The Building Tradesman Current Issue | Back Issues Index

September 2, 2005

Today's K.I. Sawyer a model for redevelopment

Celebrate Labor's Day on Sept. 5

The workingmen's (and women's) holiday: 'who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.'

Building trades assess affect of new coalition

Electricians keep tabs on union food bank

Gateway bridge topped off, nearly ready for traffic

News Briefs


Today's K.I. Sawyer a model for redevelopment

By Marty Mulcahy
Managing Editor

- Many communities around the nation are distressed about the latest round of military base closings that are currently on the Pentagon's front burner.

But what has happened at the former K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base is a great example of how a major military base can be re-used for the general population.

Now Marquette International Airport, the former military base is slowly being transformed into a growing regional transportation hub. The latest construction project at the airport, which is nearing completion, is an $8.2 million multi-use building that will house aircraft rescue and fire-fighting, as well as snow removal equipment storage, maintenance and repair.

"Sawyer is an excellent example of what can happen when a community gets behind the revitalization of a former military air base," said Sawyer Airport Manager Keith Kaspari. "This facility has really been a crown jewel for the Marquette area."

Located on 1,700 acres, Sawyer came into being with the signing of a U.S. government lease in 1955. Two years later, the facility's runway was complete and the base temporarily hosted F-102 aircraft from Kinross AFB in Sault Ste. Marie. An F-101 "Voodoo" squadron became operational at the base in 1959 when the runway was extended to 12,300 feet - one of the longest in North America.

With the long runway, Sawyer later hosted squadrons of KC-135 air refueling tankers and B-52 bombers.

With the end of the Cold War, Sawyer and numerous other military bases were slated to be closed. The last aircraft assigned to Sawyer were six T-37 trainers. The last B-52 left the base in November 1994, and in August 1995, the base was deactivated.

Community leaders saw Sawyer as a better option for airport growth than the existing Negaunee Airport. By September 1999, a new terminal building was completed at Sawyer, and over the years the building trades have provided their skills to improve numerous hangars and other facilities at the redeveloped airport.

Today, the airport is served by American Eagle, Embraer Air, Midwest Air, and Northwest's Mesaba. The facility employs 225.

Kaspari said construction work started on the new rescue/maintenance facility early last year. Completion is expected at the end of this month.

"It's a pretty straightforward facility," Kaspari said. "The new building will allow us to consolidate airport fire apparatus and snow removal that are in four separate buildings, into one, which should really save us a lot of money on utility bills." He said the new building will include a welding shop, safety equipment and the capacity for steam cleaning. The building's upper level will host training and a command post.

Congressman Bart Stupak (D-Menominee) helped win a $4.7 million Federal Aviation Administration grant to partially fund the project.

"The FAA grant for Sawyer International will allow major improvements to the airport's rescue and firefighting response times," he said when the grant money was awarded. "These projects could not have been done without federal assistance, and I am very pleased that the funding has come through."

The building trades, general contractor Premeau Construction and its subcontractors "have been excellent, they have really done some outstanding work for us," Kaspari said.

THE LENGTHLY 12,300-foot runway at Sawyer International Airport near Marquette. The airport has been the site of significant construction activity over the past few years.

LEVELING A trench assembly is Ty Rosten of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 506 and J & N Plumbing. Ty was working at the Sawyer International Airport's new aircraft rescue, fire-fighting and snow removal facility.
Photo by Jerry Bielicki


Celebrate Labor's Day on Sept. 5

The building trades and the rest of organized labor will on the march again on Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 5, and union members across Michigan are urged to make plans to attend celebrations in their community.

Parades and parties are planned in Detroit, Ishpeming (near Marquette) and Muskegon.

The Detroit parade kicks off at 10 a.m., with the building trades lining up as usual along Trumbull, south of Michigan Ave.

The lineup will be led by the IBEW, followed by the Bricklayers and Allied Crafts, Roofers and Waterproofers, Elevator Constructors, Painters and Allied Trades, Cement Masons/Plasterers, Sheet Metal Workers, Iron Workers, Laborers, Pipe Trades, Boilermakers, Heat and Frost Insulators, Teamsters and Operating Engineers.

The parade route will proceed east along Michigan, the south on Washington Blvd. to the Legacy of Labor Monument on West Jefferson.

An American Red Cross blood drive will be held in the basement of the IBEW Local 58 union hall from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Labor Day.

The traditional Labor Day Festival will not be in Marquette this year, but in Ishpeming, southwest of Marquette at the Cliff's Shaft Museum site. The parade will start at 11 a.m. EST on Labor Day, with a picnic at noon and a program at about 1 p.m.

In Muskegon, the West Michigan United Labor Day Parade will be at Pere Marquette Park. Participants will meet at the Harbortown parking lot between 9:30-10:30 a.m. for shirts and hats. The shuttle will take participants to the staging area. The parade starts at 11 a.m. with a picnic to follow.

There will be no Labor Day Parade in Grand Rapids this year. Unionists from Grand Rapids are encouraged to join the celebration in Muskegon. If you need directions, call the UA Local 174 union hall, (616) 837-0222.

