IP Newton B. Jones discusses global developments impacting the union.
Gene Trisko, counselor for the United Mine Workers, calls for solidarity to get relief from strict new environmental regulations.
Joe Maloney, IVP-Western Canada, explains a new program to rapidly increase the number of skilled Boilermakers.
ULLICO President and CEO Ed Smith announces a new partnership with the Bank of Labor.
Motivational speaker on safety issues Jeff “Odie” Estenship urges approachability in the workplace.
New business managers enjoy a humorous remark during the intensive training they received a week before the 2012 CSO Conference.
FROM THE FUKISHIMA nuclear disaster in Japan to worries about shaky European economies, global forces are shaping the work outlook for Boilermakers and their contractors in a more inter-connected world. This was a common theme running through many of the presentations at the 2012 Construction Sector Operations Conference held at Marco Island, Fla. March 5-8.
Such global developments, along with the U.S. economic recession and new environmental regulations, have created uncertainties for owners and lowered man-hour projections going forward, said International President Newton B. Jones in his opening remarks May 5.
“These EPA rules, these financial times, and these challenges are all impacting our craft. We can expect maybe 24 million man-hours here in the U.S. in 2012. That is down to 1990s numbers.”
He noted that abundant, cheap natural gas coupled with lower electricity demand have influenced owners as they try to determine what energy sources make the most sense.
“As a craft, we are going to have to adjust and figure out, in a very uncertain time, how we are going to go forward while maintaining our health as an organization,” he said.
Upheaval in the energy sector is impacting the United Mine Workers of America as well. Two guest speakers from the UMWA — Counselor Gene Trisko and Director of Government Affairs Bill Banig — explained how many of the same challenges facing the Boilermakers union affect UMWA members who mine coal for a living.
Trisko gave a detailed presentation of various EPA regulations, asserting that the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) final rule is so restrictive that it would virtually prevent any new coal plants from being built. He said solidarity between the IBB and the UMWA is essential to fight for regulatory relief.
IP JONES TOLD the conference that while construction hours are down in the United States, things are booming north of the border. Canada needs workers across many industries and provinces, he said.
Western Canada International Vice President Joe Maloney presented an update on the work outlook. He emphasized that it is not just the oil sands region of Alberta that is creating jobs.
“Northwestern Saskatchewan is going to break wide open at the seams” as technology develops to extract oil trapped in shale rock. It is going to be a phenomenal amount of growth for Boilermakers and other trades.”
Maloney also cited mining and utility work in British Columbia, nuclear projects in Ontario, mining and off-shore oil platforms in Newfoundland, and major shipbuilding programs on both Canadian coasts.
He said the traditional ways of meeting man-hour peak demands — using travelers from sister Canadian locals and recruiting U.S. members — will not be sufficient. Moreover, the four-year apprenticeship program cannot turn out Boilermakers fast enough.
“Ed [Eastern Canada IVP Ed Power] and I, along with our construction business managers, have examined the shortfall numbers,” which are estimated at 45 percent of currently available welders, mechanics, and apprentices.
To address the demand, Boilermaker leadership in Canada has begun developing the National Membership Reserve Program. Essentially, the program will recruit “intern” journeypersons into the local lodges. The interns will become members but will work on probationary status until they can be fully assessed as to qualifications and disposition as a union Boilermaker. Training and testing for Red Seal certification (which allows a union member to work at the trade in any Canadian province) will be provided as needed.
BANK OF LABOR, a modern evolution of Brotherhood Bank and Trust offering online banking for labor unions, received attention at the conference in advance of its formal unveiling at the 2012 Building and Construction Trades Legislative Conference.
IP Jones talked about the need for a labor-dedicated bank, especially after Wall Street banks failed unions and their pensions. He introduced a film describing the Bank of Labor and discussed other marketing initiatives such as a new website. He stressed that the bank is 60 percent owned by the International and some local lodges, and that its employees are represented by the United Mine Workers.
Ed Smith, President and CEO of the Union Labor Life Insurance Company, announced during his presentation that ULLICO will partner with the Bank of Labor by placing assets in the bank. “We are starting with a $10 million dollar deposit. That is just the tip of the iceberg. As we go forward, our relationship, our partnership between ULLICO and the Bank of Labor is going to be strong.”
Part of the Bank of Labor’s mission is to support the causes of organized labor. Smith said ULLICO has the same focus. “We put billions of dollars each year back into the labor movement, whether it is the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, the National Labor College, American Rights at Work, or the Building Trades. Anything that the Labor Movement is in a fight on, ULLICO stands shoulder to shoulder with the Labor Movement, adding money and resources to support unions.”
Fred Meyers, Executive Director and CEO of the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance, also spoke in support of the Bank of Labor and Brotherhood Bank and Trust.
“We are a small organization, but I will tell you, every dime that this organization brings in goes through Brotherhood Bank. We are very glad to be a part of supporting the bank.”
A FORMER U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, Jeff “Odie” Estenship, spoke about his time flying A-10 “Warthogs” and what he has learned about safety over the years.
The NACBE guest speaker explained how failing to follow safety rules even once can lead to complacency, which can end in disaster. He said this is just as true for Boilermakers as it is for pilots.
“You know, I don’t go to bed at night and think that I am going to crash that big airplane. You know what keeps me up at night? It is the little things: inattention to detail, lack of focus, poor communication, complacency. It is failing to recognize all the hazards associated with work — somebody taking the short cut.”
Estenship said a safety shortcut led to the death of his brother and a friend when a private plane owned by Estenship crashed in Florida. That event spurred him to a career as a safety speaker.
He emphasized the need to “set the bar high” for safety and to develop a culture of “approachability in the workplace” so that people are able and willing to speak out when they see poor safety habits.
WITH THE ECONOMY sputtering, the Boilermakers’ benefit plans continue to face challenges for investment growth. International Secretary-Treasurer Bill Creeden addressed the issue, as did National Funds Executive Director Rich Calcara, Marco Consulting Group representatives Jack Marco and Nick Trella, and Segal Group’s Tom Del Fiacco.
The discussion dealt with ways to best preserve the health of the funds in light of government regulations, lower man-hour numbers, and shifting financial markets.
Also discussed at the conference were developments in the nuclear power industry; MOST topics, including the MOST Boilermaker Delivery System; BNAP’s new Online Interactive Training System; changes to the Constitution and by-laws; financial reporting and invoicing; and the national agreements.
Additional topics included the Boilermakers National Health & Welfare Trust; the Boilermaker Archives; safety issues for U.S. and Canadian members; political and legislative developments; and plans for a new Local 146 (Edmonton, Alberta) training center.
A week-long training session for new business managers preceded the Construction Sector Operations conference, drawing 24 newly-elected lodge leaders.