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September 13, 2002

Who are those guys?

Labor celebrates Labor Day

Mi-Dems vow: 'It's time for a change in Michigan'

New Soo Lock money tied up in Congress

Take a swat at the West Nile Virus



Who are those guys?

ABC = Association of (non)Builders and (non)Contractors?

By Marty Mulcahy

Near the top of the list is Andy's Janitorial Service of Moorestown, New Jersey. Under the "C's" is the Corpus Christi Hockey Club of Corpus Christi, Texas. A little farther down the list can be found Danny's Cajun Catering of White Castle, Louisiana.

They may all be stellar businesses in their own areas, but their names indicate that they have nothing to do with the building industry - unless Andy swings both a mop and a hammer.

So why are they on the list of the 23,000 firms that the Associated Builders and Contractors has on its national membership roster? A new study has found that the ABC uses restaurants, certified public accountants, lawyers and others who have nothing to do with construction, to pad its membership roster in an effort to make the anti-union group more imposing than it is - to the extent that nearly half of its membership is non-builders.

This summer, a revealing analysis of the ABC's membership was released by the National Heavy and Highway Alliance, a partnership of seven international building trades unions.

"Our study found that the Associated Builders and Contractors is a lot of smoke and mirrors," said the alliance's Executive Director, Ray Poupore, who hails from Michigan. "They do an effective job with marketing and their political spin machine, but up until now, no one has challenged what they say or who they are when it comes to their members performing construction work. We've found that the ABC is basically a bunch of small contractors who don't do as much work in this country as they claim they do."

The nuts and bolts of the study was too long to put in one edition of The Building Tradesman, so we decided to make it into a series.

Who they are.

The Associated Builders and Contractors is a group dedicated to stamping out prevailing wage laws, killing project-labor agreements, getting OSHA off of contractors' backs, getting away with as little worker training as possible while maximizing profits for employers and short-changing workers.

In short, they're in business to tear down everything that's near and dear to building trades workers who want to earn a decent living and go home safely at the end of the day.

The ABC has a marvelous public relations machine. If a conservative Republican lawmaker needs a study to back up an assertion that prevailing wage should be outlawed, the ABC provides. The national and local chapters are one-stop shopping for providing anti-union information to city, state and federal lawmakers, quotes to media outlets and referrals to lawyers - all with the aim of promoting their "merit shop philosophy."

In some parts of the country, the ABC also provides training programs for workers, but they are woefully underfunded and usually provide far fewer hours of training than their union counterparts. As a result, a number of ABC programs have not been able to get sanctioned by the federal Labor Department, Bureau of Apprenticeship Training.

Who they say they are.

"Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) is a national management association for the construction industry which actively promotes the merit shop form of construction. From a modest start by seven Baltimore contractors in 1950, ABC has enjoyed a growing membership, now totaling more than 23,000 firms, each dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and management's right to manage. These beliefs translate into a healthy, competitive and professional climate, the results of which are proudly reflected in ABC member's construction accomplishments.

"ABC is the fastest-growing construction trade association in the country because ABC supports the sound merit shop philosophy at the heart of the free enterprise system. The merit shop is a force for economy and efficiency in construction, regardless of organizational affiliation. The merit shop is union and open shop firms working side-by-side, free of interference, providing on-time, on-budget construction with safety, quality and cost effectiveness as our goal. ABC's pursuit of free enterprise in construction has set the standard for all other associations to follow.

"Throughout the country, ABC is an effective force in business development, education, labor relations and industry legislation. ABC is comprised of general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, and associates who believe in the merit shop form of construction. Today, open shop contractors perform 70 percent of all construction nationwide, and ABC's membership has grown to more than 23,000. This includes one-third of the top 400 construction companies in the United States."
- From the Associated Builders and Contractors web site.

Now comes The Heavy and Highway Alliance study. (They provided the italics).

"Down through the years we have listened as the ABC paraded time and time again up to Capitol Hill no less, to proudly proclaim that it represented "20,000 contractors", which eventually became "25,000 contractors", which was then recently changed to "22,000 open-shop employers." (Please note the switch from "contractors" to "employers." In a moment you'll see why the ABC made this slight change).

Additionally, all the time it was claiming who it represented, it was also maintaining that its members were "now building 75 percent of all construction in this country." We even saw an ABC ad that proclaimed, "Across the USA, we do fully 85% of all projects large and small…."

Just as you might be wondering, we once again wondered who makes-up the ABC's membership? Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, we kept repeating the question, "Who are those guys?"

