The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 06, 2013

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Little change for Michigan building

Michigan’s construction industry continues to muddle along in 2013, registering a 1 percent increase in construction employment from July 2012 to July 2013. Michigan’s construction workforce rose from  137,500 to 138,900 from July 2012 to July 2013, according to a survey released Aug. 23 by the Associated General Contractors.

For Michigan, about the only good news from the report is that it wasn’t on the negative side of the ledger as it was month to month during the first quarter of this year.

By region, Flint saw a 12 percent increase in construction employment from July 2012 to July 2013, ranking it No. 24 among metropolitan areas of the U.S. Lowest on the charts for Michigan was the Monroe area, (No. 302 among 339 metro areas nationwide) where construction employment fell 5 percent during that year.

Unions seen more favorably

A bare majority of Americans have a favorable opinion of unions, but that favorability rating increased by 10 points from two years ago, says a recently released survey. And two years ago, the same research organization found that favorable opinions of unions was at its lowest point since the survey started in 1985.

The Pew Research Center study, revealed via the Bureau of National Affairs, found that 51 percent of Americans surveyed in June hold a favorable opinion of unions. The report titled “Favorable Views of Unions Business Rebound,” also found that 55 percent of the public had a favorable view of business corporations. That was up from 38 percent in 2011 – also the lowest since 1985.

According to the survey via BNA, in terms of household income, families earning less than $30,000 per year had the most favorable view of unions, 56 percent. That’s followed by those earning $30,000 to $75,000 (54 percent) and $75,000 or more (44 percent).

More women than men held favorable views of unions, 55-46 percent. Blacks (69 percent) and Hispanics (58 percent) were more likely to be pro-union than whites (46 percent). By age, 61 percent of participants 18-29 were pro-union, but only 42 percent of those 65 or older.

The survey queried 1,512 adults 18 and over.

There’s talk of union health care subsidy

The White House is apparently listening to concerns expressed by union leaders that the Affordable Care Act will lead to major costs increases for union health care plans.

Now, according to a report from Inside Health Policy and Forbes, the Obama Administration is considering offering insurance subsidies – originally intended for the uninsured – to labor union members who already have employer-sponsored coverage. AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka said a health care fix “was a topic of conversation” between labor and senior Obama Administration officials.

If the subsidies go forward, there’s sure to be a firestorm from conservatives who will say the costly union give-back was not in the original health care law – because in fact it wasn’t. But there has also  been much criticism from union leaders about the bill that it places an unfair burden on union employers and plans who have been doing the right thing over the years – offering health insurance.