September ’11 Citizen Article

Brothers and sisters:

Meeting notice:  The regularly scheduled November meeting has been rescheduled from November 11 to November 18 in honor of Veterans Day.  Please note that the November, December 9 and January 13 meetings are mandatory for the nomination, election and installation of officers.  Fines will be assessed according to the bylaws of the local for non-attendance.

By the time you read this, our delegates will be on their way back from Orlando and the 30th General Convention of the IUEC.  Their job will not be an easy one.  With all of the major challenges facing the local and international in the upcoming contract negotiations with NEBA, setting the table to face these challenges is not going to be an easy task for anyone involved.  The companies have their agenda and we have ours and while there are many overlaying points of accord, the points of discord are what will determine the course of the next contract.

Will there be a strike or a lockout?  The companies tried a lockout in Manhattan a couple of years ago and they failed to break Local 1when pulling in supervisors and tech personnel from around the country to try and man jobs.  They even supplied armed body guards for these replacements.  The result was they could not keep up with the workload on a little rock like Manhattan, how would they man the jobs across the country in the event of a work stoppage?  As one person who was “asked” to go put it – they can’t.  Do not be surprised at anything that happens between now and July 2012.

The biggest stick the companies have is the fear factor but how you respond is completely under your control.  The best thing you can do is to have a plan that keeps your family’s needs covered for at least six to nine months.  Think of it as a personal preparedness plan in case of a disaster.

What are your monthly expenses?  Sit down and take a critical look at your finances with an eye toward what is essential and what you can live without.  For my family it was items like long distance on the land line, a cell phone, golfing, pleasure drives, premium cable service and going out to eat a couple times a month were things we could sacrifice.  Add up items like your mortgage, car and insurance payments.  Go on budget billing for your utilities.  All these are ways to get a handle on what your minimum expenses are.

Save, save, save.  How much do you have saved in your bank account or hiding in a 401K?  Can that cover your expenses for a half year?  Unemployment will pay $400 to $500 per week in the event of a lockout but nothing in the event of a strike.  Be prepared to cover your expenses for an extended period.

Update your plan on a regular basis.  Doing this evaluation now will give you a great foundation for possibilities down the road, but it is not the end of the road.  Reevaluate your situation at least once a month.  Are you expecting a baby?  Do you need a new car?  What are the tuition payments for college going to be like next year?  Life happens and when you plan for changes, plan for the unexpected as well.

Keep informed.  This means pay attention to what is going on around you at work and what you hear is going on at the other companies.  It is not always wise to take a rumor on face value.  It can be disinformation passed on by the companies to illicit a particular reaction or feign a move they have no intention of completing.  Be judicious in whose words you put value.  Their words might not be worth the paper they are written on.  If you hear something that is out of kilter and you want it confirmed, call Tim.  More times than not he will be able to tell you if what you hear is bunk or the truth.

The best way to keep informed is to attend the union meetings, especially this coming meeting on September 9th when our delegates will be back from the convention.  This will give you the opportunity to hear all the details first hand.  As the contract negotiations go on, please check in regularly with the local’s website, iueclocal17.org, for as complete coverage as possible.

These are just a few ideas on how to prepare for the upcoming uncertainty of the next contract.  Please keep in mind that how you prepare is a personal decision that needs to be discussed between you and your family.  So what if nothing comes to pass and everything is OK?  Then celebrate and enjoy the fruits of being in the best trade in the trades.

August ’11 Cleveland Citizen

Brothers and sisters:

Happy August!  Back in January when the temperature was sub-zero we looked with longing to these days and vowed we would never complain about the heat again. How good are we at keeping those promises.

The Mechanics Exam is scheduled for September 14th at 8 AM at the classroom at 2435 Superior Avenue.  As we speak, Rick Myers is prepping the apprentices for the rigors of the exam.  Do not forget brothers, this is the only unbiased assessment of your knowledge of the elevator trade you will ever have.  Make the most of the opportunity.

