The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 16, 2007

50 candles for the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

LANSING - The Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council marks a milestone this month: 50 years of service to the state unionized construction workforce.

The Building Tradesman Newspaper, which came into existence in 1952, reported in 1957 that the new Michigan State Building and Construction Trades Council would replace the existing conglomeration of unions, Michigan Conference of Building Trades Councils.

"Actually, the Michigan Conference voted its own demise in the best interests of the building trades," the Tradesman reported. "The current body is loosely knit, with no full-time or paid representatives.

"The new body is expected to bring fuller representation to all councils and to work night and day for unity in the building trades throughout the state on all questions involving the prestige and traditions of the entire building trades union movement." The paper editorialized that the new council "is an organizational 'must' in that it will coordinate, solidify and strengthen the building trades unions of Michigan, which, after all, is the common goal."

The charter was signed by the AFL-CIO Building Trades Department on Feb. 26, 1957, and presented to Michigan State Building and Construction Trades Council leaders sometime in March 1957.

Fast forward to the present: the Michigan State Building and Construction Trades Council dropped the word "State" from its moniker, effective Jan. 1, 2007. That's when the merger of the Greater Detroit Building and Construction Trades Councils and the Michigan council was legally formalized, in a process that was put into motion at the state council's annual convention in August 2005.

The 1957 formation of the new council apparently took a while to complete. The organization's charter was not released from the parent organization's Washington, D.C. offices until officers for the new Michigan council were elected. The first interim elected officers were Tom Borst of Lansing and Secretary Andy Virtue of Okemos, whose trades were not identified. Granting the charter was Building Trades Department President Richard Gray.

The parent building trades also objected to the Michigan council's lack of a constitution. But that problem was overcome with the formation of a 19-man committee, representing each union in the building trades, which was named to begin the work of "penning a new constitution," the Tradesman reported.

By May of that year, the new council got its act together, electing L.M. "Boots" Weir as president, (he was secretary-treasurer of the Detroit Carpenters District Council), and Robert Coulter as secretary, (he had been business manager of IBEW Local 107 in Grand Rapids). The state council's constitution had also been voted on and approved at that time.

"Unity has long been needed among the state's building trades, but not unity in the ordinary sense of the word. Unity here means added coordination between the different building trades bodies in the separate fields of jurisdiction, politics and bargaining," the Tradesman wrote. "Such coordination and cooperation is made possible by a strong state body such as now been formed…."

THE FEB. 22, 1957 front page of The Building Tradesman Newspaper heralded the pending formation of the Michigan State Building and Construction Trades Council.