapportionment along partisan lines. In fact, Justice Young was an attorney for the Republican Party during the last reapportionment court case.

All three justices have partisan Republican roots and were originally appointed by Governor Engler. Taylor is married to the governor's legal counsel.

All three are members of the radical right-wing Federalist Society. This organization is an extremist group of individuals who want to roll the clock back on civil rights, worker rights and the First Amendment.

Extremist positions
Among their extremist positions are the overturning of "Brown v Board of Education," the landmark judicial decision that helped end racial segregation, limiting citizen access to federal courts and allowing Congress to undermine judicial independence.

The bottom line is this: Justices Taylor, Young and Markman rule against people and families and in favor of special and corporate interests.

If right-wing ideologues continue to control the state Supreme Court, they will approve legislative and congressional district lines that will elect Republican lawmakers to implement their conservative, right-wing agenda.

Tim Hughes is the legislative director of the Michigan State AFL-CIO.


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We mourn death of building trades giant Jack Wood

Jack Wood, a legend at the Greater Detroit Building Trades Council for more than 20 years, passed away Aug. 22, 2000 after an extended illness. He was 81.

Mr. Wood retired from his position as Secretary-Manager of the Greater Detroit Building Trades Council in 1985, finishing the final chapter in a union membership book that was opened more than 50 years ago.

"People in the industry still talk about Jack and asked how he's doing," said current Greater Detroit Building Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Devlin. "Jack served the building trades for a long time, and he had so many contacts with CEOs and government leaders. I admire his work; he was truly a legend."

Born in Clare, Jack was raised on a farm after being orphaned at age five. His father died when he was 10 weeks old. He first joined the Carpenters out of Local 232 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was a "boomer" in his early days in the carpenter trade, which was interrupted by his service in World War II as a combat marine in the South Pacific.

In 1946, Mr. Wood "settled down" and transferred his union membership to Mt. Clemens Carpenters Local 674, where the roots of his rise in the labor movement were planted. He served Local 674 as a trustee and president before being elected business agent.

He served the Detroit Carpenters District Council for four terms before being elected to the Greater Detroit Building Trades Council in 1964. Jack held the council seat for an unprecedented seven consecutive terms and was never opposed for re-election.

"He was very proud of his history with the unions, and even in his retirement, my dad still kept an eye on the industry," said his son Steven. "He hated the idea of seeing the nonunion getting the work that they're getting. But he was also pleased with all the work going on now and how unions are marketing themselves."

Highly respected by both labor and employer representatives in the Detroit area, Jack strove for harmonious labor-management relationships. He recognized the need to minimize jurisdictional disputes in the complicated construction industry, while advocating unity among all the trade union crafts.

"It was a pleasure to work with Jack, he was an absolutely honorable man," said Associated General Contractors Detroit Chapter Vice President John Maas, who has been in the business for 40 years. "He set a new standard for relations with the contractor and owner communities. I highly regarded and respected him and he had a major impact on my life."

Mr. Wood was predeceased by wife Phyllis, and a son, John David. He is survived by son Steven, two grandsons and three great-grandchildren. Funeral services were held at the Harold Vick Funeral Home in Mt. Clemens. Burial took place in Clare.

"Jack was never a showboat, he just got the job done," said Mack Cehanowicz, a business agent under Mr. Wood. "If he was asked to help settle a strike or some other labor dispute, he always went to the top of the company, and he always got results. Business leaders worked with him because they trusted him."

Jack Wood 1919-2000


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Topping out of Rouge powerhouse another step toward more power

By Marty Mulcahy
Editor

The predicted long, hot summer never materialized for Michigan this year, so record high demand for electricity to power the state's air conditioners never happened, either.

The cooler weather made the last few months a lot easier for the utilities, which rarely had to scramble in the Midwest to fill demand for electricity. Ever-higher electrical usage and a lack of power plants have been a major concern for utilities across the Midwest.

By next June, significantly more electrical production will be put on line, when construction of the new $300 million Dearborn Industrial Generation powerhouse fires up. On Aug. 10, a milestone passed at the plant when iron workers topped out the structure across from the Ford-Rouge Complex.