And in St. Ignace, union members are always encouraged to join the governor in the annual Mackinac Bridge walk on Labor Day. Participants can start walking anytime after the governor begins her trek, starting at about 7 a.m. No one will be permitted to walk after 11 a.m.


The workingmen's (and women's) holiday: 'who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.'

By Marty Mulcahy
Managing Editor

The history of the Labor Day

"Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country," said Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor. "Labor Day... is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation."

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Founder of Labor Day.

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

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."

But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.

What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on Sept. 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Labor Day legislation. Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on Feb. 21, 1887.

During the year four more states - Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York - created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other 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 in the District of Columbia and the territories.

A nationwide holiday. The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday - a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families.

This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership - the American worker.

(From the U.S. Department of Labor)


Building trades assess affect of new coalition

What's next?

More than a month after six unions in the Change to Win Coalition bolted the AFL-CIO, that question is on the minds of labor leaders, rank-and-file members, and interested onlookers who wonder what this all means for the future or organized labor.

So far, the new coalition seems to be a little slow getting out of the gate, and the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions are still in damage assessment mode.

Here are a few highlights:

For the building trades, the status of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, and to a lesser extent, the Teamsters, is Issue No. 1. Both unions are part of the breakaway coalition. And so far, there has been movement toward a resolution, with a little bit of wiggle room added.

The Carpenters were actually the first union to leave the AFL-CIO, and they disaffiliated four years ago. Under the federation's bylaws, the Carpenters were also supposed to be excluded from the AFL-CIO's Building Trades Department, but weren't.

Building trades leaders and the AFL-CIO have had on-and-off talks about the Carpenters' status over the years, and were supposed to finally address the issue this summer. And the issue was settled, although there appears to be some room for all the building trades unions to continue working together.

Building Trades Department President Edward Sullivan told delegates to the annual Building Trades Convention in Boston on Aug. 9 that "under the AFL-CIO constitution, no union is allowed to affiliate with the Building Trades Department while choosing to remain outside the AFL-CIO. That democratically established rule applies to every union. Therefore, we regret the leaders of the Teamsters and the Carpenters have chosen to disaffiliate from the AFL-CIO and, therefore, to leave" the department.

His remarks formally put an end to four years of talks between AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney and Carpenters President Douglas McCarron over the UBC's return to the AFL-CIO.

"We recognize there is a necessary interrelationship among the building trades," Edward Sullivan told delegates. "We will have to continue to work together to ensure our differences do not disrupt jobsites and that the important progress we have made with contractors and owners will continue." He said on a local level, the Building Trades Department "is focusing on ways to deal with these pressing issues and to provide councils with additional guidance."

In Michigan, the Carpenters left the building trades nine years ago, but have often maintained informal working ties with the rest of the trades.

One of the ways being examined by the AFL-CIO for local unions and councils to deal with unions that want to maintain their affiliation with the federation or union councils is through the proposed use of "solidarity charters."

Such charters could enable local affiliates of the Carpenters and Teamsters to continue formally participating in building trade councils, central labor councils and state federations. But not every AFL-CIO executive council member supports the charters as proposed. A funding mechanism still has to be worked out for paying dues and for determining how such unions could hold office in the councils, and there also needs to be a way to settle jurisdictional disputes.

James A. Williams, president of the Painters' union, told the Engineering News Record he is "vehemently opposed" to the charters. "There can't be a strong, unified labor movement unless everyone participates at all levels," he said. "You're either in or you're out. You can't be half pregnant."

Meanwhile, after all the hoopla surrounding the exodus of the Change to Win Coalition unions from the AFL-CIO, things quieted down quite a bit in the ensuing weeks.

The coalition, led by its largest union, the Service Employees, sent hundreds of people to a mass march in Atlanta on Aug. 6 commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

And, members of SEIU recently voted to concentrate on organizing workers in the South and Southwest, regions with significant African-American and Latinos.


Electricians keep tabs on union food bank

BATTLE CREEK - A food bank serving the members of IBEW Local 445 is paying dividends for electricians who need a helping hand.

With construction activity often slowing to a trickle in the area and members regularly running out of jobless benefits and SUB pay, two retirees came up with an idea to help Local 445's jobless workers through lean times.

Chris Tramel and Rex McAdow - both veteran volunteers at a local countywide food bank - set up a food bank specifically for Local 445 members last year in the basement of the union hall, and have taken care of it for a few hours every week.

"We saw that there was a great need here in our own local, so we set up a low-key system that allows people to choose their own food, instead of just being handed a bag of groceries," Tramel said. "Not having to pay for some food might allow members to buy gas or pay for insurance or other things."

Added McAdow: "This just takes a little sting out of being out of work. It's a way of showing fellow union members that you're thinking about them."

McAdow and Tramel use a freezer and shelving space in the basement of the union hall to store food items. Tramel and his wife, Pat, and daughter, Kristen, clip coupons, look for sale items and shop every week at Meijer and other stores to keep the pantry stocked.