Another opportunity for continuing education is the offerings through NEIEP.  Recently nine brothers took the welding course offered through NEIEP and the facilities of Lincoln Electric, the leading manufacturer of welding equipment located here in Euclid, Ohio.  This class offered G3 and G4 certification for those that passed the exam.  Second is a scaffolding class that certifies you to install scaffolding in a hatch on certain construction jobs.  Lastly, there are a slew of continuing education offerings available through the NEIEP website.  Take advantage of those whether you are working and especially if you are not.

At the July meeting a motion was made and seconded to take the money budgeted for the annual Summer Picnic and use it to purchase grocery gift cards for the brothers and sisters out of work.  The motion passed without opposition.  There is still a plan for a fall family event which will be announced at a future date.  Keep your eyes here and on the website iueclocal17.org for updates.

The IUEC pension plan was given relief by Congress to spread losses realized in the crash of 2008 over 29 years versus the 15 years and smooth out investment losses over ten years instead of four.  This means that the plan will remain in the green zone for pension plans for the foreseeable future.

Labor Day weekend be sure and get to Day Park in Parma, immediately adjacent to Tri-C West, to cheer on the Local 17 softball team as they compete in the annual Cleveland Building Trades Softball Tournament.  The schedule has not been set, so stay tuned to iueclocal17.org for an update on when our men will be playing and the final results of their effort.

The IRS increased the mileage rate to 55.5 cents per mile effective July 1, 2011.

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be September 9th at 6 pm.

Casino Update

After a 31-day lockout as Rock Gaming negotiated with Governor John “Little Caesar” Kasich who sought to leverage the developers for a bigger cut of the pie, the two finally came to a resolution and mercifully put several hundred waiting craftsmen back to work.  Currently, Schindler has two teams on site doing tear out of two cars and expects to have seven teams eventually on the job.  The casino is looking to open March 26th, 2011.

Condolences

Condolences go out to Brother Randy Thompson whose mother passed away July 5th and Brothers Jack and Jason Saunders whose mother and grandmother, Dolores, passed away June 21st.

As of this writing there are 25 mechanics and two apprentices out of work.

Getting out the vote

You know that times are changing when Republicans are running around in circles trying to figure out how to counter the landslide turnout expected when organized labor unites across the state to overturn Senate Bill 5.

What our friends on the right are ginning up is an attempt to opt out of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2009.  This is what they refer to as “Obama Care.”  The idea is to counter what is sure to be an overwhelming turn out at the polls in November to overturn SB5 with an issue the Tea Party right hopes will draw enough conservative voters to keep the union-busting bill Little Caesar pushed through the statehouse.

But is this going to be enough to draw out conservatives in large enough numbers to defeat the SB5 repeal?  Early indications show that the support for the measure to overturn the health care law is lukewarm at best.  There are stories that the organizers, Ohioans for Healthcare Freedom, had to pay professional circulators to gather petition signatures.  While this is not unprecedented on either side of the political spectrum, it begs the question:  how many SB5 repeal circulators were paid?  My guess is not very many, if any at all.

The Ohio Republican Party gave a lack luster endorsement of the effort.  According to a May 14th article in the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio GOP Chairman Kevin DeWine declined to say whether the party would commit money to the campaign.  “We’ve endorsed the issue, and we’re fully engaged in helping them get on the ballot, and when we’re successful we’ll take the next step to see how the party can help to ensure its passage,” DeWine said.

Candidate and issue support is purely a business decision for the parties.  In an election, either party will size up the measure and determine whether it is a winner or a dog.  If it is a winner, then the money flows like liquor at a convention.  If it is a dog, the question becomes how flea infested is it.  If it is a good measure and the party can make some positive inroads in the area, it will most likely invest in the campaign, although with less bravo than a sure winner.  If it is a dog with fleas, the candidate or initiative will die on the vine from lack of support.