The 710-megawatt, natural-gas fired plant will replace the old Ford-Rouge powerhouse, which was destroyed after a tragic explosion and fire in February 1999. The plant, jointly owned by CMS Energy and Detroit Edison, will supply the steam and electrical requirements of the 1,100-acre Rouge Complex, which includes Ford Motor Co. operations and Rouge Steel. Excess energy will be sold to wholesale power markets. Since the explosion, those operations have relied on Detroit Edison Co. for power, placing an added strain on the utility.

The new plant is expected to burn more than 20 billion cubic feet of natural gas annually. "Dearborn Industrial Generation will offer competitively-priced, reliable electricity to serve industrial customers and other end users," said William J. Haener, vice president of CMS Energy's development activities in North America.

The project is being managed by Fluor Constructors, and more than 400 construction workers are employed on the project.

A TORQUE limiter is adjusted in the powerhouse by Andre Hayes of IBEW 58.

IRON WORKERS topped out the $300 million Dearborn Industrial Generation Powerhouse last month.



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Michigan, unions key to presidency as campaign heats up

Declaring "my focus is on working families," Al Gore accepted the Democratic nomination for U.S. president at the party's Los Angeles Convention last month. Union members made up 30 percent of the 5,000 delegates.

"Workers and their families know first-hand that eight years of Clinton-Gore haven't been enough to repair the damage caused by 12 years of Reagan and Bush," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. "They know that our booming economy needs more time to lift up the small boats that have been left behind, and they know Al Gore is the man who can finish the job."

With Michigan as a key battleground state in the November presidential election, Gore and President Clinton made a point of coming to Michigan during the convention to campaign. The appearance by both Gore and Clinton was a formal way of driving home the point that reins of the party are being handed over to Gore, as the president left the gathering in order to let the Veep have the spotlight.

"The things that have happened in the last eight years, the good things, are nothing compared to what can happen in the next eight years," President Clinton said before he left.

Gore, who received a big boost in the polls by his speech at the convention - bringing him into a virtual tie with George W. Bush - told the Monroe crowd, "I know we've got a hard-fought race ahead. I know the powerful interests are going to fight against us with everything they've got. If you entrust me with the presidency, I will fight for you."

Both Gore and GOP presidential candidate George W. are expected to spend the lion's share of their time in the next two months campaigning in the key battleground states of Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri.

"The building trades in Michigan can hold the key to the election," said Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney. "The 100,000 building trades workers represent about 3 percent of the vote in Michigan - and if everyone gets out and votes, and votes for Gore, that's enough to swing the election."

During his convention speech, Gore mentioned a union member, Mildred Nystel of Iowa, who is a member of IBEW Local 288. Gore said she wants her daughter to go to college, "and I say to her: I will fight for a targeted, affordable tax cut to help working families save and pay for college."

The vice president touted the administration's record, including the nation's lowest inflation in a generation, the creation of 22 million new jobs, and the fight for universal health care.

"As Americans we all share in the privilege and challenge of building a more perfect union," Gore said in his acceptance speech. "I know my own imperfections. I know that sometimes people say I'm too serious, that I talk too much substance and policy. Maybe I've done that tonight.

"But the Presidency is more than a popularity contest. It's a day-by-day fight for people. Sometimes, you have to choose to do what's difficult or unpopular. Sometimes, you have to be willing to spend your popularity in order to pick the hard right over the easy wrong."

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Pipe trades instructors back for more instruction

YPSILANTI - More than 1,500 United Association pipe trades instructors descended on Washtenaw Community College again this year, during the annual week-long Instructor Training Program Aug. 14-18.

"This year we added something new, we're bringing in owners and users from all over the country to show them how good our training is," said host Business Manager Ron House of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters 190. "You see how well things operate around here, and how the UA spends more than $100 million on training every year, and they can't help but be impressed."

This is the 11th year that the United Association has set up shop at Washtenaw Community College. Local union trainers received instruction in everything from the latest in backflow prevention, to downhill welding, to setting up a curriculum at an apprenticeship school. The instructors then go back to their home locals and incorporate their knowledge into their training program.

