January ’12 Article to the Cleveland Citizen

January 13th is a mandatory meeting for the installation of officers.  If you do not attend and are not on vacation or working overtime that night, then you will be subject to a $20 fine.

NEIEP is offering three opportunities for continuing education this first quarter.  The first opportunity is a three-night OSHA 10 class to be taught by John Taylor.  The dates are yet to be determined.  Second is another welding class leading to 3G and 4G certification.  It will be taught over two weeks from 5pm to 9pm at Lincoln Electric, the world leader in arc welding equipment headquartered in Euclid, Ohio.  For proposed class dates and other details, contact Business Agent Tim Moennich at 216-431-8088.

Lastly, NEIEP has developed a number of new online courses, labs and videos covering a number of topics. These are all offered at no cost to constructors.  If you have a particular class you would be interested in seeing Local 17 offer, please contact Tim as our instructors are willing to start a class if there is enough interest.

Congratulations to Brother John Goggin for being the first member of Local 17 to receive his signalman’s certification.  This is an online course offered through NEIEP and completed with a written and oral examination by the NEIEP area coordinator.  It is free and offered to all elevator constructors.

Brother Tom Koch will be stepping down this year from the school board.  On behalf of everyone in the local and in particular those that have had the honor of being your students, I would like to say thank you for the dedication and patience you have shown to everyone you have touched through the years.  You have made a positive impact on the trade in general and Local 17 in particular.  We are all richer for your efforts.  His spot will be taken in January by Jerry Reitz.

If you have not started to save money for the end of the contract, start now! The new year is a great opportunity to get a handle on your income and potential expenses for the future.  People never plan to fail they just fail to plan.

 

Make it Something Great

 

I’m sitting here on the cusp of 2012 pondering the year that has been, to put things lightly, tumultuous at the least and revolutionary in so many ways.

We started off the year with a slew of new governors, most notably Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and our own John Kasich, ramming through public-sector collective bargaining bills that limited union negotiations on a variety of issues.  We in Ohio repealed SB 5 in such a landslide that our once boastful governor looked like a schoolboy who just took a whipping from his headmaster on election night.  It was a great win for labor and sent a clear message about the power that well organized groups can still have on our political class.

This coincided with the Arab Spring that over threw long entrenched dictators from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and the continuing struggle to unseat the leader of Syria.  While these countries are not progressing in the American mold of freedom, they are creating their own expression of democracy that suits their Arab heritage.  The quandary is whether these new governments will be friendly to America or become radical Islamic states.  Essentially overthrowing the dictator they knew for the dictator they did not know.  Now with the recent death of Kim Jong Il, North Korea has a young and untested leader with his finger on the nuclear button.  Keep that in your sights for 2012.

In America we have the Occupy movement which has succeeded in raising the awareness of the 99% that live under the Golden Rule (the one percent with the gold makes the rules for the 99%) to the excesses of Wall Street and the Federal Reserve.  In Oakland they shut down the port in support of the Longshoremen and were attacked in several cities by the police force with no provocation.  The attempts by the establishment to frame them as old hippies getting their last kicks before retiring to Florida have failed because the face of these protestors is young, clean shaven and linked together by social networks.  This makes it very difficult to cut off the head of the movement because there is no central figure to demonize.  The only way to smash them is to crush the idea that freedom exists in America and the idea this republic was founded upon the preservation of individual liberty is a fallacy.  The push back on these protestors is either the death throw of the old guard or the institution of more liberty seizing programs by the self-appointed rectors of all that is good.

It is because of Occupy and the Arab Spring that Time Magazine named the protestor as their person of the year.  A prediction… Occupy will gel into a true political movement and be a force in 2012 like the Tea Party on the right.

We now have the traveling circus called the GOP primary with its calliope of revolving frontrunners.  My prediction for 2012… the one to come out of this mess to run against President Obama will be the winner of a war of attrition that will fracture the GOP and give the president a second term.

If you have been watching the History Channel with any frequency you know that the Mayan long count calendar ends on December 21, 2012, the winter solstice and shortest day of the year.  While I do not believe that we are on the dawn of the biblical Apocalypse, I do believe that this year, with all the tumult leading into it, will be a small “A” apocalypse for the entrenched powers seeking nothing more than their own selfish agenda.  What can and must rise out of the ashes of 2011 is a new realization that the old paradigm is over and a new thought process that encompasses our new reality has taken hold.

Facebook has succeeded where eons of religion, politics, geography, philosophy, art, literature, war, peace, education, money, TV, radio and newspapers all failed.  We are all now linked into each other in ways no one has ever dreamed.  The question then becomes… is this new linked reality good or evil?  A tool is not inherently good or evil.  The new reality will be what we make it.