Behind every issue on the ballot is a political consultant getting paid to advise the candidate or issue on how best to present their case to the public.  One of the major ploys they use to make their efforts appear “grass roots” is to create a “group” or “organization” and give it a name like Citizens Against Pilfering Politicians or People United for Grass Hopper Rights.  This gives a front of legitimacy to the effort and makes them look like they were organized by the retired grandmother down the street or the local branch of the Rotary Club.

The way to see through this is in the disclaimer.  Every political advertisement has to tell you who paid for it, whether it was a corporation, political party, candidate’s campaign committee or some hybrid group fronting for one of the above.  Next time you find a political advertisement, do a quick search on the address of the “group” and you will find it most likely to trace back to the offices of one or the other major parties, law firms representing them or consultants hired by them.  This is how we are tricked into thinking that all these “concerned citizen” groups are grass roots but instead are nothing but astro turf.

This is how it is going to be in Ohio.  We are going to be astro turfed to death by pro and anti SB5 repeal ads and groups like Ohioans for Healthcare Reform claiming to be the one place of truth about the issue and their opponents are nothing but evil and out for their own selfish gain.

We as Ohioans, and we as Americans deserve better.  From both sides.

-30-

 

July ’11 Cleveland Citizen

I just want to take a column inch and on behalf of all the brothers and sisters of the IUEC Internationally and here at Local 17 send congratulations to the Cleveland Citizen on its 120 years of being the voice of organized labor.  It can be a lonely and thankless job putting together a publication of any frequency and the staff of the Citizen deserves the accolades of everyone in the trades for the fine and selfless work they do to bring us the news that affects us every month.

Thank you.

I hope that everyone reading this will still be in the best of spirits from their long July Fourth holiday weekend.

There were 50 retired and active brothers at the Local 17 Annual Golf Outing held again this year at Mallard Creek in Columbia Station.  The winning team in the two-man scramble was Scott Hicks and his unnamed partner.  They shot a 5-under par 67 for the day.  In the consolation round, the team of Rob Hansen and Mike Wickham lagged a long-distance putt to within three feet of the hole to win a putt-off for second place.  For complete photo coverage of the event, go to iueclocal17.org and click on the Galleries page.

Rick Myers will be teaching the Mechanics Review Class starting on July 25th.  The classes will meet every Monday for six weeks.  The Mechanics Exam will be at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday September 14, 2011 at 2435 Superior Avenue.  All eligible apprentices must sign up by July 8th.  Please contact Business Agent Tim Moennich at 216-431-8088 or TMoennich@iueclocal17.org for more information.

There is a signup sheet for a scaffolding class available at the hall.  The class will be scheduled as soon as there are enough participants.  If you are interested, please contact Tim as soon as possible.

SB 5 Update

As you all know, Senate Bill 5 is the bill passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor John Kasich severely restricting the collective bargaining rights of public-sector employees.  It appears as though the group behind the petition drive to repeal SB5 has topped their minimum amount of signatures required to place the initiative on the ballot.

On June 17th, We Are Ohio, a bipartisan coalition of interested groups, reported they had 714,137 signatures on petitions to put the repeal of Senate Bill 5 on the November ballot.  This is far over the 231,149 minimum to have the issue put to voters.  There is also a requirement that 44 of the 88 Ohio counties be represented by the petition drive.  The deadline for submitting the petition and signatures was June 30th.

When United States Senator Sherrod Brown signed the petition, he said “our economy will be strong if the middle class is strong.”  He went on to say that “jobs would be lost and communities destroyed unless we repeal SB5.”

At the May union meeting, we had several brothers come forward to sign the repeal petition.  By signing the petition and standing up for the rights of our public-sector brothers and sisters, we stand with those that fell before us for the privilege of being able to make a livable wage, to have some say over our working conditions and to be able to enjoy a little something called a weekend.

There will undoubtedly be a large effort to flood the airwaves with misleading ads paid for by special interest dollars.  DO NOT BE FOOLED!  Learn as much as you can about the issue so that when your friends and neighbors ask, you can speak intelligently about the ramifications if the repeal fails.  More importantly: stand with those that stand by you!

