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September 27, 2002

Who are those guys? Part 2

Labor rallies, but will members vote?

There's still time: Register to vote by Monday, Oct. 7

Thanks for your generosity after Sept. 11

Steam-powered scoop: historic crane's days may be numbered

Heimlich, CPR training can save a life

Health care costs likely to start incursion into your paycheck



Who are those guys? Part 2

ABC's inflated membership claims deflate under scrutiny

By Marty Mulcahy

Editor's note: In our last edition, we published the first in a series of three articles devoted to exposing the membership makeup of the rabidly anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors.

This analysis was provided by the National Heavy and Highway Alliance, a partnership of seven international building trades unions led by its Executive Director, Ray Poupore, who hails from Michigan.

We uncovered so many untruths regarding what the ABC says about its membership and what the ABC membership actually is, we really don't know where to begin.

As that famous defender, protector and enforcer of the law years ago, Sgt. Joe Friday, would've said, "Just the facts, ma'am. Just the facts." Well, here they are. No sugarcoating. No spin. No B.S. Just plain, simple facts according to the ABC's own "2000 National Membership Directory and Users Guide."

  • The ABC has 18,917 current members, not the 22,000 members it consistently and constantly claims.
  • Of those members, 45% are non-builders!
  • General contractors make-up only 12% of the ABC's membership. And 60% of its general contractor members do business of under $6 million per year. Moreover, 30% of its general contractor members do business of under $1 million per year.
  • Subcontractors constitute 43% of the ABC's membership. And 31% of its subcontractor members do yearly business of under $1 million. In addition, 87% of its subcontractor members do yearly business of under $6 million.
  • In a three-year time span approximately 43% of its members dropped out of the ABC.

These are just some of the facts that were revealed by our in-depth analysis of the ABC's own membership directory. Every scrap of data, including the classification of members and the dollar volume of work per year which its members perform (at least those members who actually do perform construction work) were taken directly from the ABC's own publication. Absolutely nothing was fabricated. What follows is a section-by-section detailed description relating to the factual discoveries referenced above.

The overall membership. What would you call on organization that represents 979 insurance/bonding companies? Or 402 accounting firms? Or 323 banks and/or financial institutions? Or 440 law firms? Well, the ABC calls them members of a building construction organization!

That's a total of 2,144 builders…er…uhhh…we mean members! We just can't wait to hear these ABC members' positions on prevailing wage laws, or on Project Labor Agreements, or on wage compliance groups, or even on common-situs picketing. Now, that would make for some interesting conversation!

Within the ABC membership there are 1,432 are multiple members (i.e., the same member belonging to more than one chapter). If a member belongs to ten different chapters, then the ABC counts that one member as ten members. (We figure that's the Arthur Anderson method of padding your figures).

Consequently, if you subtract the multiple members from the original membership figure you get a true total count of 18,917 members. Not the 22,000 members which the ABC over the years has claimed, and has testified to before numerous Congressional Committees, that it represents.

The ABC classifies its members as a General Contractor, Subcontractor, Supplier or an Associate Member. We found the percentage breakdown of the current membership to be: General Contractors - 12%; Subcontractors - 43%; Suppliers - 24%; Associate Members - 21%.

Therefore, you could easily discern from these numbers that the ABC's membership includes 45% non-builders! To put it another way, it represents 9,160 firms/companies that do not build anything! They do not hammer any nails, erect any steel, paint any structures, dredge any harbors, patch any concrete, lay any bricks, wire any houses, tar any roofs, dig any ditches, weld any pipes, insulate any attics, or install any duct work. They simply are not builders.

But who does really build our nation's bridges, highways, office buildings, locks and dams, schools, parks, athletic stadiums, subways, and houses? General contractors, that's who. General contractors being assisted by subcontractors performing subordinate tasks to the main job at hand. So, how many general contractors belong to the ABC? Only 2,395 - or 12% of its entire membership. And almost one-fourth of its general contractors do yearly business of under $1 million.

One small state, or metropolitan county, has that many registered general contractors within its confines!