Make it something great.

 

December ’11 Cleveland Citizen

Brothers and sisters:

On behalf of IUEC Local 17 I would like to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone affiliated with the North Shore Federation of Labor.  Here is to a happy and safe holiday season to everyone and their family.

Meeting Notice:

The December and January meeting are special called meetings for the election and installation of officers.  If you cannot attend then you must contact the hall prior to the meeting or be subject to a $20 fine for non-attendance.

Starting January 1, there will be a $1.15 increase in the mechanics pay scale.  Each classification will receive an increase at their percentage of mechanics rate.

The annual Children’s Christmas Party will be held on Saturday, December 3rd from 1pm to 4pm at 3250 Euclid Avenue.  Refreshments and entertainment are provided and everyone is asked to bring a pastry.  This is a wonderful family event that brings old and young together and is a great kickoff to the Christmas season.

There was a very important mailing about a potential identity theft issue involving the Benefits office and Value Options, the network provider of mental health and substance abuse treatment.  According to the letter sent out to every participant, a computer tape containing personal information was lost in transit from Value Options back to the Plan office.  The information was provided to Value Options in order to qualify participants when they sought services.  Since neither the Plan office, Value Options or the carrier used for the shipment have located the tape, they arranged for identity theft protection through Debix for all plan participants at no cost for one year.  This includes members and their covered dependents.

Identity theft is nothing to be taken lightly.  If you have received the letter and not acted on it, I implore you to contact the Benefits office and take advantage of this opportunity to protect yourself and your dependents.  A link to the Benefits office is available through iueclocal17.org under the Union Links button.

WELCOME BACK

Brother Jeff Ford’s brother and retired Brother Bob Pudimat’s stepson, Captain Joe Ford, returned from service in Iraq.  Thank you to him and everyone serving their country.

At this writing there are 18 mechanics and one apprentice out of work.

ISSUE 2 AND BEYOND

If there was any doubt in the minds of anyone as to the sympathies of the Ohio electorate on the issue of public-sector collective bargaining, then the November 8th tsunami that led to the resounding defeated State Issue 2 spoke volumes.

Every single union member, whether public or private sector, must stand up and shake the hand of the brother or sister next to them over the defeat of Issue 2.  The turnout was nothing less than incredible and the 61 to 39 beating the Republican led Statehouse took on the issue was landslide by any measure.  In the heady afterglow of victory, there are still battles to be fought and the next one is forming as we speak.

The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, a Columbus-based “non-profit, non-partisan legal center dedicated to protecting the constitutional rights of Ohioans from government abuse” presented 1621 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office to turn Ohio into a right-to-work-for-less state.  They need only 1000 valid signatures to get the go ahead to gather 386,000 signatures to place the “Ohio Workplace Freedom Amendment” on the November 2012 ballot.

The amendment would turn Ohio into the 23rd right-to-work-for-less state and the first since 2001 when Oklahoma voted in RTW legislation.

This is the same group responsible for State Issue 3, the amendment to opt-out of the new federal health insurance program, which passed by a 66 to 34 percent margin.

Union brothers and sisters make no mistake, the conservative right and Tea Party activists are out to destroy American labor and their hard fought for victories.  I’ve often wondered why conservatives in particular hate us so much.

I have a lot of flippant answers but the serious one I keep coming back to is they fear the concerted action by many because it is harder to demonize a group than an individual.  The right has continuously portrayed union members as sub-humans who cannot find their asses with both hands.  Union leaders to them are cigar-smoking, whiskey-drinking, backroom dealing fat cats who are out for no one except themselves.  What a minute… isn’t that the traditional image of the robber baron of the Industrial Revolution that the conservatives love?

Conservatives are the ones that have all the correct answers and any logic that does not fit their mold of the world is rejected as obtuse thought.  This is a snobbery that perpetuates the class warfare that continues to tear at the soul of America.

I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with people of all social strata:  CEO’s, corporate honchos, small business owners and politicians at every level through to the people that empty their trash cans.  People are remarkably alike in their root desires after their basic needs of food and shelter are met– we all want something better for our children.

Being a union member does not guarantee success and it does not shelter failure.

Being a union member, being productive at your job, and having the opportunity to make a better life through better wages, benefits and working conditions is something worth fighting for.

Now is the time to clean your guns, stock up on ammo and be prepared.  The conservatives are coming

November ’11 Cleveland Citizen

Brothers and sisters:

The North Shore Federation of Labor is asking your support for our union brothers and sisters in the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 880 (UFCW) and their efforts to negotiate a fair contract with Rite Aid.  While Rite Aid’s profits have soared they have cut hours and benefits for their represented workers and have refused to come to the table with a reasonable offer that maintains workers integrity.