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL!

And while we’re talking about the governor… as reported last month the budget proposed by Kasich would have seen the raising of the prevailing wage thresholds from the present $87,000 to $5 million.  Critics of the plan claimed that it would exclude 95% of the governmentally funded construction projects while the Associated Builders and Contractors, a non-union lobbying group, claimed it would save money.  Arguing against the measure, officials at The Ohio State University said the plan would likely lead to shady dealings like bid auctions.

Because of the efforts of organized labor, enough Republicans came over to amend the threshold to $125,000 this year and $250,000 on July 1, 2013.  Thank you to everyone who contacted their state representatives.

Rock Gaming, the developers of the Horseshoe Casino going into the old Higbee’s Building, had to wrestle with the governor about the meaning, intent and verbiage of the Constitutional amendment passed in 2009 allowing casino gambling at four locations in Ohio.  Earlier in the year, the governor commented that he thought the state of Ohio should be getting a bigger cut of the action at the casino and he would use this time while the state still had leverage to squeeze more out of the developer.  As a consequence, Rock Gaming locked up the site until an agreement could be reached on its future.   This essentially put 2000 skilled tradesmen out of work until Little Caesar could be rendered upon.  Thankfully, the two sides came to an agreement and work is restarting at the sites here in Cleveland and Cincinnati.

So, to recap, here is a partial list of groups Little Caesar has succeeded in angering in only six short months:  firemen, policemen, paramedics, teachers, anyone represented by AFSME and its affiliated units, AFL-CIO on the local, state and federal levels, the union members affiliated with the AFL-CIO and its member unions, Dan Gilbert, MGM Grand, the companies that were going to invest over $1 billion before he killed the high-speed rail initiative…. And the list keeps getting longer by the week.

All I have to say is Remember in November.

Condolences

The most sincere condolences go to the family of retired Brother Bob Trapp.  He was 91.

As of this writing there are 28 mechanics and three apprentices on the bench.

June ’11 Cleveland Citizen

Due to the strong response to the previous welding class put on by NEIEP, a second class has been announced.  The course runs for 40 hours and will lead to a 3G and 4G certification. Classes run from June 13th through the 17th and June 20th through the 24th from 5:15 to 9:15.  Any IUEC Local 17 member interested in participating must deposit a $500 check to guarantee attendance.  If you are interested, then please contact Business Agent Tim Moennich.

NEIEP is offering an online training and licensing course called “Rigging and Signalperson.”  The course takes three to four hours to complete online.  When the student takes the exam they must score at least 70 percent.  After successfully passing the online exam, a written and participation exam will be given by the NEIEP area coordinator.  The student must pass the written test with an 80 percent and a 100 percent on the hand signals.  The rigging and signal persons card is good for three years.

As predicted here and in the labor press from around the country, Governor Kasich is setting his sights on the private sector unions through the prevailing wage laws that keep Ohio from becoming another Right-to-Work-for-Less state.  Currently, any project using government money over $78,000 must abide by the prevailing wage laws.  This keeps all except the smallest of projects paying union wages.  The governor wants to raise this floor to $5 million, functionally exempting all except the largest projects from prevailing wage.

Many years ago, those far wiser than anyone currently in the administration, realized that the building trades slogan of “value on display everyday” means what it says:  union labor does the job right the first time so it doesn’t have to be redone. The prevailing wage law was enacted to maintain quality workmanship, strengthen local economies through construction work and prevent low wage, low skilled workers from undercutting the standard of living in our state.  For the sake of a few dollars now, the conservatives are throwing the dice with our money hoping that under skilled labor will not have to have their work redone by professionals.

Here is another tidbit… where prevailing wage laws have been repealed; overall wages have declined by 15 percent.  Can you take a 15 percent cut in pay?

Call your state senator and tell them to remove the prevailing wage laws from the budget and let it stand on its own.

While you’re on the phone, remind them that if they voted for SB 5, they really angered the wrong people… teachers, police, firefighters and the vast public and private-sector union members who will remember in November.

