Unless you have been living under a rock (or working in the oil fields with no cell service), you probably have heard that the bickering in Washington between the republicans in the House of Representatives and the democrats in the Senate has resulted in a temporary federal government shutdown.
So, delay your plans to visit the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon, or the Smithsonian Museums. They are all closed for business.
Screenshots from www.nps.gov and www.si.edu
Just released October 1st, the NCCCO has announced a new program designed to test and certify “Lift Directors”. According to the press release, the new certification has been developed over the last 18 months by industry veterans, subject matter experts, and psychometricians from the International Assessment Institute.
The certification is compliant with the current OSHA crane rule. They say that Lift Directors are responsible for a wide variety of tasks: ensuring adequate ground bearing pressure, communications, monitoring unsafe conditions in the lifting area, informing the operator of the weight of loads, ensuring a load is property rigged, etc.
The CCO program will have separate designations for mobile crane and tower crane operations. The testing will consist of written examinations that utilize real-life lift plans.
For more information, click on thepress releaseor check out http://nccco.org/nccco/certification-programs/lift-director.
They identify several problems with the federal law that is supposed to protect workers who report safety concerns:
1. The amount of time allowed to file a retaliation complaint is too short.
2. The investigations take too long
3. The burden of proof that retaliation took place is too high
4. OSHA cannot preliminarily reinstate an employee when they find merit in a complaint.
5. Employees cannot pursue a remedy on their own, even if OSHA declines to take action on their behalf.
The report provides some real numbers about retaliation complaints received between 2005 and 2012:
1. 11,153 complaints
2. 10,380 of them were reviewed
3. 2,542 were found to “have merit”
4. 2,390 of these were settled out of court
5. 152 were recommended for litigation
6. 7% of those resulted in OSHA filing a lawsuit
The lack of protections for workers who seek safer working conditions is compounded by the vastly understaffed and underfunded Occupational Safety and Health Administration itself. According to the same Center for Effective Government, OSHA has fallen from having funding for 1 inspector for every 1,900 workplaces in 1981, to funding for 1 inspector for every 4,300 workplaces today.
So essentially, what we have now is an underfunded, understaffed agency that is tasked with ensuring that we have as safe an environment to work in as a possible. Thus, this agency depends on workers on the ground to be the “eyes and ears” for them. But then those workers may then not be protected if they choose to report an unsafe working condition.
However…long before there was the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, labor unions and their members were ensuring that workplace safety was a top priority. Union members know that regardless of the weak whistleblower protections under the OSH Act, they can report unsafe working conditions and be protected by the “just cause” provision in their collectively bargained contract.
This provision means that an employer has to show “just cause” for disciplining or firing a worker. Violating the federal OSH Act by terminating or disciplining a worker for reporting an unsafe working condition does not prove “just cause”.
Lastly, as we pointed out during the federal government shutdown – while agencies such as OSHA rely on government operation and funding to fulfill their obligations, labor unions do not.
Back in August of this year, we posted that several industry sources and media outlets had reported that TNT Crane was up for sale. Early this morning, it looks like the name of the expected buyer has hit the press. As noted in this Houston Business Journal article,First Reserve, a Connecticut based private equity firm, is in the process of purchasing TNT Crane.
First Reserve is a global investment firm with offices in Greenwich, Houston, London, and Hong Kong. Since starting, they have invested over $18 billion, primarily in the energy sector. The company currently has portfolio investments in companies involved throughout the energy market. These activities include, but are not limited to:
Oil and gas exploration in Romania
Offshore production in Brazil
Project management in Australia
Wind farms in Spain, Hungary and Mexico
Drilling operations in Columbia, Peru and Venezuela
Onshore and offshore exploration in West Africa
According to the press release, First Reserve is partnering with the existing management team at TNT. See more information on the acquisition from PNR's release.
The following year, the rate of occupational injury and illness jumped by the largest margin in OSHA's history to date. Unions argued against the cuts and exemptions.
In more recent years, the former Representative from Montana, Denny Rehberg (then chairman of the House Labor, Health and Human Services Subcommittee),introduced legislation that would block some federal safety regulations and decrease OSHA's budget.
Peg Seminario, the Director of Safety and Health for the AFL-CIO, responded to the proposed legislation, "For essentially eight years, there was a de facto moratorium on health and safety rules. I think the employers got used to the fact that there were no regulations. They don't want any new rules. They didn't have any under Bush and they don't want any more - period".
Basically it boils down to this: a lot of those laws that currently protect you at work were not freely given to you by big business. Some interests fought against them when they were passed and they continue to attempt to undermine them today.
Union members fought FOR the laws when they were passed, and continue to fight to keep them in effect today.
So the next time you argue that unions are a "thing of the past" or that they "are no longer needed today", remember that those seeking to bring back child labor, to bring an end to overtime pay, and to reduce workplace safety protections ARE NOT a "thing of the past".
In the last few years, republican politicians have actually argued FOR child labor. Senator Mike Lee of Utahhas stated that child labor laws are unconstitutional. Maine's governor, Paul LePage, and Maine State Senator Debra Plowman have backed legislation that would allow children as young as 12 to get jobs. But, wait you say...why would a business hire a kid to do a job when it could employ an adult? The legislation also stated that the child laborers could be paid less than minimum wage.
Why do you think that child labor was so popular before unions fought against it? Because businesses didn't have to pay kids as much as adults. The republican effort in Maine continues to this day.