Consequently the UFCW, North Shore Federation of Labor and their affiliated unions and locals are asking all members of the building trades to boycott Rite Aid.  The other represented pharmacies, CVS and Giant Eagle, each offer incentives to those members looking to transfer their prescriptions.  The UFCW is a great union that truly puts its members first.  We need to support our union brothers and sisters with the combined effort of Cleveland area labor voting with their pocketbooks.

Meeting notice

The November 18, December 9 and January 13 meetings are mandatory special meetings for the nomination, election and installation of officers.  A $20 fine will be issued for non-attendance.  Requests for exemptions from attendance must be presented to the Local 17, Executive Board or Business Representative prior to the meeting either in writing, in person or by phone.

I am very pleased to announce that the new issue of Lift Magazine, a publication of NEIEP, should be in the mail as we speak.  The theme of the issue is New Technology.  There are articles on ThyssenKrupp’s Twin system, PMS motors and regenerative drives, MRL systems and the new performance-based elevator code.  It is another tool in NEIEP’s box of continuing education for the new and experienced member.  There are also a number of classes available online.  Please take the time to check out the site at neiep.org to enhance your knowledge in the trade.

At the October meeting, Business Agent Tim Moennich reported on three deaths in the International.  The details were sketchy, but this needs to be a reminder to everyone to work safe, work smart and be very aware of what is going on around you.  Another important aspect is to not cut corners on safety or Article IV team work.  If you need help on a job, call for it.  If you can’t get it, lock it out and tell them to send a team.  Safety is no accident.

Callback from Hell

A member recently took a callback at a Parma apartment complex.  When checking out the pit, the car did not stop when he popped the bottom door lock.  When he examined the lock he found the wires jumped together on the same stud.  After correcting that issue, he decided to check the rest of the door locks.  When running the car down from the top landing, he found the same situation with the top lock.  He also discovered furniture on the car top.  When he informed the building management and the Parma Police, they arrested one the residents on a number of charges. Again, safety is no accident.

Cleveland Brown’s All-Pro lineman Joe Thomas donated ten tickets along with vouchers for food, parking and sweatshirts to be given to out of work members and their families.  The tickets are for the November 13th game against the St. Louis Rams.  Local 17, as of this writing, has five tickets left.  If you or someone you know can use the tickets, then give call Business Agent Tim Moennich a call at 216-431-8088.

Schindler recently paid $2000 to the Contingency Fund for Article IV flooring work given to other contractors at the UH Cancer Center.  This was in addition to the amount paid previously for another trade blocking cable holes on the same job.  Keep vigilant.  Your out of work brothers are counting on you.

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Voltaire

Since the election is only a few days away, I do not need to remind everyone reading this that a NO vote on Issue 2 is vital to supporting our brothers and sisters in the public-sector unions.  This is the home stretch on what has been a tsunami of support for the repeal of this union busting, ill-conceived notion that in order to balance local budgets, it is necessary to legislate what the government cannot negotiate.

I was talking with a friend who knows a member of a local school board.  The board member was telling him that if Issue 2 passes, then the system will be able to keep off the state watch list.  My friend’s response was that at contract time the board needs to hire better negotiators.  Most contracts have a reopen clause which allows either side to amend an agreement before the end of the contract.  The IUEC used this with NEBA to create the Assistant Mechanic slot which has put several thousand brothers and sisters back to work since its acceptance in August 2010.

There is also binding arbitration with public-sector contracts that is designed to avoid strikes and impasses.  According to the October 16 issue of the Plain Dealer the last public-sector strike was in July 2009 and there have been 16 total strikes in the last five years.  There were 18 cases of binding arbitration in 2010 according to the Ohio State Employment Relations Board (SERB).

SERB is the agency charged with collecting, tracking and analyzing the public-sector contracts for the state of Ohio in much the same way that the GAO does for the federal government.  The agency currently has 3,285 contracts on file.

In that same edition, the PD Editorial Board endorsed the passage of Issue 2.  An unemotional reading of the piece indicates that there was much debate among the members before arriving at the decision to endorse its passage.  An analysis of their logic, particularly in their naïve notion that the GOP led government would reexamine the more onerous aspects of the law, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the first Law of Politics “He who has the Gold makes the rules.”  Most, if not all, office holders are beholden to this law through those that fund their campaigns.

North Shore AFL-CIO Executive Director Harriet Applegate wrote in her October 22nd rebuttal that “telling Ohioans that public employees are the problem and consequently have to pay for a crisis that was not of their making is deceitful and wrong” hit the nail square on the head.  The flood of letters decrying the papers endorsement and the number of subscription cancellations because of it is further proof of the acrimony following this issue.