Another classification which the ABC uses is an "Associate Member." Just what is an Associate Member you may ask? Well, here are a few examples: BJ's Custom Creations Embroidery Service of Hagerstown, MD; Tee It Up Golf of Jacksonville, FL; WRKA Radio of Louisville, KY; Round Butte Seed Growers of Culver, OR; Ann's Custom Monogramming of Freeport, TX; National Bugmobile of Victoria, TX; Grimm Trophy & Gifts of York, PA, and Archway Cookies of Boone, IA. These are just a few examples of some of the builders …oops…of course we mean these are some of the Associate Members of the ABC.

And, can you guess how many more Associate Members there are just like these? If you guessed 4,183 you'd be correct! That's right. These types of companies comprise 21% of the ABC membership. Wouldn't you just love to sit down with a representative of Archway Cookies of Boone, Iowa in order to discuss the Davis-Bacon Act and how it impacts their bottom line?

So would we, just to be able to explain to them that the Davis-Bacon Act isn't something you eat for breakfast!

Since we have just proven, by using the ABC's own classification system, that almost half of its members are non-builders, then how can the ABC claim that its members perform 70% to 80% of the construction in this country? That's easy. It can't, unless it embellishes the facts. However, in our society you can claim anything you want. The hard part starts when you're actually asked to prove your claims. Please read on.

Dollar volume of work performed. This brings us to the ABC's claims of how much work its members actually perform. Through the years we've seen, or heard, ABC ads that say its members build 75% of all construction. We even saw one ABC ad once that proclaimed, "We are ABC; we are construction. Across the U.S.A., we do fully 85% of all projects large and small…"

Are these claims inflated? Inflated? Is the gigantic Snoopy balloon in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade inflated? You bet, and it's filled with nothing but pounds of hot air.

The only method we could figure out to prove how much construction ABC members actually perform in a year was, once again, to go straight to the horse's mouth, i.e., its own directory. Each and every general contractor and subcontractor is classified by the ABC by the amount of dollar volume of work performed in a year.

We used this same classification system in breaking down each and every general contractor and subcontractor. We found that 87% of all ABC builders combined, both general and subcontractors, perform under $10 million of work per year.

Now, any idiot can readily see that ABC members cannot possibly build 75% of all construction in this country, let alone 85%.

For example, there was approximately $500 billion worth of construction performed last year in the U.S. and 75% of that is $375 billion. And, we've proven that, according to its own numbers, 87% of the ABC members who actually do build things do yearly dollar volume of work of under $10 million. Those figures just don't add up! Unless, of course, each and every builder (not member, but builder) in the ABC performs over $33 million of work per year! We say, if the numbers don't fit, then the false claims must quit!

We're not the only group or organization that has challenged the ABC's claims that its members build most everything in this country. None other than Cockshaw's Construction Labor News + Opinion, a newsletter devoted to the construction industry since 1971, has also questioned the ABC's myriad of claims. In fact, since 1991 Cockshaw's has had an ongoing battle with the ABC in trying to get it to prove its claims of percentage of work performed.

To our knowledge, to date the ABC has yet to provide one tiny scrap of data to Cockshaw's that could substantiate its wild claims. On the other hand, the only source we can think of to turn to is the ABC's infamous directory, and we now know what that proves in regards to dollar amount of work performed!

Of course, when confronted with these facts (a word that may be alien to the ABC) we're pretty positive that the ABC will respond that it's really talking about open-shop numbers, and not the amount of dollar volume per year its members actually perform. Come on, what else can they say? But if they take that slick way out, wouldn't that be like the Minnesota Vikings taking credit for a touchdown scored by the San Francisco 49'ers?

The question then would be: Do you take credit for construction work that is not performed by your members? Of course you do if you're the ABC. It has in the past and it probably will in the future.

Concerning the amount of construction work which ABC members actually perform in a year, we think we can safely say that they don't perform 75%, not even close. It simply is impossible. But rest assured, this won't stop the ABC from making its exaggerated claims.