One graphic demonstration of plumbing and pipe fitting techniques on display for owners, users and trainers could be seen in a mobile trailer hosted by William Bailey of San Jose, CA Local 393 and Doug Van Der Tip of Hamilton Local 67. Fixtures include a water-hammed demonstration with clear pipes and colored water, a steam trap and thermal shock demonstration, plus displays of a hydronics board, a heat exchanger and orbital welding, among others. All were situated on a mobile trailer, with the display by Kinetic Systems costing about $350,000.

"That's the value of this system," Bailey said. "People have a hard time grasping what you're talking about unless they can see what's going on inside the pipe."

Kevin Zeigler, of UA Local 290 in Portland, Ore., working on a backflow prevention device, was part of a contingent of six trainers from that local - the largest group to come to Michigan.

"This is the sixth year I've been here, and I enjoy the heck out of it," he said. "You learn that there's a lot of knowledge to be had out there."

United Association General President Martin Maddaloni said in addition to the traditional training, the union is advancing its distance learning program, which was established a few years ago. Through the use of computer CD-roms, instructors who aren't close to a traditional brick-and-mortar training center are able to improve their knowledge on their own time on their own computers.

"We've moving into the digital age, because that's where the future is," Maddaloni said. "But we'll never turn our back on the traditional training, the latest in plumbing, welding, medical gas, and environmental work."

The UA uses existing space at Washtenaw Community College every year for the training program, but plans are in the works to add 14,000 square-feet to the facility's welding area to institute a permanent regional UA training facility on the site. It will be one of four across the country. It won't change the annual pipe trades train-the-trainer program, but will bring in UA instructors from the region, year-round.

KEEPING AN EYE on the proceedings at the United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Instructor Training Program are (l-r) IU Rep. Joe Sposita, IU General Secretary Thomas Patchell, IU President Martin Maddaloni and host Local 190 Business Manager Ron House.


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NEWS BRIEFS

Laborers expand training center
The Michigan Laborers District Council is getting more room to train.

Representatives from Laborers locals from across the state attended a groundbreaking ceremony on Aug. 17 to mark the expansion project. The job involves completely refurbishing the existing site and more than doubling its current size of 20,000 square-feet.

"Our facility will help us continue to meet the growing demand for highly skilled construction craft laborers," said Paul Gassel, director of the Michigan Laborers Training and Apprenticeship Institute. "We hope that more young people will realize that today's construction industry offers rewarding and challenging careers with great pay and excellent benefits. The construction industry is rapidly changing and our training utilizes the newest technology while placing a high priority on safety."

The current site in Perry has three classrooms and a 6,000-square-foot sand bay for hands-on training. Added to the site will be four classrooms, a sand training bay, office area and lunch room. The Michigan Laborers also operate training centers in Iron Mountain and Wayne.

Gassel said the Laborers apprenticeship program requires 4,000 hours of diversified, on-the-job training and 332 hours of classroom instruction.

Since 1971, the Michigan Laborers' Training and Apprenticeship Institute has trained more than 17,000 laborers, who work on the highways, underground, hazardous material abatement, excavation and mason tending.

Website devoted to construction safety
Construction workers have a new safety net on the Internet.

A new website devoted to construction safety and health was launched last month by the Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO. The Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Health will provide materials on a wide range of safety and health topics.

"For too long, construction has killed more workers in this country each year than any other industry," said Building Trades Department President Edward Sullivan. "We hope resources like this will enable us to turn the corner."

Look for the web site at www.cdc.gov/niosh/elcosh.

Actors who support their union
According to The Hollywood Reporter, The West Wing's Martin Sheen, ER's Noah Wyle and Malcolm in the Middle's Jane Kaczmarek were among the actors who joined a picket line outside of Hollywood's Universal Studios to show support for the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

The unions have been embroiled in a bitter strike against the advertising industry since last spring. They picketed outside Universal Studios because a Visa commercial was being shot on the premises.

Sheen told The Hollywood Reporter, "I'm here for all of the people who don't have hit shows, who make their living primarily doing commercials. I do commercials, too. It's the old adage: If we can't do it ourselves, we have to do it together. That's what a union is."

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