The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, April 05, 2019

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Michigan still vexed by low wage levels

Michigan's jobless rate (4.6 percent) is nearly at its lowest since 2000, but the percentage of households that "could not afford basic needs such as housing, child care, food, transportation, health care, and technology" moved up from 41 percent in 2017 to 43 percent in 2019.

That news comes this month from the Michigan Association of United Ways, which used a $25,000 Consumers Energy grant to perform a study and spotlight the multitudes of people who are still in an "ALICE" category: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.

"Despite overall improvement in employment and gains in median income, the economic recovery in Michigan has been uneven,"  the study says. "Many ALICE households continue to face challenges from low wages, reduced work hours, depleted savings, and increasing costs. For the many households that earned slightly above the ALICE Threshold in the past, increases in the cost of living and flat wages have pushed them below the Threshold and into financial hardship. The total number of Michigan households that cannot afford basic needs increased 6 percent from 2010 to 2017."

The problem isn't unemployment, it's pay levels. In Michigan, the study said 61 percent of jobs pay less than $20 per hour, with almost two-thirds of those jobs paying less than $15 per hour. Another 29 percent of jobs pay from $20 to $40 per hour. Only 8 percent of jobs pay from $40 to $60 per hour.

The highest percentage of Michigan people living under the ALICE Threshold, 61 percent, reside in Lake County.

Overall statewide, 14 percent of households are classified as being in poverty. Another 29 percent fall within this ALICE category.

Excellence award goes to iron worker

Union iron worker Vicki O’Leary, chairwoman of North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) Tradeswomen’s Committee and a 30+ year veteran of the Iron Workers, last month was awarded the Engineering News Record's 2019 "ENR Award of Excellence" in recognition of her leadership to improve building trades’ workforce diversity and job site safety and health.

Now the Iron Workers International Union’s general organizer for safety and diversity, O'Leary throughout her career has propelled change to improve union construction diversity. She helped roll out the Iron Workers'  “Be That One Guy” initiative to stop workplace harassment and psychological violence and introduced the IW paid maternity leave program, the first program of its kind in the building trades.

Additionally, through the Chicago native's leadership on NABTU Tradeswomen’s Committee, more building trades affiliates have developed maternity leave policies and anti-harassment programs,

 NABTU President Sean McGarvey said “Vicki has been pivotal to advancing equality, diversity and respect within the Ironworkers union and across all of the building trades. Her thought leadership and initiatives to prevent bullying, promote diversity and improve safety are invaluable to our industry and the entire union movement. We are tremendously grateful to her for being a true champion of change and applaud her for earning this esteemed honor.”