Although, we must admit, if we told whoppers like that when we were growing up, we'd still be standing in the corner per the orders of mom.


Labor rallies, but will members vote?

By Marty Mulcahy

LANSING - Several thousand union members marched to the steps of the State Capitol Sept. 19, getting the attention of lawmakers with union banners, shirts, flags, placards - and a microphone.

"We deserve a state government that works for working people in this state," Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney told the crowd. "We deserve a governor and a legislature that values our values. That's what our message is: we want to change this government."

The vast majority of ralliers were from the building trades, many of whom sacrificed a half or full day's pay to take part in the event.

With Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Granholm out of town, the featured speaker was her choice for lieutenant governor, John Cherry. The son of an IBEW member, Cherry told the crowd how his dad's income had put food on his table, and allowed him the "opportunity to succeed in life" as he became a state senator.

Cherry related how frustrating it has been for Democrats during the last 12 years of the Engler Administration - the Senate has always had a Republican majority, and during that time the state House has only briefly been in Democratic control.

"It's tough being in this building in a minority party for all those years," Cherry said. "We've watched Republicans dismantle health and safety regulations, but that's about to change. They've played havoc with unemployment compensation. That's about to change. They've handcuffed funding for public schools and limited access to health care, and that's about to change.

"The fact is, the winds of change are blowing across this state, and it's starting to look like a hurricane by the name of Jennifer Granholm."

Recognizing the importance of the issue of gun owners' rights in the building trades, Cherry worked to dispel any doubts about where he and Granholm stand on the issue. Cherry is an avid hunter who hosts sporting clay tournaments every year.

"The last thing Jennifer Granholm wants to do is take away your right to bear arms or your right to hunt," he said. "We support the rights of sportsmen and women to own firearms for hunting and for personal protection. Let there never be a question that Granholm/Cherry will do anything to take away your right to bear arms."

Cherry said Granholm will further support working people by creating a scholarship to help lower- and middle-class school children. She will fight Engler's effort to privatize Blue Cross Blue Shield.

"Nov. 5 is Election Day, but it's also freedom day," Cherry said. "When you vote, you can free yourself from the regressive policies of the last 12 years."

Also on the dais was democratic candidate for attorney general, Gary Peters.

"I will fight for you to enforce prevailing wage in this state," Peters said. "I will fight to keep your workplace safe and to put some teeth in MIOSHA. I will fight for pensions and good wages and safety issues. I'm also proud to say that I'm a hunter, I've hunted with Sen. Cherry and I will fight to preserve your gun rights. Let me take your case in November."

Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Tom Boensch said building trade union members "don't need another eight years with a governor who has partnered with the ABC."

"Gov. Engler has touted his fiscal policies and has bragged about the budget surpluses and tax cuts," Boensch said. "Next year the government is faced with a projected deficit of $1 billion - that's with a 'b' The solid fiscal footing of the state has crumbled. We must rebuild a government that will work for us as citizens. The groundbreaking is on Nov. 5."

THE DEMOCRACTIC candidate for lieutenant governor, John Cherry, told the Sept. 19 labor rally on the Capitol steps in Lansing that Republicans use gun owners' rights as a wedge issue to scare gun-owning Democrats. "The last thing Jennifer Granholm wants to do is take away your right to bear arms or your right to hunt," Cherry told the crowd.


There's still time: Register to vote by Monday, Oct. 7

An election as important as the one that will take place in Michigan on Tuesday, Nov. 5 deserves all the participation that can be mustered.

And in order to participate in the election process that day - you need to be one of the 6.8 million or so Michiganians who are registered to vote. Michigan voters have until Monday, Oct. 7 to register in order to vote in the Nov. 5 general election.

To register, you must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years of age by Election Day, and a resident of Michigan and the city or township where you are applying to register to vote.
You can register to vote for federal, state, and local elections by mail; at your county, city, or township clerk's office; or by visiting any Secretary of State branch office. When you move, you must re-register to vote. You can also download a copy of a voter registration application - there's an easy link to the state web site on the opening screen at

"Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a state than that all persons employed in places of power and trust be men of unexceptionable characters. The public cannot be too curious concerning the character of public men," said founding father Samuel Adams, who lived in an era when women couldn't vote, much less run for office.

