The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, July 21, 2000


By The Building Tradesman

If at first you don't succeed…
MIDLAND - The Saginaw Valley Chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors once again reached into its bag of tricks this month, and pulled out a lawsuit that has all the charm of a whoopee cushion.

The Chapter has filed a Midland Count Circuit Court lawsuit to get the Michigan Prevailing Wage Act of 1966 declared unconstitutional. The suit named the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services and the Midland County prosecutor as defendants.

"Every few years the ABC comes up with a cockamamie legal case against prevailing wage or union-only project labor agreements, and they come up the loser every time," said Detroit Building Trades Attorney Doug Korney. "This just strikes me as another unmeritorious lawsuit filed by the ABC."

In filing the suit, the ABC used the tired old refrain that the law adds excessive costs to taxpayer-funded construction - a point which has been debunked by no less than three university studies in the last three years.

"It should be called the union wage law. There's nothing prevailing about it," said Andy Anuzis, vice president of the ABC of Michigan, to the Associated Press.

For the cost of its legal fees, the ABC may feel that they can get a break before a friendly judge on this case, because they haven't had much luck related to prevailing wage in any other venue. Gov. John Engler and the Republican-dominated state legislature have so far not made a serious attempt to repeal the law, most likely because the votes simply aren't there.

As we reported in our last issue, a Michigan Court of Appeals panel last month ruled 3-0 that the prevailing wage for state-sponsored construction work must follow state law and mirror wages paid in local collective bargaining agreements.

And, when a case brought by the ABC to federal Judge Robert Cleland resulted in his overturning the Michigan Prevailing Wage Act in 1994, based on the thin argument that the law preempted the federal ERISA Act, his ruling was effectively overturned 19 months later by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the validity of union-only project labor agreements - which legally have certain similarities to prevailing wage.
"The ABC has been singularly unsuccessful in the courts and I doubt they're going to be any more successful on this case," Korney said.

WW II bombers on display Aug. 5-6
Pipe Fitters Local 636 member Ed McCahill called the mass production of the B-24 and the B-29 bombers "labor and industries' finest hour. Not many Americans weren't affected by the work of these great eagles."
On Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 5-6 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, a B-29 Superfortress, the only one of its type still flying today, and a B-24 Liberator will be on display, flown to Michigan by the Confederate Air Force.

The planes will be at the historic airfield as part of a symposium, "The atomic bombing missions of World War II," which will include Paul Tibbets, pilot of the B-29 Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and Don Albury, who piloted the B-29 Bock's Car, which dropped the A-bomb on Nagasaki. The event will be hosted by the Yankee Air Force, of which McCahill has been a member since 1985. He and other building tradesmen volunteer their time to refurbish the planes and keep them in operation.

Also on display will be the jewel of the Yankee Air Force's squadron, a B-17 Flying Fortress, one of the few in the country still flying.

Adult tickets are $10 to check out the planes and the Yankee Air Museum; $5 for kids under 13. For the Aug. 5 symposium, doors open at 5 p.m., with dinner being served at 5:30. Speaker presentations begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $45 in advance or $50 at the door, and the price includes the Aug. 5-6 round-up shows.

For more information, call (734) 483-4030.