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Michigan Drives Union Construction Continues Dialogue to Advance Industry

Before a packed hall of union contractors, labor leaders and representatives from the owner community, TAUC's First Vice President, Bob Santillo, of McCarl's Inc., opened TAUC's annual summer safety - labor forum with a call for an added sense of responsibility in the construction industry. Touching on the challenge of manpower shortage and the ever present issue of union construction's share in the marketplace, Mr. Santillo encouraged those in attendance to further their involvement with TAUC so that the unsettling trends that our industry has been witness to may be reversed.

Following a "TAUC Safety Minute" with the Association's Safety and Health Committee Chairman, Bill Hering, of S.M. Electric Co., those in attendance were apprised of the current state of union construction in Michigan. Shorty Gleason, President of the Michigan State Building Trades' Council (MSBTC), gave an undeviating presentation on the work that is coming down the pipeline and the challenges that his affiliate unions are facing in their region of the country. MSBTC CEO, Pat Devlin, followed Mr. Gleason's remarks with an energized look at the need for continued labor management cooperation to overcome the hurdles that the construction industry is facing. Mr. Devlin's viewpoint on what needs to be done in his region could easily translate to any region in the country.

A staple of TAUC safety labor forums, an update on the unrelenting work of TAUC's Labor Committee, was offered by its new Chairman, Bud Burns, of J.J. White Inc. Mr. Burns relayed that at the most recent Labor Committee meeting, during TAUC's 2008 Leadership Conference, the Committee's past Chairman, Gary Kebert, made it a point to refocus the Committee. It was noted that the Committee looked at past accomplishments so that they might map out the path they will take moving forward to continue their productivity.

Switching gears, the forum then delved into the issue of Transportation Workers Identification Credentials or "TWIC." Chris Granberg of Siff & Lake LLC was on hand to offer his expertise on TWIC which was developed to improve identity management and credentialing shortcomings that existed in segments of the transportation sector. TWIC effects more than one million individuals at present, all USCG credentialed mariners, port facility employees, longshoremen, truck drivers, and others (including construction and maintenance employees) requiring unescorted access must have a TWIC.

Rounding off the morning MDUC session was J.P. McBride of Chrysler, Ron Koshewitz of Ford and Carl Gabbard of GM, who were on hand to participate in an open dialogue with TAUC moderator Mike Schumacher of Aristeo Rigging & Erecting, on the current automotive market and its impact on labor forecasting and what can be done to better the industry as a whole.

Kicking MDUC off in the afternoon was an update on the National Maintenance Agreements Policy Committee, Inc. from Vice President of Industrial Relations, Kevin Hilton. It was reported that in 2007 work hours reported under the NMAPC program totaled over 59 Million and work hours reported to date in the first quarter of 2008 have already outpaced 2007. Mr. Hilton also reminded those in attendance that the 8th annual Zero Injury Safety Awards (ZISA) will be taking place October 29th in Washington, DC. The ZISA awards have accounted for 56, 481,839 injury free work hours performed under the NMAPC program.

In light of the recent crane accidents this year, Bill Parsons of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was on hand to update the audience on a number of standards, namely the cranes and derricks whose preamble is still being crafted. Although this has been a long and drawn out process, a drug testing requirement and physical qualification standard will not be part of the new standard. Mr. Parsons noted that he would have personally welcomed them had they survived the negotiated rule making process.

MDUC was concluded with a look at manpower shortage, as Ed Coffey of the Michigan Building Trades Council and Chris Hernandez of the Northwest Indiana Building Trades Council took questions from TAUC moderator Steve Johnson of GEM Inc. The challenge of recruiting younger people into the trades was brought up and both Mr. Coffey and Mr. Hernandez remarked that they had both gone to long lengths with recruiting high school and college aged people without seeing marked results. A solution to this was posed by TAUC CEO, Steve Lindauer, in that the industry will only see improvements in recruitment when attitudes are changed regarding the construction industry. Too many high school and college aged Americans see construction as a last resort when thinking about careers. They can not look past the dirty clothes and the hard working conditions to see that many of today's business owners, safety professionals and contractor executives were once field craftspeople. TAUC and its membership are working alongside the International Unions to change these attitudes.

TAUC's next safety labor forum will be its annual State of the Union...Construction Industry scheduled for Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C.

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07/16/2008