Labor Day Represents Our Continued Fight, Not A Victory

A special message from Walter Wise, General President of the Ironworkers Union

Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894, pre-dating the founding of our own International Association.  It was a time of brutal working conditions: 6-12s the standard workweek; child labor; no holidays, no sick days or pensions; and worker safety was unheard of.  It was a time when corporate power and excesses were at a peak.  Monopolies dominated industries and labor alike.  Wages were depressed to the point where workers were paid in company script (money) that could only be spent on housing, goods or services sold by the employer. Most employees owed more than they earned each month.

Intolerable conditions led to strikes that were met with brutal retaliation from company thugs, the police and even the government.  Those confrontations were described as a second “civil war.”   Labor Day as a federal holiday was a failed attempt by President Cleveland to gain labor support for a third term after he sent 12,000 federal troops to break the Pullman Car Company strike where at least 13 strikers were killed.  The demands of decent wages, an 8-hour workday and the right to organize did not come about until nearly 50 years later.  Labor Day represents our fight, not a victory.

The strength of individual workers overcame ethnic and racial tensions to unite in their common plight. They fought to gain bargaining power with their employer, to demand a fair share of the profits that their labor helped generate.  As Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, said: “Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration.”

Since the eighties, that shared equity partnership has been broken.  Not between us and our signatory contractors, but by the moneyed interests of Wall Street with their pursuit of unfair profits and higher bonuses at the expense of everyone else, including our own nation’s independence and security.

This history is not only worthy of being remembered on Labor Day, but every day you walk into the workplace, every time you cash your collectively bargained paycheck, each year when you vote and every time you hug your loved ones.  Our fight continues.

Thank you for helping to build our great Union.

 

IronWorkers President Talks About The State Of Our Bridges

“There are over 100,000 bridges in this country that are old enough to qualify for Medicare.”  That is what President Obama told the nation in his recent speech about rebuilding our infrastructure.

Infrastructure is a term tossed around a lot lately to discuss everything from roads,  bridges, schools, telephone lines,  and power lines.  In most cases the term infrastructure refers to status of our roads and bridges.

Nationally our roads and bridges are rated at a “D”.  Unless something has changed in our grading system, that is not good.  That “D” made me have to retake biology in high school.

That is why Ironworkers Union President Walter Wise went on Fox 5 in Washington DC to talk about how bad our roads and bridges really are.  Here are a couple of points to get you started before you watch the video.

  1. The average age of a bridge in the United States is 47 years old
  2. 1 in 9 bridges have been determined to be structurally deficient.
  3. The average age of the structurally deficient bridges is 65 years old.

Be sure to share this with you friends after watching.
DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

The Dilemma Surrounding Chinese Steel

Over the last few decades workers in the steel industry have taken a significant hit.  This has left a huge loophole for Chinese steel manufactures to undercut US steel mills and gain a stronghold on the market.

Chinese Steel AAM

From ShouldBeMadeInAmerica.COM

More recently there have been many examples of large construction projects that have relied on Chinese produced steel.  One of the most famous was the reconstruction of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco California.  The NH Labor News talked about the $500 billion dollar project that was slotted to be funded under President Obama’s reinvestment program. The problem was that the reinvestment program required American made products and a project labor agreement for worker protections.  These restrictions are some of the reasons that the California Legislature decided not to use federal funds to fund the project.

In fact the project was completed with Chinese steel and Chinese workers, a double slap in the face for American workers.  The chinese government continues to use currency manipulation to make trade more favorable for their exports.  Currency manipulation is one of the biggest problems in trading with China. “Due to currency manipulation the raw materials costs in the United States are the same as final price of Chinese steel” said Congressman Tim Ryan. This unfair advantage has bigger effects on our national economy than just the cost of steel.

This was not the only problems with the Bay Bridge project.  The project was plagued with huge delays mostly due to shipping and steel construction.  Scott Paul, Alliance for American Manufacturing’s Executive Director explains::

“The problems with the Bay Bridge project could have been avoided if California officials had made it in America. Instead, the project is costing American jobs, undermining California’s environmental goals, and facing numerous delays.”