Whether candidates for public office are men or women, their character matters as much today as it did 225 years ago. Building trades union members are urged to become curious about the character and record of Democrat Jennifer Granholm and Republican Dick Posthumus, who are running for Michigan governor, as well as candidates for the scores of other offices that will be on the ballot.


Thanks for your generosity after Sept. 11

By Patrick Devlin
Greater Detroit Building and Construction Trades Council

In the days and weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, employees, workers and employers of the Michigan building trades and construction industry made numerous contributions of time, talents and resources to assist those affected by the tragic events of that day.

Some of our members actively participated in the rescue and clean-up efforts while others supported worthy charitable organizations working to assist others.

One of our responses was to establish the Michigan Building Trades and Construction Industry 911 Relief Fund at the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan. A total of $206,670 was raised by the generous contributions of employees, workers and employers throughout our industry.

Our gifts were distributed from the Michigan Building Trades and Construction Industry 911 Relief Fund to the September 11th Fund of the New York Community Trust. It should be noted that neither the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan nor the New York Community Trust charged any administrative fees to this effort. Therefore, all of your gifts went to help those in need.

John Rakolta, Jr., President and CEO, Walbridge Aldinger, and I served as the co-advisors on this fund. We received valuable input on making the grant to the September 11th fund from a group of employee and employer advisors and the staff of the Community Foundation.

The September 11th Fund used these gifts to provide direct cash assistance to the surviving family members of building trade and construction industry workers killed in the attacks. Each family received, as a result of your gifts and other funds available through the September 11th Fund, a cash distribution of $10,000. These families may also have received direct support from other sources.

We are proud that our members rose to the challenge put before them on Sept. 11. The thanks of all those affected are yours no matter how you supported them in their time of need.


Steam-powered scoop: historic crane's days may be numbered

By Marty Mulcahy

FRANKFORT - Steam power is alive and (sort of) well on the Great Lakes.

No, not in the form of a locomotive train engine or paddle-wheel boat at one of Michigan's tourist stops. As unlikely as it may seem, a commercial dredging and breakwater repair company employing union operating engineers continues to use a steam-powered crane that was built in 1939.

"We run it in kind of a slow duty cycle, but it's as steady as a rock," said Kurt Luedtke, who owns Luedtke Engineering Co. along with his brother Paul. They are third-generation owners of a business that their grandfather started in 1930, and today they have about 70 employees, including operating engineers and seafarers.

The Orton-Whirley crane sits atop a barge - what the company calls Derrick Boat No. 12. Originally, the crane's boiler got its steam up through the burning of coal, but sometime during the 1950s the system was converted to burn fuel oil. A Detroit diesel generator on the bow provides electrical service to the crane and barge.

Luedtke owns two other barge-mounted cranes, a Manitowac 3900 that was mounted in the 1970s and another model that was built in 1969. Both of those "newer" cranes can accommodate 12- to 15-yard clamshell dredging buckets, but they limit the steam-powered crane to a 4-yard bucket. They are floated from job to job all over the Great Lakes. The company currently has projects going on in Bay City on the Saginaw River and in Michigan City, Ind.

"It's been a good crane over the years," Luedkte said. "There aren't a lot of major mechanical components on it. We maintain it well, and when something does break down, we've been able to weld it back together or make the spare parts. Plus we have good operators who run it."

A 500-gallon water tank feeds the boiler. The tank needs to be replenished after a two-hour duty cycle, and conveniently, the lake provides a ready source of water via a vacuum intake. There are actually two steam engines on the crane - one powers the cables and the barge's winches, the other powers the turning movement of the entire crane.

Dennis Steffens has operated and maintained the crane for most of his 28 years as an operating engineer. "I like it. I was born on it, almost," he said. "I run it; I fix it."

