The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 29, 2017

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

State employee unions targeted

LANSING - Another day, another way to put the screws to Michigan's union members.

On Sept. 20, the Michigan Civil Service Commission (MCSC), over the vehement protests of state employee unions, gave the state the authority to override collective bargaining contracts for state employees during financial emergencies, and gave government managers ultimate authority for how employees receive overtime, are reassigned after layoffs, while reducing the issues upon which they're allowed to bargain.

The worker reforms are the most significant since the state Legislature adopted right-to-work laws for public and private workers in 2012. This time, it was a ruling by the Michigan Civil Service Commission, which voted 3-1 to approve the new language, covering the state's nearly 50,000 employees. The three supporters were Republican-appointed.

"This is all part of the right-wing’s plan to bust unions, defund the left, and give more power to their corporate donors in our democracy and in the workplace, while decreasing economic security for state workers and their families at the same time," said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan.

Countered the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, who supported the reforms: "We applaud the MCSC’s efforts to provide central direction and control over state employee personnel matters and leave the patchwork scheme and red-tape of union contracts behind." 

The unions involved, which included the UAW, SEIU, AFSCME, MSEA and the MCO - said any changes should have been collectively bargained.

"The proposed changes," said the news service MIRS, "in the eyes of its supporters, would bring more efficiency to a complex system. In many cases, they say the changes would create uniformity in how employees represented by unions and non-exclusively represented employees are treated. Yet, the unions don't see a system that's broke and in need of fixing."

Architects like industry's direction

With all geographic regions and building project sectors showing positive conditions, there continues to be "a heightened level of demand for design services" - the latest signal from the American Institute of Architects'  (AIA) latest Architecture Billings Index (ABI).  

The index is the leading economic indicator of what will come in the U.S. construction industry, and reflects an approximate nine to twelve month lead time between architecture billings and construction spending. 

The AIA reported on Sept. 20 that their most recent index came in at 53.7, up from 51.9 the previous reported the August ABI score was 53.7, up from a score of 51.9 in the previous month. This score reflects an increase in design services provided by U.S. architecture firms. The new projects inquiry index was 62.5, up from a reading of 59.5 the previous month.

“The August results continue a string of very positive readings from the design professions, pointing to future healthy growth across the major construction sectors, as well as across the major regions of the country,” said AIA Chief Economist, Kermit Baker, Hon. AIA, PhD. “Given the focus and discussions around the infrastructure needs of the nation, we expect strong growth in design activity for the coming months and years.”