In a recent Wall Street Journal article Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers union, said Chinese steel’s “supposed cost savings do not take into account the environmental price of shipping steel from hundreds of thousands of miles versus 100 miles, nor the cost to our fragile economic recovery and the loss of American jobs.”

This Wall Street Journal article is creating a stir with some of the leaders in our nations building trades.  General President Walter Wise of the Iron Workers released this rebuttal:

While “U.S. Icons Now Made Of Chinese Steel” accurately depicts the ramifications of subsidized Chinese competition to our strategic steel fabrication industry, the author fails to address methods by which we can commit to re-build its capacity. Rather than abandon the U.S. steel and fabrication market for cheap labor, untested Chinese products, and the insecurity of that supply chain; the commitment to the use of U.S.-produced steel and fabrication to rebuild our 20,000 failed bridges and aging infrastructure will expand and modernize our native capacity with private capital.  In the process, they will create jobs, providing a shot in the arm to the U.S. economy that far outweighs any perceived savings from Chinese purchases. Perhaps most importantly, while the author references “price” six times, not once does he mention value. A $600 million bridge project fabricated by U.S.-based firms and U.S. workers will yield a huge local economic impact.  The same project secured by the Chinese bidder at $500 million, while cheaper, produces an economic boost in China, not here at home where our economy is still struggling to produce jobs.  The “price” of Chinese steel may be low, but the value to American families is nonexistent.

We need to ask ourselves what is better for our economy, buying cheaper and inferior products from China or boosting our national economy by getting more Americans back to work?

The United States as a whole is struggling to find ways to get our economy back on track. The biggest and best thing we can do is get Americans back to work in good paying jobs.  This means we need to revive our American manufacturing, including our steel producers.  Every state is talking about spending hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.  These are the investments we need in our country and our community.

When workers are paid a good wage they spend their money at local stores and shop.  This benefits everyone from the big box store to the small businesses on main street.

We need our politicians at every level to understand that an investment in American manufacturing is an investment in America.

Iron Workers Call on Congress to Break Gridlock on Infrastructure

Washington, D.C. – Iron Workers’s General President Walter Wise issued a call Friday for Congress to address the problem of America’s crumbling infrastructure.  “The collapse of the Skagit River Bridge in Washington serves as a reminder that this can’t wait until after the next election,” said Wise, adding that “infrastructure maintenance and improvement is not a partisan issue.”

President Wise points to years of poor reports on the state of the country’s infrastructure to make the case that action on this issue is long overdue.  The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the country’s bridges a grade of D+ this year.  The Washington bridge collapse and the 2007 collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minnesota illustrate the pressing safety threat posed by substandard bridges.

The Ironworkers have also called for high standards in bridge construction.  They point to the San Francisco Area Bay Bridge, which has been built using substandard Chinese steel and fabrication. To date, the bridge has suffered numerous failures and delays related to its materials and construction.  Amid continuing reports of these setbacks, the federal government has begun an investigation and California Governor Jerry Brown has called for a review of the California Department of Transportation.

Unfortunately, none of these problems can be addressed without congressional action.  Senate gridlock resulting from an unprecedented 360 filibusters from the Republican minority has destroyed even the bi-partisanship normally associated with infrastructure investment and safety.  “Unemployed construction workers and at-risk commuters are all waiting on Congress to do what’s right for the American people.” Wise concludes, “How much longer will they have to wait?”

About the Iron Workers: The International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union, AFL-CIO, currently represents 120,000 ironworkers in North America who work on bridges, structural steel, ornamental, architectural, and miscellaneous metals, rebar, and in shops.

Pittsburg Ironworker John Balik Named TAUC Craftperson of the Year

John Balik has been named the 2013 The Association of Union Constructors (TAUC) James J. Willis Craftperson of the Year.

The award, which recognizes outstanding labor-management cooperation and quality craftsmanship in the construction industry, was presented at a special ceremony on May 9 at TAUC’s annual Leadership Conference at the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Georgia.

John is a member of Iron Workers Local No. 3 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was nominated by TAUC member Graycor Industrial Constructors for his work on the construction and installation of a massive new coke battery at U.S. Steel’s facility in Clairton, Pennsylvania. John was responsible for managing skilled workers from several different crafts, making sure everything worked flawlessly and keeping the entire project on schedule – a formidable task to say the least.