Does their need to be reform?  What form should it take?  Who needs to sacrifice and how?  These are all valid questions that need answers as the state moves forward after the defeat of Issue 2.

-30-

October ’11 Citizen Article

Brothers and sisters:

 

As a result of the unprecedented petition drive that generated nearly 1.3 million signatures from every county in the state, the repeal of SB5, the bill limiting public-sector union bargaining, will appear on the ballot as Issue 2.  The AFL-CIO is looking for volunteers to work the phone banks and canvass neighborhoods to push for the defeat of Issue 2.

Because the official ballot language asks if you approve of SB5, in order to repeal the law a simple majority of voters must vote NO on 2.

We all know what is at stake.  Not only is SB5 an open attack on our public-sector brethren, it is a war declaration on every worker; public, private, union and non-union, to drive down wages and reduce the standard of living throughout the state.

If you or someone you know wants to be involved in this history making push to defend our public-sector brothers and sisters, call Business Agent Tim Moennich at 216-431-8088 and he can get you started.

Congratulations to the following men who passed this year’s mechanics exam:  Joseph Broz, Jr., David Brurke, Jason Costa, Cristino DeJesus, Kevin Driscoll, James Ehrbar,  Craig Haller, Anthony Karovich, Thomas Kelly, Stephen Kemp, Jonathon Koch, Heath Kramer, Timothy Lieb, Timothy Narowitz, Don Page, Ronald Rittwage, Brian Semanco, Joseph Simcic, Jason Sohayda and Jeff Ward.

Since there will be only seven students in the apprenticeship program next year, Local 17 will be using distance learning for those enrolled.  Although they will be studying at home, there will be a gathering once a month at the school with instructor Jerry Reitz.  This is the first time Local 17 will be using distance learning for its core curriculum.

Meeting notice

The November 18th, December 9th and January 13th meetings are mandatory meetings which a fine will be assessed for non-attendance.

The last week of August, the IUEC held its 30th General Convention in Orlando, Florida.  Local 17 sent a delegation of four consisting of John Driscoll, Jr., Dennis Dixon, Brian McTaggart and Business Agent Tim Moennich.

The highlight of the convention was General President Dana Brigham’s address to the delegates on the state of the IUEC.  In his speech he emphasized the challenges the International is facing going forward toward the contract negotiations.  While elevator constructors are still the highest paid blue-collar job and we still hold over 90% of the Article IV work, 20% of the International members are out of work and some are losing their homes as a result.

Because of this, Regional Director Clint Mathews was charged with getting members back to work.  The International also initiated the Assistant Mechanic agreement, first with Thyssen-Krupp and then with the other NEBA companies, which put 1000 members back to work.

He emphasized that now, as much as before, the need to give 8 for 8 and that those that abuse the system will no longer be tolerated.

The problems of prefabrication keep chipping away at our work and the problem has gotten worse with the globalization of the elevator business.  The companies are streamlining their product line to sell worldwide and that adds to the prefab installation issues. The situation has accelerated since the introduction of the machine roomless elevator to the North American market and the adoption of the performance-based code ASME 17.7.

He concluded that the International will do everything in its power to avoid a work stoppage, but that every member needs to save as much money as possible in the event that one happens.  I would encourage every member to read my previous months’ article from The Cleveland Citizen, which is posted at the local’s website, iueclocal17.org, for ideas on getting started on saving for the next nine months.

At the convention, Tim put his name in for a run at an International vice-president position.  “I ran because I felt I had something to offer the International” he said addressing the September meeting.  After his nomination, he was under intense pressure to withdraw, but he stood his ground and kept talking about ways to move the International forward.

Although he fell short in the final balloting, the positive mark he and our other delegates left on the International leadership and the delegates from other locals raised the profile of Local 17 from a renegade band to a local with the best long-term interest of the International at heart.

At this convention the rest of the International discovered what we already knew.

Local 17 would like to extend their congratulation to the new officers of the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council.  Terry McCafferty from the Pipefitters is the new vice-president, Sheet Metal workers Mike Coleman is the new treasurer and Jim McManamon of the Boilermakers is the new trustee.

Also at the September meeting, Tim read a letter from the California Department of Industrial Relations about “devices which remotely interact with conveyances.”  The substance of the letter targeted to elevator companies doing business in California was that it has come to their attention “that devices have been installed on conveyances which interact remotely to change parameters, check and reset faults, open and close doors and various other functions.”

It goes on to say that monitoring operation is acceptable as is monitoring or interacting from within a building or complex.  The state will “remove from service any conveyance found operating with a device which can remotely change its controls.”  In other words, California is saying that monitoring is OK, but running a car and resetting faults from half way across the country is not.

Thank you California for standing up for safety!

 

 

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.