Steffens said the experience of operating the old crane is akin to driving an old farm tractor. "There's a lot of power there, but it goes slower," he said. "There's some maintenance, you might have a connecting rod or a bearing come loose, but it's usually pretty simple to fix. It's a good, common-sense design."

He added, "in one respect, it's a much faster way to operate. Instead of the crane going through gears, like you'd see on a modern machine, this uses a free-falling live boom and a brake. Gears tend to slow you down a little."

Don Laitinan, a three-year member of Local 324, alternates with Steffens in operating the old crane. "I am really fascinated with steam power," he said. "When I first saw the crane, I was wondering how you would ever do any delicate work with it. But you can open up the bleeder and make the engine turn easily. You can ease her up a bit."

Observing the crane work from the shore this summer at an Army Corps of Engineers pier-rebuilding project on Portage Lake, the only signs that the crane is steam-powered were the steady puffs of vapor emanating from the stack. Inside the cab, the squeaks, rattles and hisses are constant reminders that the crane is using some old hardware

And that outdated hardware will soon bring about the forced retirement for what is probably the Great Lakes' last steam crane, floating or land-based. At one time the company had two of the steam-powered cranes, but one was cut up a number of years ago for parts. The Leudtke brothers said the end is getting near for this crane, but they would prefer that it not end up on a scrap heap.

"It's had a good run, and it's probably time," said Paul Luedtke. "But it has some historical value, and we'd rather not cut it up. He said they have contacted Greenfield Village, but they didn't show any interest in acquiring it, and the owners are now looking for another home for the crane.

"I'd be sad to see it go" Steffens said. "I wouldn't be able to blow the whistle any more."

THE WHITE PLUME you see isn't diesel exhaust: it's vapor coming from a steam-powered, barge-mounted crane that was originally built in 1939. It's probably the only steam-powered crane still operating in the state. The rig is used regularly on Army Corps of Engineers' projects and always passes their inspections.


Heimlich, CPR training can save a life

By Susan Carter
Executive Director
Michigan Construction Trades Safety Institute

Earning a first aid card through the Michigan Construction Trades Safety Institute's Save-A-Life program brings obvious benefits to your job in the skilled trades. Yet medical emergencies can arise anywhere, striking anyone. It especially hits home when the life of a family member is endangered.

Just ask April Nolan, who, with her husband Scott, received the training when she was on the staff of Operating Engineers Local 324. During her cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) class she asked her instructor several questions about the differences in the techniques used for adults and for small children. "He happened to have a doll with him," April says, "and he covered a portion of infant CPR."

Earlier this summer April prepared her home for a bridal shower for her sister-in-law. Visiting were her husband's mother and father, as well as two of his brothers. All were pitching in to make sure everything was well organized for the celebration. Even Morgan, April's 2-1/2 year old daughter, did her part.

"It was about 9 p.m. and I had asked my daughter to stay in the kitchen with her grandma because she was letting the mosquitoes into the house," April says. "I was in the garage, talking to Morgan and my mother-in-law when after a couple of minutes there was silence."

A mother's instinct may have directed April to turn around. She discovered that her child was beginning to suffocate. The little girl had been given a hard piece of candy and had accidentally inhaled it.

"When I turned around, I yelled at my mother-in-law: 'She's not breathing! Call 911,'" April says. She grabbed Morgan, who was still standing, while her mother-in-law called the 911 dispatcher. April attempted the Heimlich maneuver on the little girl. It didn't work. She called to her husband, who was out in the back yard, and he ran to her aid.

"The dispatcher said, 'If she's breathing at all, stop,'" April says. "So I laid her on my lap to re-evaluate her condition and she began to turn blue. Scott grabbed her from me and began working on her. After several attempts and two hard blows on the back, she began to throw up."

Despite the emotional circumstances, and instead of panicking, the first aid and CPR instruction April and Scott received helped them to make the quick, rational decisions needed to save their daughter's life.

"If it wasn't for the training, who knows what would have happened," April says. "Thank God. The emergency vehicles arrived and assessed the situation. My daughter's doing fine."