To answer that question, we went straight to the source, i.e., the ABC's own membership directory. Not only does this directory list each member as a general contractor, sub-contractor, supplier, or associate member, it also lists what amount of dollar volume of work each contractor performs per year.

With this wealth of data we realized that not only could we see how many general or sub-contractors actually belong to the ABC, but also how much work they perform and, most importantly, if this data substantiates the ABC claims of representation and how much work its members actually perform.

By simply obtaining this directory we knew we could then ascertain the facts. Unfortunately, we encountered a small blip on the radar screen in obtaining this directory; i.e., in trying to obtain the true facts.

How to get an ABC directory.

If the truth be told, and we're certainly telling it here, the headline for this section would best be entitled "How not to get an ABC directory." You see, once we decided that we would like to review the ABC membership in order to find out just who belongs to the ABC, we knew it couldn't be accurately done without obtaining an up-to-date ABC membership directory. So we immediately forwarded a check in the correct amount for a new directory to the ABC and then sat back and waited for the directory to arrive.

However, if it wasn't for a phone call from the ABC we would've been sitting and waiting an awful long time!

The following is what transpired during the actual phone call which the ABC placed to our office. We have changed nothing, nor made anything up. Heck, we didn't have to, read on!

US: Heavy and Highway Division.

ABC: I'm with the Associated Builders and Contractors and I just want you to know that we're returning your check which you sent us for a directory.

US: Why? The check's good.

ABC: Well . . . You're with the union, right?

US: Actually, we're with the unions, as in plural. And that check is from our labor- management committee, which includes contractors, and since you guys represent contractors…

ABC: Well . . . We don't print it anymore.

US: You don't? I just saw a copy the other day.

ABC: Well… ahhhh… ummmm… We don't sell it to non-members.

US: Which is it? You just said you don't print it, now you say you won't sell it?

ABC: (unintelligible) . . . we can't sell it to you.

Us: Well, if you can't, you can't. So long.

There you have it. The ABC refusing to sell us a copy of its own membership directory. Naturally, that refusal begs that the question be asked: Why? Read on, and you'll see why it didn't want us to have a copy (a copy which was eventually obtained through back channels, as the ABC obviously wouldn't let us utilize its front channel).

Membership analysis results - short version

In case you're extremely busy and short on time, we've developed a condensed version of our ABC study. Call it our "fast food" approach. Here it is, in a nutshell:

The ABC is not what it says it is. It does not represent 22,000 employers. Its membership does not build 75% of everything. And almost one-half of its total membership are non-builders!! You read that correctly…almost half. Only 12% of its members are general contractors, while 43% are subcontractors.

Here are some other facts and figures:

  • 60% of the ABC's General Contractor members do business of under $6 million per year.
  • 87% of its Subcontractor members do yearly business of under $6 million.
  • Approximately one-third of its members are domiciled in only seven southern states.

To be continued…


Labor celebrates Labor Day

Granholm pledges 'new era of economic development'

In a bygone era, Labor Day was the traditional kickoff day for major political campaigns in Michigan and across the nation.

Today, of course, campaigns start months earlier, and the first Monday in September has become another day on the campaign trail for candidates. So it was this year with Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Granholm, who spent that holiday morning by making the annual walk over the Mackinaw Bridge, then flying to Detroit in time for the start of the Labor Day Parade.

At the same time, Labor Day was a day of celebrating labor's solidarity in Michigan, with parades, speeches and picnics in Detroit, Marquette, Muskegon and Grand Rapids.

Granholm didn't have a formal opportunity to talk to the building trades on Labor Day, but did the next day during a tour of the $350 million Compuware Building under construction in Detroit. She said she chose the building to outline her economic plan because it is "a high-tech location," and a great example of what the trades are capable of building.

"Compuware is only the beginning," Granholm said. "Our plan will create more high-tech, high-wage jobs in Michigan, diversifying our state's economy and ensuring family security. We will usher in a new era of economic development that centers on high-tech, high-wage jobs. We will work with the small business community to help them plant the seed and grow. We will work with labor -and with business - to make sure that jobs are retained and that new ones come to Michigan."

Labor Day 2002 came at a time when enormous changes are taking place in Michigan. A generation of young construction workers who thought the state's building boom would last forever are now sitting on the bench. The best that the state's Republican lawmakers could do for them last spring was to increase jobless benefits by $42, to $342 per week. Nationwide, unemployment has risen from 4.2 percent in January 2001 to 5.9 percent today.

