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.