The numbers alone are staggering. The battery was comprised of 30,000 tons of bricks, more than six thousand tons of structural steel and 30,000 yards of concrete – not to mention six major machines that weighed a total of 380 tons.

And to make things even more interesting, all of the work had to be completed in an area less than 200 feet wide and 500 feet long! At one point, crews were working within four feet of an active gas line.  Safety, cooperation and attention to detail were paramount.

IRONWORKERS LOCAL #3; JOHN BALIK, CRAFTPERSON OF THE YEAR

L-R: MARK THOMAS, IRONWORKERS LOCAL #3; JOHN BALIK, CRAFTPERSON OF THE YEAR; TOM MUCHESKO, GRAYCOR.

“It was a tight situation,” John recalled. “We ran into issues here where we physically had to have crafts working beside each other and it became really difficult.  You physically can’t get two people in the same place at the same time…I know there were times that the union guys managed to put aside their differences, their own pride and say, ‘Okay, let’s work together and get it done timely, safely, no lost time.”

“This project utilized many different crafts throughout the Pittsburgh building trades, including the Iron Workers, Operating Engineers, Carpenters, Boilermakers, Millwrights, Steamfitters, and the Laborers,” noted Mark Thomas, Business Manager and Financial Secretary-Treasurer for Iron Workers Local No. 3. “It was a strict schedule for completion and it took great teamwork by all the crafts, by U.S. Steel, Graycor, John Balik, and the craftsmen on this job.  It really was a team effort to make sure this project got done on time.”

And John was just the man to lead the team.

“John has a very diverse background,” said Tom Muchesko, Senior Vice President for Graycor. “He has the eyes of an ironworker, but he also has the technical training of an engineer. So really it was a very good combination of knowing technically how to do it and yet also having firsthand knowledge with the trades.”

John has great leadership skills,” Thomas added. “His directions were concise, and he was certainly well ahead of the curve when it came to the planning of this job and in making sure that the job got done on time.”

Those leadership skills proved even more valuable when the decision was made to finish the project two months earlier than originally planned. “John helped analyze the schedule,” Muchesko said. “He decided what shifts needed to be worked, and he determined which trades, which crafts had to work…he really minimized the cost impact of accelerating the schedule.”

When the project was finally completed two months early, the entire tripartite team of craftworkers, Graycor and U.S. Steel had another reason to celebrate: two and a half million man hours were worked without a lost time incident.

“This job is a great testament to the slogan ‘Do it right, do it once,’” Thomas said. “It was a safe project, it was done on time, and the quality, I know, was second to none.”

“I can’t say enough about the guys on the job, how they helped me,” John said. “They came together and they pushed our goal…they delivered.”

“John exemplifies union construction at its best,” said TAUC President Tom Felton. “He proved that it’s possible to work at the highest level and get the job done without sacrificing the core values of safety, quality, leadership and cooperation. He earned the respect not only of his fellow craftworkers, but of the contractor and the customer as well. People like John epitomize the best qualities of our skilled trades.”

The James J. Willis Craftperson of the Year Award recognizes five categories of achievement:

•    Safety and Health
•    Schedule and Budget
•    Productivity
•    Cost Savings Innovation
•    Outstanding Craftsmanship

Projects must be completed in the calendar year of the award. Nominations are forwarded to our judge’s panel to be evaluated and ranked in each category. This year, the members of the James J. Willis Award Task Force were: Al Black, Construction and Turnaround Services; “Bud” Burns, Scheck Mechanical; and Bill Ligetti, Ironworker Employers Association of Western Pennsylvania.

Ironworkers Looking To Train The Next Generation With New Training Program

The Ironworkers is looking for Gen Y leaders to fill positions in the rapidly expanding Ironworking industry.

The Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT) announces two all-new courses designed for Ironworker Contractors, scheduled July 15 – 18 in conjunction with the Ironworker Instructors Training Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“Project Management” and “Bidding to Win,” IMPACT’s new courses, are designed both to train future construction industry leaders and to help Contractors grow their business operations. With these courses, IMPACT hopes to help fill the thousands of Ironworker jobs needed to repair and renew the nation’s ailing infrastructure in the coming decade. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job boom will be driven by the “need to rehabilitate, maintain or replace a growing number of older highways and bridges.”