Deficits are back in the state and federal economies. The stock market is way in the tank. Americans are outraged at corporate accounting scandals and the fact that CEO pay is still way out of whack: median CEO pay in the U.S. - not counting stock options and other corporate benefits - grew 69 percent from 1992-2000, while median hourly pay for workers grew 5.9 percent, according to the labor-backed Economic Policy Institute.

Granholm's plan includes a high technology corridor to build on the ongoing life sciences research at the state's universities, a regional skills alliance that makes partners of labor, business and colleges to provide worker training and re-training, and improve infrastructure through a "Fix-It-First, Fix It Right" program for road and bridge construction.

For organized labor, as important as any plan is Granholm's pledge to give organized labor "a voice at the table" in her administration, and turn to labor "for input on critical issues."

Peter Karmanos, who was on hand for the Granholm tour, said "it's exciting to have a candidate for governor focus on high-tech job creation, and listen to what business leaders say about the economy and business activity."

AS THE DETROIT Labor Day Parade was starting, a quartet of Democratic candidates running for the top statewide offices stopped for this photo with the Boilermakers, who were leading the march. From the far right are candidates John Cherry (lieutenant governor); Gary Peters (attorney general); Butch Hollowell (secretary of state); a young interloper, and Jennifer Granholm (Michigan governor). More parade photos are on Page 10.


Mi-Dems vow: 'It's time for a change in Michigan'

By John M, Hamilton, President Greater Detroit Building and Construction Trades Council

As a member of the Executive Committee of the Michigan Democratic Party, I attended the convention held in Lansing August 24-25. I am pleased to report that the Democratic Party has a unified ticket, and with your help we will be successful in November.

It's time for a change in Michigan. It's time to secure the future for our families, for our children, and for our state.

For the past 12 years, the leadership in Lansing has been stuck in the tired old ways of the past instead of looking for new ways to prepare our children and families for the challenges of the 21st century. They have squandered our hard-earned surplus, plunging our state deep into deficit. And instead of welcoming all to the table and uniting us as Michiganians, they have only given seats to their special interest friends.

Jennifer Granholm believes that the time has come to put the priorities of Michigan's families first and foremost. If we set high expectations for Michigan and if we make the right decisions that will protect our families and educate our children, then there is no limit to what we can do.

We need leadership that is committed to Michigan's families and is dedicated to the values that have made this state great: family, faith, and hard work; tolerance and inclusion; opportunity for all and responsibility from all. This is our commitment to the families of Michigan:

Education: Make education Michigan's number-one priority by ensuring that every child has a great start and comes to school ready to learn; by setting great expectations for our teachers, students, and school districts; by creating great schools with smaller class sizes, modern facilities, and by retaining and recruiting high-quality teachers.

Economic growth and job creation: Get our economy moving again by preparing Michigan's workers for the jobs of the 21st century through the creation of three Regional Skills Alliances; and by creating high-tech, high wage jobs through the Michigan Technology Tri-Corridor that will bring universities, businesses, workers, and non-profits together to develop and commercialize new advancements in the life sciences, automotive technology, and homeland security.

Affordable health care: Increase access to quality, affordable health care for all Michiganians by working to lower the cost of prescription drugs, expanding access to MIChild and Medicaid, and pursuing innovative partnerships between employers, employees, and local governments to ensure healthcare coverage for working men and women.

Environmental protection: Protect our environment, the safety and health of our families, and the great outdoors through "Clean Water Forever" legislation that protects the Great Lakes from diversion, stopping the indiscriminate flow of out-of-state trash into Michigan, and making polluters pay for the damage they cause.

Neighborhood renewal: Rebuild our neighborhoods by seeding new businesses and affordable housing; appointing a team of "blight busters" to tear down abandoned and dangerous buildings; developing Smart Building Codes that make it easier to obtain permits while protecting the public, and leading efforts to develop regional transit.

Public safety and security: Keep our families safe and communities secure by cracking down on parole and probation violators who commit the most violent crimes; breaking the cycle of drugs and crime; fighting for the rights of crime victims; encouraging the creation of more drug courts; and creating a broad-based task force to revamp Michigan's homeland security efforts.

Infrastructure investment: Keep Michigan moving by prioritizing the repair of existing roads, fixing our crumbling bridges; securing additional federal transportation dollars; and insisting on road warranties.

Rights of Workers: Fight for the rights of Michigan's workers by protecting the right to organize, improving workplace safety, and making sure that women get an equal day's pay for an equal day's work.

One Michigan: Build an inclusive Michigan where everyone has a share in the future and by knocking down barriers through a ban on racial profiling, vigorously prosecuting hate crimes, ending discrimination in employment, fighting insurance redlining and working to end discriminatory practices in banking and housing.

