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Human resources in the trades build new center for UAW-GM

Date Posted: March 3 2000

The UAW and General Motors are using 100 percent union resources to jointly build the 420,000-square-foot Center for Human Resources building that's going up on Detroit's riverfront.

The joint education and training facility will be placed in a campus-like setting, featuring a seven-story office tower, a variety of classrooms, a high-bay hands-on training area, a state-of-the-art auditorium, and a promenade open to the public along the water's edge.

Barton-Malow is acting as construction manager on the project, and Doring Inc. is the project manager. Completion is expected later this year. The project will peak out this spring or summer employing about 300 construction workers.

Currently the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources is working out of two separate facilites in Auburn Hills and in Royal Oak, where about 325 labor and management employees work side by side to develop and administer a variety of joint education activities. They include specific job training, an assembly line mock-up, and education courses in health and safety, product quality, tuition assistance, retirement planning, employee assistance, child care and elder care.

The theme of safety and good health on the project is apparent. "Both union and management have taken exhaustive steps to ensure the safety of the site," said Howard Erickson, communications manager for the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources.

For instance, one worker's only job is to walk the site and monitor air quality. Visitors sign off on a 15-minute safety education class. And the site's toilet facilities go above and beyond what's required by OSHA.

Project Manager Harold Rogers said the most unusual aspect of the job is a railroad car and track that will be place in the building. It will be used for teaching workers how to properly use a hi-lo to safely unload the cars. "You don't see that every day," he said.

With the UAW-GM involvement in the project, it's no surprise that it's an all-union project. But another thing you won't see every day is the project's commitment to using union and American-made materials.

"Our first criteria in buying materials is to try to get American and union-made," Rogers said. "Second, we try to get American-made. So far, I can't tell you about every nut and bolt, but we're doing pretty well, the percentage is high."

When this project is completed, the UAW will have each of its education and training facilities with the Big Three automakers along Jefferson Avenue. This site also places GM's facility a mile-and-a-half east of the automaker's new headquarters at the Renaissance Center.

Since 1984, UAW and General Motors have committee more than $3.5 billion toward joint education, training and re-training programs. Thousands of workers take advantage of the training every year. 

A LIMESTONE section that will be placed as a fascia panel on the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources is guided into position by Joe Kalhorn of Bricklayers and Allied Craft workers Local 1. Looking on is bricklayer Dennis Helfrich. They were working for Leidal and Hart.