Everyone needs to take the time to do two things very soon, register to vote and sign a petition for the repeal of SB5.  Tim has petitions at the hall but you must sign one specifically for your county.  Please get there as soon as possible to get the repeal on the ballot.

In case you have not heard, the local’s website, iueclocal17.org, is up and running!  There is a wealth of information available including links to union and signatory contractor websites, a photo gallery of past events and information on upcoming events.  It is designed to be a user friendly way of keeping the local in touch with important union news from Cleveland and beyond.  Please take a few minutes and check it out.

All members will be receiving a letter from the local about American Income Life Insurance.  AIL is a union insurance company that offers a wide range of insurance products specifically designed for union members.  Along with the letter will be a response card to have an AIL representative contact you about their services.  You will also receive a packet of information covering their services and a no obligation consultation with one of their representatives.  This is a valuable opportunity to help secure the financial future of you and your family.

Where are they working?

Jeff Lindell and Anthony Young at the Browns Stadium doing escalator repair work for Kone,

Mike Miller and nick Meyer at the Cleveland Clinic Avon installing five hydros for Otis,

John Brunner and Taurus Ogletree at CSU installing a four-stop hydro for Schindler,

Bob Garman, Kevin Thomas and Joe Broz Jr. at Quicken Loans Arena cabling for Thyssen,

Mark Byram and Dave Lehotan doing cab work at Rainbow Apartments for Schindler,

Dave Brunner at Scott Hicks at the Cleveland Clinic installing three 4-stop hydros for Schindler,

Todd Kemp and Scott Erison installing a two-stop freight at VA Wade Park for Edmonds,

John Goggin, Gene Liss and Jason Costa cabling at Ohio Savings Plaza for Schindler,

Neil Beechuk and Bill Dudas installing a two-stop hydro at Midtown Tech for Thyssen.

May ’11 Cleveland Citizen Article

I hope everyone had a happy May Day!  There’s a lot to talk about so let’s get going….

There are plans for another OSHA 10 and scaffolding class.  If you are interested, please contact Business Agent Tim Moennich for class dates and times.

NEIEP is looking for contributors to Lift Magazine, its educational supplement available to all members.  The upcoming issue covers new elevator technology.  You do not need to be a professional quality writer to contribute, just the desire to share your knowledge with others.  If you are interested in becoming part of the team of compensated Lift contributors, send your resume to Jon Henson at jhenson@neiep.org or call 508-699-2200 extension 6115.

The Project Labor Agreements for the casino have been completed.  While all the details are not in at this time, it looks very good that the project will be moving forward shortly.

There is currently an action with Marshall Samuels Accessibility and their split shop arrangement where one of their operations is union and their other location is a non-union shop.  MSA is a home accessibility company selling stair and wheel chair lifts, dumbwaiters and residential elevators.   If they become a signatory, then Local 17 will be picking up a couple of new members and a strong presence in a market the International is eager to penetrate.  This will also offer another company to employ Local 17 members.

At the April meeting, the membership voted to go ahead and purchase the URL iueclocal17.org and develop a website.  I am happy to report that the development has been moving briskly ahead and we should be live very soon.  The purpose of the site is to keep the members, retirees and their families informed on what is going on between meetings.  There is space for photo galleries of events like the Retiree’s Dinner held last April 15th, updates on JATC news, announcements and links to the International, union and local signatory company websites.  The hope is that it will be a go to resource for news and information as the convention is held in the late summer and the contract is up next year.

If anyone has content, announcements, births, weddings, deaths, pictures, or anything they would like to share with the rest of the local, please click on the web administrator link on the Contacts page and I will post it as soon as possible.

The local sends its most sincere condolences to the families of Brother Ryan Faber who passed away on March 31st and retired Brother James Horvath who passed away on March 25th.

As of this writing there are 25 mechanics and two apprentices out of work.