Seniors: Stand up for seniors by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, shielding them from fraud and abuse, and giving those who need long-term care more options to live at home or in the community.

Children: Put Michigan's children first by combating teen smoking; expanding after-school programs; reducing truancy by withholding the driver's license of children who are not going to school and raising the drop-out age from 16 to 18; and promoting public service by requiring community service to graduate high school.

Women: Support women by upholding and defending the right to choose, opening doors for women entrepreneurs, and calling for flexible work schedules and on-site child care centers so no parent has to choose between the child they love and the job they need.

College affordability: Open the doors of college to more of our young people through the Great Lakes Scholars program, a public-private endowment that will fund scholarships for Michigan students; supporting community colleges; expanding the Michigan Education Trust; and improving access to lifelong learning.

Corporate responsibility: Demand corporate responsibility and honest accounting practices by leveraging the state's power as an institutional investor to demand reform from corporations to protect people's pensions and savings and to restore faith in our private sector.

Fiscal responsibility: Restore fiscal responsibility to state government by cutting outdated programs, reducing overhead costs, and holding the line on the number of state government jobs so we have the resources needed to help Michigan's families, grow our economy, and create jobs of the future.

Government accountability: Create a government that works for the people of Michigan by calling for full public disclosure of any outside financial interests by elected officials and state employees, appointing a "bureaucracy buster" to cut red tape and simplify citizen access to government, and appointing a cabinet that reflects Michigan's diversity.


New Soo Lock money tied up in Congress

By Marty Mulcahy

SAULT STE. MARIE - The slow building industry in the Upper Peninsula would have welcomed the construction of a new lock through the St. Mary's River - but the hoped-for federal money never came through this year.

Still, said Stanley Jacek, Soo-area engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers, the $3 million design work on the new lock was completed, readying the lock system for construction when the federal money does come through.

"We had enough money to take care of the design, and we thought we would have some left over to do some of the initial work, but the money wasn't there," Jacek said. The project, expected to cost $180 million and extend over five years, would start with the installation of cofferdams, followed by demolition of two old locks, then installation of a new single wider and longer lock.

There are currently four locks at the Soo: The largest and most important is the 1,000-foot long by 105-foot wide Poe Lock, which was completed in 1968 and handles the biggest freighters. Also at the Soo are the MacArthur Lock (completed in 1944, 800 ft. long by 80 ft. wide) and the smaller Davis and Sabin locks, which were built more than 80 years ago.

Plans call for removing the Davis and Sabin locks and replacing them with a larger lock, identical in size to the Poe. Currently major maintenance that's performed on the Poe Lock is done in the winter. A new lock would allow for summertime maintenance, and give the lock system a backup in case of mechanical failure.

And mechanical failure would be catastrophic to Great Lakes shipping: Not only do coal and wheat go through the locks, 70 percent of all raw materials used in the U.S. steel industry go through the passage.

The locks are necessary because they permit ships to travel around a 21-foot waterfall on the St. Mary's River. Lake Superior is 21 feet higher than the other Great Lakes. Approximately 5,000 boats and ships use the locks every year.

In an era of federal budget cutting, it appears as if funding for the project will be coming in piecemeal. The Soo is in the district of Congressman Bart Stupak. His press secretary, Dave Sauceda, said $4 million to start construction on the new lock passed the U.S. House Water Development Subcommittee on July 10, and is now before the full House Appropriations Committee.

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT at the Soo Locks are the MacArthur, Poe, Davis and Sabin locks. Plans call for a $180 million project to demolish the Davis and Sabin Locks, which are more than 80 years old, replacing them with a single lock the size of the largest lock, the Poe.


Take a swat at the West Nile Virus

By Susan Carter
Executive Director
Michigan Construction Trades Safety Institute

One of the latest public health concerns to hit Michigan is the threat of the West Nile Virus. As construction professionals with extended exposure to the outdoors, you should be particularly aware of the precautions that should be taken and signs to watch out for.

On Aug. 16, 2002, the Lansing State Journal reported that state health officials confirmed the presence of West Nile virus in bird carcasses in 32 Michigan counties. The disease has sickened at least 145 people in six states and killed nine people in two southern states. In its Aug. 17, 2002 edition, the Detroit News reported about two cases of suspected West Nile virus in Oakland County. Significantly, one was an unidentified, 63-year old construction worker who was listed in fair condition. The other was an 82-year-old retired man who is an avid golfer. He was treated for 10 days and released.

