The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 19, 2004

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Trades get to work at $800M GM plant
DELTA TWP. – Ground was officially broken by dignitaries March 9 on the construction of a new $800 million vehicle assembly plant that will be constructed by union trades workers.

The Lansing Delta Township Assembly Plant will be the second totally new vehicle assembly plant built by GM in the greater Lansing area. The first was the Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant, which began production in late 2000. In addition, a 500,000 square-foot contiguous metal center is already operational at the site. This facility provides most of the major sheet metal to Lansing Grand River and will support the new assembly plant.

“Our decision to build a whole new assembly plant is the result of developing a business case for an all-new product that has tremendous potential in North America,” said Gerald L. Elson, GM vice president and general manager of vehicle operations. “An important element of the business case was the work and cooperation of our employees, the United Auto Workers, the State of Michigan, local governments, and the greater Lansing community. As we do business in the extremely competitive global marketplace, the product and the manufacturing process – combined with our people and the community working in a cooperative manner – are all essential to develop a business solution that makes sense for everyone.”

The Lansing Delta Township Assembly Plant will consist of three buildings covering approximately 2.4 million square feet. Construction has already started on the paint shop and work will begin on the body shop and general assembly building later this year. Production at the plant is scheduled to begin in late 2006. Products for the new plant have not been announced.

Asbestos vote is on Senate agenda
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has pledged to bring a floor vote in late March or early April on legislation to create a multi-billion trust fund to compensate workers exposed to asbestos.

Debate continues on how to properly compensate victims of lung diseases – thousands of whom are construction workers – brought on by asbestos exposure. Senate Republicans have proposed a $105 billion trust fund that would come from manufacturers who have used asbestos in their products and insurance companies, but many Democrats claim that needs to be at least doubled. There is also debate over how to put together an asbestos trust fund and proposals to limit litigation from the system that have gone on for years.

Democrats and organized labor do not like the Republican bill to resolve the asbestosis dilemma – but the GOP is going ahead with the vote. “At some point, the talking must end,” Frist said.

Long-term jobless numbers increase
WASHINGTON (PAI)–The nation’s unemployment rate was 5.6 percent in February, and 8.17 million people are out of work, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this month.

The number of unemployed in January 2001–the last data gathered under President Clinton–was 5.956 million and the adjusted jobless rate that month was 4 percent. Since then, 2.214 million people have joined the ranks of the jobless.

That’s not the whole story. “With the persistent job shortage, 392,000 people gave up looking for work in February, making the official unemployment rate a misleading indicator of joblessness,” the Economic Policy Institute said.

And the number of long-term jobless–whose unemployment benefits have run out–is 22.1 percent of all unemployed workers. The GOP-run Congress has refused to extend jobless benefits, which expired December 31. For the first time, the number of jobless who have been out of work at least 4 months exceeded 40 percent of all unemployed.

Further, BLS said 10.3 percent of workers are jobless, discouraged workers or forced to toil involuntarily part-time when they really want full-time work.