Members who need the food are welcome to go to the pantry once a week and take up to 12 nonperishable items and three frozen items. Members who take food are only asked for a ticket number, not their name, so they can remain anonymous. The volunteers said no one has ever abused the system.

"We've had two years of bad unemployment" said Local 445 Business Manager Steve Claywell, "so we know the pantry has done some good. You've got to give a lot of credit to Chris and Rex; they donate a lot of their time each week to buy food and coordinate everything. We're proud of them."

Donations from members, contractors, other unions and the local labor-management committee have helped fund the pantry. Tramel said depending on the usage, anywhere from $30 to $125 will be spent each week on groceries. He keeps track of the types of food that has been taken, and they replenish accordingly with a variety of name-brand food items.

"People are really appreciative," McAdow said. "I know it bothers members to have to come and accept food. Imagine if one week you're earning $1,200 a week and then a few weeks later you're out of work and your income is down to $400 or less. People are proud, but I think they feel better about accepting help from us because these are fellow union members helping them."

Many of the union members who were fed by the pantry often re-pay fund when they go back to work, Tramel said. Thankfully, "shopping" at the pantry has dropped off this summer as members have found jobs. But the pantry fed up to 40 members and their families per month during the toughest times, and thanks to Chris and Rex, it's ready when needed in the future.

THE FOOD BANK at IBEW Local 445 is kept in good working order by retirees (r-l) Chris Tramel and Rex McAdow.



Gateway bridge topped off, nearly ready for traffic

By Marty Mulcahy
Managing Editor

Michigan's long history of bridge construction added another chapter on July 27, with the topping-off of the new I-94 "Gateway Bridge" in Taylor.

The blue "modified tied-arch" spans - the first of their kind in Michigan - will carry freeway traffic over Telegraph Road. The unique, matching east-west 246-foot-long spans are intended to act as a gateway for Metro Airport travelers headed for Detroit.

When we reported in June on the completion of the first span's steel, Whaley Steel general foreman Jim Davenport said he expected the second bridge to go up quicker. It did, shaving about 10 days off the first 10-week timeframe. CA Hull was general contractor on the project; Whaley was the steel erector.

"We learned a lot from the first bridge, and everything came together perfectly on the second," Davenport said. After the concrete road surface is put into place, iron workers planned to return to adjust the tension on the vertical cables.

The $14 million Gateway project will cost about 15 percent more than a regular overpass, but the cost is being made up by grants and local communities that agreed to help foot the cost to make the span something special.

The 110-foot-tall arch sections are comprised of hollow boxes of steel, welded shut and pressurized to keep out moisture - and hopefully rust. The heaviest section of steel is 142,000 lbs.

As work was nearing an end on the superstructure, Whaley Steel rodbusters were busy preparing for the installation of the road surface. Rodbuster foreman Lee Bushey said the iron is a little thicker than in most road-beds, to provide a little more support for the concrete. "The installation has gone really well," he said.

Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman Rob Morosi said last week that construction is moving quickly: the westbound lanes should open by early-to-mid-September.

IRON WORKERS and rodbusters from Local 25 atop the Gateway Bridge deck, when it was topped out. They worked for Whaley Steel on the project.




News Briefs
58's Radjewski promoted to IU

Jeff Radjewski, business manager of IBEW Local 58 for the last eight years, was chosen last month by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers as coordinator of organizing for the Sixth District.

"It's been a rewarding time for me at Local 58," Radjewski said. "I've been in the IBEW for 31 years, and over the years I've come to realize that we're all part of something bigger than just ourselves. I'm amazed at the strength and character of people in the labor movement. It's like a calling. It sounds like a cliché, but I've seen it."

The IBEW's Sixth District includes Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Radjewski said he's comfortable taking over his new position, "especially because the local is in good hands with Joe Abdoo. He's been an officer in the local for many years and he had the experience and character to do a good job."

Abdoo steps into the Local 58 business manager position after having been Local 58's president. "Jeff has been a friend for 30 years," Abdoo said. "His promotion is good for Jeff, good for Local 58 and good for the IBEW. We wish him well."

A few primaries set for Sept. 13
A few communities have their primary elections slotted between the traditional date in August and the November general election.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13 voters will go to the polls in Romulus, Southgate, and Taylor, among other communities, to elect city officials.

Following are candidates endorsed by Political Action Committee of The Greater Detroit Building and Construction Trades Council. The list only includes candidates who have requested an endorsement.

City of Romulus
Mayor: Alan Lambert
City Council: Bill Wadsworth

City of Southgate
Mayor: Sue Hall
City Clerk: Cecilia Dally
Treasurer: Pat Ganzberger. James Gray is "eminently qualified"
City Council: Christopher Heopfner, James Loftis, Janice Paige

City of Taylor
Mayor: Greg Pitoniak
City Clerk: Mary Ann Rilley
Treasurer: Christopher Kemp
City Council: Jill Brandana, Jacklyn Molner, John Grove, Sr.


The Building Tradesman Current Issue | Back Issues Index