Choking caused by a foreign object obstructing a body airway accounts for about 3,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. You may not think it would happen very often on a construction site, but the piece of hard candy inhaled by Morgan could just as easily be the mistakenly gulped breath mint that went down the "wrong tube" of a pipe fitter, painter, or sheet metal worker.

The following is not a step-by-step guide. It's presented to inform you of the training you should have to save an adult or child above the age of eight from choking to death.

If the victim is having a problem but can still speak, cough, or breathe, don't interfere. Just stand by to make sure the situation clears itself and improves. But if the victim can't speak, cough, or breathe, the Heimlich maneuver should be used. At the same time, have someone call 911 for help from emergency medical personnel.

The Heimlich maneuver consists of a series of subdiaphragmatic abdominal thrusts. You've probably seen it performed on television - including comedy skits - but that alone won't make you an expert in it. And when someone is turning blue in your hands, you'll want to do it correctly.

If the maneuver is at first unsuccessful, and the victim becomes unconscious, position them on their back with their arms by their sides. Do a tongue-jaw lift and finger sweep their mouths to remove any foreign objects. Tilt the head back and lift the chin, then attempt rescue breathing. If that's not working, perform six to ten Heimlich maneuvers. Repeat this until successful. If the obstruction is expelled, be prepared to perform CPR if necessary.

By all means, be persistent. Continue until success is achieved or advanced life support help arrives and can take over.

Children between the ages of one to eight - and infants below the age of one - require special measures. All of these steps are best learned in a class taught by an experienced instructor, such as those provided by the MCTSI.

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


Health care costs likely to start incursion into your paycheck

By Marty Mulcahy

Get ready for a bigger chunk of your pay raises to be allocated to health care costs.

In fact, the "health care crisis" in the U.S. is so severe, said Michael Buck of Association Benefits, that there will likely come a day in the not-so-distant future when 100 percent of pay increases - in the building trades and other professions - will be allocated to paying for health insurance.

"Today's contributions are inadequate to tomorrow's costs, and costs are going up every single month," Buck told delegates to the Michigan Building Trades Council Annual Convention last month. "We've been hoping that hours worked will go up to offset the effects of inflation and increased medical costs. But I think we've reached that intersection. The hours aren't going to increase to meet those costs. We're going to have to pull the trigger on making some decisions that are really difficult."

Association Benefits is a health care insurance consultant and independent agent for seven union funds.

Some of the options, he said, are to cut back on services, limit eligibility, or more likely, drastically increase contribution levels. None of those options are apt to sit well among building trades workers or any other American. We're a nation that demands good, universal health care - but we're squeamish about paying the bill.

Health insurance costs rose 15 percent last year in Michigan and they're expected to climb even more this year. A report by Families U.S.A. found that in Michigan a standard health insurance plan costs $5,532 a year for a 25-year-old and $6,060 for a 55-year-old, the second and 11th highest rates in the nation, respectively.

A number of factors are driving up health care costs. One of the biggest problem, Buck said, is us: humans are living longer. "Every eight seconds in this country someone turns 50," he said. "The reality is, like an old car, we're going to require additional services, and with the technology we have in place to treat people, and with the effects of inflation, we're going to continue to see our health care costs going up."

In fact, this year, Medicare patients are expected to pay more than $1,000 out-of-pocket for their prescriptions, up from $813 in 2000. And it now costs an average of $13,500 per year for health care costs for the average senior citizen age 75-85, many of whom are living into their 90s.

Other factors that contribute to higher costs include government regulation, litigation, fraud, medical treatment enhancements, and the granddaddy of them all: the price of prescription drugs.

Buck pointed out that the top nine prescription drug companies spent $45.4 billion on marketing their drugs in 2001 - compared to $19.1 billion for research and development.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that employers, public interest groups, insurers and politicians are "all trying to stop - or at least slow - an annual rise in drug costs that has accelerated to double-digit rates and is slicing increasingly larger chunks out of consumer pocketbooks, government budgets and corporate profits. Total spending on prescription medicines rose 16 percent in the U.S. last year to $142 billion - about 10 percent of the nation's $1.42 trillion in health spending."

