WARREN – A special briefing on construction union value for the benefit of owners, educators and elected leaders was held March 28 at the IBEW-NECA Electrical Industry Training Center.
Hosted by the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, the morning presentation offered a variety of good-news items on union productivity, safety, drug testing and safety training and value-added performance for owners and contractors.
“We’re all interdependent on each other,” said the event’s organizer, Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council Business Representative Gary Hellmer. “Owners, contractors, unions. And most of our unions and contractors, for the last 100 years, have offered the largest, most successful, privately funded higher education in the nation: apprenticeship training. We are a 21st Century Labor Management model that works well. With apprenticeship training, continued journey upgrading and lifelong learning, we run a parallel path with post secondary education leading to more partnerships and articulation.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about people, relationships, training and opportunities.”
In attendance were owner-representatives, contractors, local lawmakers, and union trade representatives. The event was co-sponsored by two lawmakers who have the Local 58 Training Center in their district, Michigan state Sen. Steve Bieda and state Rep. Jon Switalski.
Bieda said, “I like to brag about this facility” to his fellow legislators, referring to the modern and well-equipped IBEW-NECA Training Center. He said of the trades: “you built this state, you built this country,” but there is plenty of legislation in Lansing that has and will prove harmful to organized labor. He said alternative career paths made possible by the state’s construction unions “are important to the economic vitality of this state.”
Switalski said of apprenticeship opportunities: “that’s something that I wear on my sleeves” when talking with other lawmakers. “I appreciate all you do and your work in helping people with alternative education.”
Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Patrick Devlin pointed out that the 15 unions comprising the building trades all offer privately funded education and on-the-job training. “But training is only part of what we do,” he said. “We work with customers and stakeholders to make sure we meet market demands and make sure we do what we need to do to get better.”
Out in the real world, representatives of two owners said they have enjoyed building union.
Mark Woloszyk, Chrysler’s plant and facilities engineering manager, said he has worked extensively with construction labor-contractor-owner on tripartite construction arrangements, “and the quality of the work your people do is outstanding, and I applaud you for that.” He said Chrysler successfully partnered with the union trades and their contractors on construction of engine plants in Detroit, Dundee and Trenton.
“The partnership with the trades has been fantastic,” he said. “The workmanship is second to none. The safety record is exceptional. I look forward to a continuing partnership with the trades.”
Oakland University Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Terry Stollsteimer lauded the “great partnership” the Rochester school has had with building trades unions and their contractors. He pointed out that the campus has undertaken $250 million in work over the last four years.
“I appreciate the partnership we have,” he said. “What we’ve done would not have been possible with the help of the skilled trades unions. Keep up the good work.”