Experts say the risk to people in Michigan still is low, partly because dry weather has stunted the summer's mosquito population. Michigan Department of Community Health Director James K. Haveman, Jr. reports that the risk of West Nile encephalitis is higher in persons 50 years of age and older

West Nile is named for the Ugandan region where it first appeared in 1937. The West Nile Virus is primarily a disease of birds. It is commonly found in Africa, West Asia, and the Middle East, but has also caused outbreaks in Europe. West Nile had not been found in the United States before the late summer of 1999.

Fewer than one percent of people who are bitten and become infected will become severely ill with flu-like symptoms or encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Most people infected by the West Nile Virus have no symptoms at all, or experience something that feels like flu.

Symptoms of "West Nile fever" may include fever, headache, achy muscles, and extreme tiredness, perhaps with skin rash and swollen lymph glands. In a fraction of cases, the fever leads to encephalitis, which is fatal in some cases or may cause neurological after-effects.

There is no vaccine against West Nile, and no known "cure." As with other viral diseases, treatment consists of support until it has run its course. The incubation period - the time between an infectious bite and the onset of symptoms - is usually 5-15 days.

The virus can infect many different species of birds and other animals, but crows seem particularly vulnerable, and monitoring programs focus on them.

What you can do to help fight mosquitoes? Construction sites - especially those where good "housekeeping" standards are not being maintained - can often provide many opportunities for their breeding. And hard-working skilled craft workers usually offer plenty of exposed skin. Hungry female mosquitoes just love poking them for a quick and tasty blood meal.

Here's some advice:

  • Reduce the population. Empty standing water in wheelbarrows, buckets, plastic covers, or any other container where "wrigglers" and "tumblers" live. Overturn all containers where rain water can collect.
  • Keep them off. Apply insect repellent sparingly to exposed skin. An effective repellent for adults will contain at least 35% DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide). DEET in high concentrations (greater than 50%) provides no additional protection. Whenever you use an insecticide or insect repellent, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer's directions for use, as printed on the product.
  • Dress for the occasion. Use head nets, long sleeves and long pants if you are working in areas with high mosquito populations, such as marshes.
  • Take cover. If there is a mosquito-borne disease warning in effect, stay inside, especially during the evening when mosquitoes are most active. Make sure window and door screens are "bug tight."
  • Squeal on 'em. If you find a dead crow, report it immediately by calling the Michigan West Nile virus hotline, (888) 668-0869, or visiting Click on the West Nile Virus quick link.
  • Find out for sure. Testing is free for any Michigan residents who think they may have the symptoms of the virus. Call (517) 335-9867 for more information.

To get you and your fellow workers involved in Save-A-Life certification, have your employer or union contact the Michigan Construction Trades Safety Institute directly, to set up classes and obtain schedules. It can be reached at (800) 657-8345 or by e-mail at



IBEW's Stephens runs for U-M regent
Greg Stepens, business manager of IBEW Local 252 in Ann Arbor, will be on the Nov. 5 statewide ballot as one of two democratic candidates for University of Michigan Board of Regents.

Stephens sought and received the nomination of the Michigan Democratic Party during their Aug. 24 caucus, along with Ish Ahmed.

Last month at the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council's annual convention, Stephens told delegates that one of his priorities will be to bolster union hiring at the university.

"There's currently over $1 billion in construction work at the University of Michigan," Stephens said. "We're talking jobs for our members. Right now, we have to go through a chain of command when we approach the university, and with me in there, we'll have someone there who can get things done."

U-M is governed by the Board of Regents, which consists of eight members elected at large in biennial state-wide elections. The regents serve without compensation for overlapping terms of eight years. According to the Michigan Constitution of 1963, the Regents have "general supervision" of the institution and "the control and direction of all expenditures from the institution's funds." The Regents meet once a month in a public session.

Michigan State and Wayne State also are governed by boards of regents, who are elected in a like manner.

"We almost never get much help from boards of regents," said MBTC Secretary-Treasurer Tom Boensch, "so it would be great for us if we could get Greg elected."

Trades rally scheduled Sept. 19
On Thursday, Sept. 19, elected officials and candidates for political office who do not care about issues like job safety, workers compensation, prevailing wage and unemployment compensation will be put on notice that building trades workers do care about those issues.

Building trades workers will rally to show that they will be going to the polls on Nov. 5, to support union-friendly candidates.

Hardhats are invited to join a labor rally sponsored by the Michigan Building Trades Council, which will be staged starting at 11:30 a.m. in the parking lot of the City Market on Cedar Street at Shiawasee, near the Lansing Center in Lansing.


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