The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 14, 2014

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman



Better news for construction starts     

Perhaps U.S. construction at the start of 2014 went a bit better than we reported.

Last issue we cited a report by McGraw Hill Construction, which said U.S. construction starts dropped 13 percent in January from the prior month, and five percent from January 2013. On March 3 came a report by the other big group which watches construction industry trends, the Associated General Contractors, which said that total construction spending in January posted the steepest year-over-year increase since 2006.

“Overall construction spending increased in January compared with both December and January 2013 despite uncommonly adverse weather conditions,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.  “The monthly gains were limited to homebuilding and multifamily residential construction, although private nonresidential work should rebound in the next few months. Public construction is up for now on a year-over-year basis, but funding remains questionable.”

The AGC said construction put in place totaled $943 billion in January, 0.1 percent higher than the December total, which was revised up $12 billion from the initial estimate. However, the January 2014 mark was 9.3 percent higher than in January 2013, the fastest rate of growth for total construction spending since May 2006.

McGraw-Hill (which measures construction starts and the AGC (construction put-in-place) rarely differ too much in their reports on construction activity, but the effects of the harsh winter weather on field reports used by the Census Bureau is likely a factor in the disparity.

“Overall construction spending increased in January compared with both December and January 2013 despite uncommonly adverse weather conditions,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.  “The monthly gains were limited to homebuilding and multifamily residential construction, although private nonresidential work should rebound in the next few months. Public construction is up for now on a year-over-year basis, but funding remains questionable.”

 

DETROIT (PAI) – The United Auto Workers have filed formal unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) concerning their narrow 712-626  loss last month in a union recognition vote at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.  But in what may be an unprecedented move, they said outside interference by Republican politicians illegally skewed the vote.

“A firestorm of interference from politicians and special interest groups threatening the economic future of the plant occurred just before and during three days of voting in an election supervised by the NLRB,” the union said in a statement.

The union and the company agreed that, had the union won, they would have established a joint labor-management “works council,” similar to those legally required in VW’s home nation of Germany, to run labor-management relations.

Some labor lawyers say the UAW’s challenge to the outcome based on outside interference, as opposed to company labor law-breaking, has few precedents. But UAW cited 1977 and 1984 NLRB decisions setting aside union losses in recognition votes for just that reason of outside political interference.  It wants the labor board to overturn the Volkswagen election results and order a rerun.

The politicians threatened to take away state-sponsored tax breaks for further expansion in Chattanooga.  Corker declared that if the plant went union, it wouldn’t get a new SUV assembly line.  The Right Wingers’ billboards and radio ads tied the UAW to Democratic President Barack Obama and to gun control.  The politicians made an honest election impossible, UAW’s filing with the NLRB says.