“We train Ironworkers specifically to complete the kind of large, challenging projects that North America needs to build,” said IMPACT Labor Co-Chair Walter Wise. He added that, while Ironworkers are trained, skilled and ready to work, Ironworker Contractors must also ensure their competitiveness with efficient operations to increase their capacity to grow. Wise is General President of the Iron Workers Union.

Many Ironworker Contractors are part of the Baby Boomer generation and are grooming Gen Y employees as their successors. Demographers sometimes refer to Gen Y as the “echo boom” because of the large size of their generation compared to Gen X. By 2020, more than fifty percent of all employees in the United States will be part of Gen Y, which is loosely defined as the generation of individuals born between 1980 and 2000.

“With the shortage of Gen X workers in the construction industry, it is vital that we maintain continuity in our leadership through innovative courses like these,” said IMPACT Management Co-Chair Bill Brown. Brown points out that it’s also vital to maintain superiority in management and construction technique throughout the industry. “These courses are top-notch in terms of reinforcing project management and bidding skills among veteran and new Contractors alike.” Brown is the President of Ben Hur Construction Co. in St. Louis.

Expert construction industry consultants from FMI will lead “Project Management,” July 15 – 16, while IMPACT’s Cindy Quiroz will lead “Bidding to Win,” July 17 – 18.

About IMPACT: The Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust (IMPACT) is an independent labor-management partnership designed to create work opportunities in the North American ironworking industry.  Our primary mission is to provide a forum for Ironworkers and Contractors to discuss effective strategies to expand job opportunities through innovative labor-management cooperative programs.  IMPACT provides expertise in training, construction certifications, marketing, construction project tracking and bidding, insurance and Davis-Bacon compliance efforts.  IMPACT also administers a world-class substance abuse program to ensure that Ironworkers are safe, drug-free and ready to work.

Veterans Day Is Not The Only Day We Honor Our Vets

Today is the day when the nation stops to honor the brave men and women who have served our country.

Home of the FREE because of the BRAVE


‘Welcome Home’ the two words that every veteran looks forward to hearing.  Now as we celebrate Veterans Day we need to talk about the biggest problem facing veteran, unemployment.

In 2011 President Obama took this problem very seriously and pushed the “VOW to hire Vets Act” which has continued to lower the unemployment rate of veterans to its lowest point in years.

The President is not the only who have taken pride in helping our veterans returning home.  America’s Building Trades have been helping veterans find good careers through their Helmets to Hardhats program.

“Because of their military experience, these guys no longer have the kid in them,” said Doug Williams, Business Manager of Iron Workers Local 433. “They have discipline, can follow instructions and are not afraid to work hard. They are the kind of men we need in our industry.”

The Helmets to Hardhat program is also using returning vets to help heal America’s wounds here at home.  Veterans are currently working on rebuilding the World Trade Center.

“I had just arrived at my duty station when Sept. 11 happened,” says Lawrence Gotti, Ironworkers Local 40, a U.S. Army Veteran. “Being from New York and going through what I’ve gone through, It’s just an honor—it’s a point of personal pride to be here now working on any part of the World Trade Center.”

See the special Veterans Day message from Iron Workers General President Walter Wise

Locally the Iron Workers Union (local 7) have helped many veterans receive the training they need to build a long career as an ironworker.  Last year Shawn Cleary, Business Agent for Local 7, gave a speech at a local ‘Topping Out’ ceremony for graduating Helmets to Hardhats graduates. (Video)

While Helmets to Hardhats is a phenomenal program to help returning vets one organization has been helping vets for far longer.  The US Postal Service has a workforce of over 600,000 people and over 25% are veterans.   Even better is that 8% of the workforce are disabled veterans.  The USPS is one of the largest employers of returning veterans in the country, and now that is in jeopardy.

The funding problems the USPS is facing would reek havok on the workforce.

The Postal Service announced in August that it wants to reduce the workforce by 220,000, and is seeking authority to lay off as many as 120,000 workers.