Battle Fatigue

As I write these words in late April 2011, a group called We Are Ohio, labor unions from across the state and the Ohio Democratic Party are collecting signatures to repeal the union-busting Senate Bill 5 signed into law less than a month ago by Republican Governor John Kasich.  Their goal is to get over 230,000 signatures from all over the state to put a repeal of SB5 on the November ballot.

The governor has proven to be a wiley character and as hard to pin down as an eel on his support for the bill.  He talked about “giving local government the tools they need to make (financial) decisions” which on the surface we can all agree that that is not a bad thing.  When we work in our trade we occasionally use several special tools, except the ones he was talking about turned out to be a chainsaw to public-employees right to bargain and hamstringing pubic-sector unions by legislating what they could not get by negotiating.

There is a sound political theory behind what he is doing.  I call it the “Friedman Generalization and Corollary.”  Milton Friedman was a Nobel Prize winner in Economics and advisor to Ronald Reagan during his campaign and after the election on the Economic Policy Advisory Board.  In 1982 he and his wife Rose wrote a book titled Tyranny of the Status Quo.  In that book he did a study of current economic situations around the world and how they interconnected.  Early in the book he told a story about the election of a Premier in British Columbia and what he did not promise during the election and why.

Very briefly, here is the text from Friedman’s book:

“Any measure that affects a concentrated group—either favorably or unfavorably—tends to have effects on individual members of that group that are substantial, occur promptly, and are highly visible.  The effects of the same measure on the individual members of a diffuse group—again whether favorable or unfavorable—tend to be trivial, longer delayed and less visible.  Quick, concentrated reaction is the major source of the strength of special interest groups in a democracy – or for that matter any other kind of government.  It motivates politicians to make grandiose promises to such special interests before an election – and to postpone any measures adversely affecting special interest groups until after an election.”

“Had Premier Bennett spelled out his intention to cut personnel and funds before the election, he would have aroused immediate and vocal opposition from the special interest groups affected—and only lukewarm and far less vocal enthusiasm from the taxpayers in general.  By waiting until after the election to spell out his program, Premier Bennett could hope that the bad effects on the concentrated groups would dissipate before the next election while the good effects on a broad constituency would have time both to take effect and to be recognized as the result of the measure he took.”

This is the playbook Governor Kasich and his advisors are using to hijack Ohio and turn labor back a hundred years.

They executed the Generalization flawlessly; withholding their plans until after the election and then publicly springing the effort to cut public-sector bargaining rights only after the election.  This kept public unions from effectively organizing against them and for former Governor Strickland.  Now they are in a waiting mode until 230,000 signatures can be obtained to put the repeal on the ballot.

Over the next couple of months it is going to be very important that we pace ourselves to not become burned out by the effort to repeal SB5.  With the granting by the Supreme Court of person status to corporations with regard to political activities, you know that huge money will be in play because the next step is making Ohio a Right-to-Work-for-Less state.  It is also important to be prepared for the largest privately financed effort to beat back an issue ever marshaled by any special interest group anywhere in the history of politics.  Ever.

I have a more in depth analysis on my blog, Through the Mill (through-the-mill.com).  Click on the Analysis icon on the left and cursor down to the article titled “Ohio, Wisconsin and Why the Rush.”

Brothers and sisters,  keep focused.

April ’11 Cleveland Citizen Article

I would like to start off by asking everyone reading this to take a moment and say a prayer for those that have been affected by the disaster in Japan.  The country faces an uncertain future as it deals with the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and ongoing threat of multiple nuclear meltdowns.

Even though it is coming to the end of the school year, it is still the apprentice’s responsibility to get their OJT forms in on time.  If you have not been getting your forms in on time and are three months in arrears, the JATC will be asking for an explanation.  Be prepared to justify your actions.

There is sign up available for another OSHA 10 and Scaffolding class available for Local 17 members.  Call or see Business Agent Tim Moennich for times and dates.

At the March meeting, there was a first reading of proposed By-law changes.  Six of the changes are to make the document consistent with the International By-laws.  The seventh proposed By-law change brings missing a mandatory meeting (November, December and January as well as any specially called meetings) for any other reason than scheduled vacations or work under review of the Executive Board.  The third reading is planned for the May meeting.