Many union workers haven't felt the pinch - yet. According to a report in The Detroit News, "The main reason why rising insurance costs have not cost Michigan employees their medical benefits, most analysts agree, is the strong presence of organized labor. Unions have locked the Big Three automakers and other unionized industries into long-term contracts that prevent them from reducing these benefits. The union presence forces even non-unionized companies to maintain union-level benefits to compete for workers, something economists call the 'halo effect.' "

The price Michigan pays for good health care is that Michigan has been ranked the eighth most expensive state to do business, which may have contributed to a 2 percent drop in employment last year, while the nation as a whole was nearly even.

In addition, personal income in Michigan is 2.5 percent lower than the national average and is growing at the second slowest rate among the 50 states. The News report said "Michigan employers, who until now were asking only that workers help defray rising medical costs through higher co-payments and deductibles, have begun demanding that workers accept lower wages in lieu of maintaining their health care benefits."

Pipe Fitters Local 636 Business Manager Jim Lapham, who has helped negotiate several collective bargaining agreements on behalf of his members, said the first warning shot about higher health care costs came several months ago from management trustees on the local's health and welfare fund. They're proposing that the local's retirees pay for more of their coverage.

"Up until recently that hasn't been an issue," Lapham said, "but now it is. We've been struggling for a year and a half now with our costs, and that's why we went to a self- insured plan. We won't know for a couple of months how much money we're saving. But there's no question that costs are going up, and we're going to have to find a solution."



ENR lists top contractors
Several Michigan firms are on the annual rankings of the Engineering News Record's top 400 contractors.

Among the top 100 firms are Southfield-based Barton-Malow (#34), Walbridge-Aldinger of Detroit (#54), Angelo Iafrate of Warren (#61) and Ellis Donn Construction Inc. of Northville (#68). All the Michigan-based firms in the top 100 moved up slightly in the rankings from the year before. The firms were rated according to revenues from prime construction contracts, joint ventures and subcontracts.

Bechtel of San Francisco was ranked No. 1 on the list. Other big contractors on the top 100 list that are familiar to Michigan include The Turner Corp of Dallas (#5); Washington Group Int'l (#8) of Boise; Hunt Construction Group, Indianapolis, Ind. (#19) and Alberici Corp. of St. Louis (#51).

Michigan-based contractors in the rankings, or out-of-state contractors who work on a number of our state's projects include the Boldt Co. of Appleton, Wis. (#109); Christman Co. of Lansing (#122); Rudolph/Libbe Cos. Inc., of Walbridge, Ohio (#155); JM Olson Corp. of St. Clair Shores (#159); Granger Construction Co. of Lansing (#191); John Carlo Inc. of Clinton Township (#208); Roncelli Inc., Sterling Heights (#251); Lunda Construction Co., Black River Falls, Wis. (#276); Clark Construction of Lansing (#286); George W. Auch Co., Pontiac (#308) and Rockford Construction Co. Inc., Belmont, Mich. (#399).

Building trades appeal Bush's order
AFL-CIO Building Trades Department President Edward Sullivan vowed to "exhaust every avenue" to block an Executive Order issued by President Bush in February that effectively bans the use of project labor agreements (PLAs) on federally assisted construction jobs.

He said unions will file a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that upheld Bush's ability to make that Executive Order. A previous lower court ruling said Bush overstepped his authority in making the Executive Order.

PLAs have been used on hundreds of different high-profile projects in both private and public sectors for more than 40 years. In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the use of PLAs on public projects in a case involving the cleanup of Boston Harbor.

"We are taking this case to the highest court in the land because we will not stand by and watch the National Labor Relations Act - which gives rights to both workers and employers - be disassembled by Executive Order," Sullivan said. "It is a misuse of presidential power to restrict the use of federal funds allocated by Congress, with total disregard for the impact such restrictions will have on labor laws that have stood for over six decades.

"The Executive Order is a back door attempt to undermine the rights of millions of taxpaying construction craftspeople across this nation."


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