If 120,000 postal workers were laid off, approximately 26,000 veterans would be affected.

Below is an ad created by the American Postal Workers Union in conjunction with Save Americas Postal Service to highlight these cuts.

As we move away from the Presidential election and into the Lame Duck Congress we have to be very mindful that there are many pieces of USPS recovery legislation that may come up.  Some of the legislation is good and would fix the over-funding of their retirement system, while others would end up closing post offices, and stopping six day delivery.

Working to save our USPS is just another way we can provide our returning vetrans with good careers here at home.

A Special Veterans Day Message From Iron Workers General President Walter Wise

Throughout the history of the United States and Canada, we have asked our sons and daughters to defend our liberties and keep the flame of freedom burning bright for the rest of the world.

The commitment and sacrifice of these proud Veterans has not gone unnoticed.

Throughout our 116-year history, the ranks of the Iron Workers has swelled with proud Veterans. Their service has not only protected nations—it has helped to build them.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Ironworkers opened our hearts and arms to those returned from Vietnam, saying, “Welcome home, Brother!” And we have reaped untold benefits from their service as Union Ironworkers during the past forty years.

To offer the same opportunities to those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Iron Workers—together with the other 14 building trades—secured federal funding for Helmets to Hardhats, a program that helps Veterans transition from their military duties to career opportunities with fair wages and benefits. But after “no earmarks” erased funding and the Department of Defense would not sacrifice one cruise missile to fund Helmets to Hardhats, it was the building trades, our contractors and our customers who stepped forward to ensure that veterans have access to training and secure jobs after they have served their country so patriotically.

Our Veterans did not serve just one day a year.  They laid their lives on the line, and we should never miss an opportunity to thank them for their service—and for our freedom. The Iron Workers remain steadfast in supporting our men and women in uniform, as well as in our commitment to provide career opportunities to build our great nations.

Thank you, Veterans, for all that you do.

Walter W. Wise

General President

Iron Workers Union

Iron Workers President Wise Sends Post Election Message To Members

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Once again, our faith in democracy and the American people has stood up to the unlimited dollars and fraudulent campaign of the radical right and re-elected President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to a second term.  Carrying the battle as the only organization truly representing the middle class was the AFL-CIO, and leading the way was the Iron Workers through your hard work and efforts.

I wish to thank every member, their family and friends who voted, your Local Union leadership and volunteers across this nation who made sure that the truth was in the hands and minds of our members.  The cause was just, the battle fierce and your commitment carried the day for Ironworkers throughout North America.  Your voice at the ballot box has given us the tools, and we will use them to expand work opportunities, grow our Union and create a better standard of living for you and your family.

Your support of our Union and the Ironworkers Political Action League proved invaluable during this election.  That intensity, activism and support must continue now through the halls of Congress.  After surviving the obstructionist politics of our enemies during the last four years, we must continue to carry the battle to every Congressman on every piece of legislation to make sure our voice is not stifled.

Ironworkers sticking together gave us this great victory, and Ironworkers sticking together will give us a better future.

Thank you for helping to build our great Union.

 

Walter W. Wise

General President

Iron Workers

www.ironworkers.org

International President Wise of the Ironworkers Talks About the “CHOICE” We Face This Election

Today the President of the IronWorkers, Walter Wise, put out a new message to all of the IronWorkers in America.  “This election is about choice” he said.  Pres. Wise is absolutely right.  Do we want a President who wants to reinvest our country by rebuilding our nations roads and bridges, therefore putting more workers on the job? Or do we want to elect a President who fights for “corporate people” and the Associated Builders and Contractors?

While this message is directed to the members of the Ironworkers union, it is the same for all people who work in any building trade.


The Presidents Message

As a Union Ironworker, you have a choice to make this Presidential Election.  When President Obama urged Congress to pass a vital infrastructure bill to put more Americans back to work, Romney’s political party said “no.”  Now, where is the investment for our future? The answer is simple: Job-creating infrastructure investments have been blocked by Republican filibusters in the Senate.


A special video message from General President Wise: You have a choice to make in this Presidential Election.

Fairness & Equality For All: A Special Endorsement Message From General President Wise.