There are reports that a team from Akron (Local 45) was caught working in our jurisdiction without informing the hall.  This is a reminder that if you are asked to go out of the locals jurisdiction for any reason, you are required to check in with the business agent of the local in which you are working.

At a meeting of the Cleveland Building Trades, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason talked about the off-shore windmill project.  The contractors are looking to install five to eight windmills three-and-a-half miles north of the crib.  The windmills will produce enough power for eight thousand homes and will be built with all union labor.  When built, these will be the first off-shore windmills in the United States and will position Ohio to be a regional hub for windmill construction, engineering and manufacturing.

As of this writing, Ohio Senate Bill 5, the bill stripping public-sector workers of their collective bargaining rights, just came out of committee in the House where it is sure to be approved and then signed by Governor John Kasich.  Once the legislative battle over SB 5 ends, the rest of the anti-union agenda will be unleashed.  In March 16th radio interview with Mike Trivisonno on Cleveland’s WTAM 1100, Kasich indicated he is looking to exempt municipalities from prevailing wage laws.

Two other pending House bills take aim at private-sector labor rights.  House Bill 61 gives private sector employers with annual sales of less than $500,000 the option of offering employees to use time off in lieu of overtime pay.  House Bill 102 prohibits agencies from entering into project labor agreements (PLA) on any public improvement project and prohibits state money going to local public improvement projects whenever a PLA has been negotiated.

While everyone’s attention is concentrated on Ohio, Wisconsin and neighboring states, the Republicans in Washington have come up with some cuts of their own:

$99 million in cuts for OSHA

$4 billion in job training and employment services

$50 million in cuts to the National Labor Relations Board,

$786 million in cuts to renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Part of the reason OSHA and the NLRB exist in the first place is because of the Triangle Shirt factory fire on March 25, 1911.  146 women, mostly Italian and eastern European Jewish  immigrants and some as young as fourteen, died when a fire ripped through the sewing factory just a few minutes short of the end of their day.

At 4:40 PM, a cigarette tossed into a wicker basket of cotton scraps caught fire and gutted the eighth, ninth and tenth floors of the Asch Building in New York City.  At least one of the exits was locked and the other blocked by fire.  The exits were routinely locked to keep workers from stealing product and would only be unlocked at quitting time.

During the frenzy the fire escape collapsed from the weight and bodies piled up on the top of the elevator as workers tried to climb down the ropes.  The greatest loss of life was from smoke and leaping the 100 feet to the pavement below in order to escape the white-hot flames.

The building had been inspected by the city the week before the fire and the owners were cited for the fire escapes.

The International Ladies garment Workers Union (ILGWU), which represented some of the 500 employed at Triangle, set up a $30,000 relief fund for the survivors and the families of the victims.  On April 2 they lead a procession of empty hearses which was joined by 50,000 workers marching in memory of their lost brethren.  They also pushed for increased pay, worker safety and a 52-hour work week for garment workers.

In the aftermath, Triangle owners Max Blanck and Isaac Harris were indicted on seven counts of second-degree manslaughter.  After a twenty-three day trial they were acquitted because the prosecutor could not prove they knew the door were locked during working hours.  Twenty-three individual civil suits followed and each was ultimately settled for $75 per life lost.

Days after the fire, Blanck and Harris set up shop a few blocks away and were cited for blocking exits, the same reason given for the massive loss of life at the fire site.  When in court, the judge apologized to the pair for the $25 fine.  The company eventually closed and to their deaths, Blanck and Harris presented their operations as models of safety and cleanliness.

When reforms in fire safety, working conditions and child labor laws were written in the years leading up to the formation of the NLRB in 1936 and OSHA in 1970, they were written in the blood of the 146 who died and the tears of those that survived.

This, my brothers and sisters, is part of our union heritage and why public and private sector unions still play an important role in worker safety and quality of life.