Likewise, Republicans are currently proposingfederal legislation to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938to allow private employers to substitute compensatory time for overtime pay. Why do bad things so often get a misleading, friendly sounding name (like "Right-to-work" for instance)? Anyway, this piece of legislation is called the "Working Families Flexibility Act". According to the proposal, workers have to agree to receive comp time instead of overtime pay...and the employer can not threaten, intimidate, or coerce employees into agreeing to it. And we all know that big business would never coerce workers into doing what they want.
Of course...research from Cornell Universityhas shown that in about 40% of the times that workers tried to organize into a union, unfair labor practice charges were filed against the employer...and those charges often include threatening, intimidating, and coercing employees to not vote for the union. But that is when workers are only exercising their federally protected right to form a union...surely employers will actually follow the law in relation to this proposed bill that seeks to change the Fair Labor Standards Act?
In early December, 1921, coal miners in Kansas were out on strike for better wages, working conditions and to protest unfair labor laws and discriminatory practices in the coal mines. The Governor of Kansas stepped in and asked for volunteers to reopen the mines. And some 1,000 strikebreakers obliged. The morning of December 12th, several hundred women from the various coal mines in the area met at the Mine Workers’ meeting hall in Franklin Kansas to show their support for their husbands and their disdain for the people who crossed the picket line to do their husbands’ jobs. The following morning, somewhere between 2,000-3,000 women showed up and set out to convince the strikebreakers to stop working. Over the next 3 days, the number of women grew to over 6,000 as they marched from one mine to the next (covering over 60 miles). Groups of women engaging in this sort of action just was not done in that time and it made the national news. The New York Times ran a story actually giving the group the name “The Amazon Army”.
While they were unarmed…well, other than the occasional handful of red pepper to throw at the strikebreakers…the Governor sent in a machine gun attachment, 1,200 rifles and a 1,000 deputized state militia. During some skirmishes, shots were fired at the feet of the women. In the end 49 of the women marchers were arrested on charges of unlawful assembly and disturbing the peace. They made a powerful point though – the conditions that effect the men working in the mines are also of a concern to their wives, sisters, mothers and daughters. Over the next decades, that area of Kansas, the miners and their wives, fought on the leading edge for reforms that brought about a lot of the labor protections we enjoy today.
A side note on strikebreakers…
A strikebreaker is a person who is brought in to do the work of someone who is out on strike. While the use of strikebreakers is occasionally found In other countries, it is most common in the United States. Strikes are very uncommon today, their use was more widespread in the 30’s-60’s. The historical term commonly used to refer to a strikebreaker is “scab”.
In terms of the disdain that a union worker feels towards a strikebreaker, you have to understand a few things: the strikebreaker is essentially taking his job when he is going without pay to try to improve it – whether that means higher wages, better healthcare, safer conditions at work, or changing unfair management practices. Secondly, when strikes are used, it is often to put pressure on the employer to meet the workers’ demands…when strikebreakers come in and take the jobs, that pressure is not effective. So essentially, not only is a strikebreaker taking the job of a worker who is trying to improve it, but he/she is also providing assistance to the employer so they won’t have to improve the job.
A lot of people like to talk about the “good ole days”. Well, one part of the good ole days was how a huge portion of Americans refused to cross a picket line. The general thought was something like, “that man is trying to improve his livelihood…there is no way I’m going to stand in his way”. Sure, strikes were lost due to the use of strikebreakers, however, at least the people who crossed the picket line to make it happen were usually treated with the scorn that is befitting of someone who is willing to take the food off another worker’s table.
Again, how often is it said “you gotta do what’s best for you and your family”. If you are out of work, and a job is offered to you by a company whose employees are out on strike, it might seem like your lucky day. You have a wife, you have a couple of kids, your rent is due, and your truck payment is late…why not take the job? People used to understand that you shouldn’t do something to benefit yourself and your family if it hurts someone else and their family.
Oh, how many times do we hear that line? It is often the first thing an anti-union person says in response to why they should consider joining a union. The statement is often followed by them explaining that we have laws now that protect us at work and ensure that we are treated fairly. These folks clearly do not understand much about labor history or the efforts to undermine these workplace protections over the last 30-40 years.
Those laws that protect you at work...why do you think they were passed in the first place? Who do you think continues to this day to fight big business in their efforts to remove these protections? Union members fought for the end to child labor, for the establishment of the 40 hour work week (and overtime over 40), and for the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
And yes, contrary to popular belief (and common sense), there are parties out there trying to bring back child labor, to put an end to overtime over 40 hours a week, and to reduce the effectiveness of the already severely strained Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Check out the first editions of the Hoisting News in electronic format! If you are not receiving a paper copy of the newsletter in the mail, and would like to, pleasesend us your name and address with this contact form.
5,000 Strike at Chinese Shoe Factory
About 5,000 workers walked out earlier this week at Stella Shoe Co’s Dongguan, China factory. The workers are demanding that the employer pay the required monthly housing allowance.
Stella makes shoes for Nike, Timberland, and Kenneth Cole, among others.
A prominent Chinese blogger reported, “On the 10th of March, the local government dispatched a large number of police dogs brought to the facility to pressure workers to return to their jobs.”
China Labor Watch, a US based organization, confirmed the claims with a factory worker. The worker told them that some workers were attacked by dogs and were billed $271 for hospital treatment, including rabies shots. Other workers said they were hit by cars and injured as they blocked the front of the factory.
Chinese factory workers are often migrants from rural areas who travel to the larger cities to work in the factories (similar to the some US factories back in the day). Local labor laws say that the companies have to pay a monthly housing allowance that usually ranges from 5-20% of the total monthly wage. The minimum wage in the area is about $209 per month, though it is reported that factory worker often earn more than the minimum.
This is not the first time a factory has run amuck with the paying of benefits. Last year, a separate shoe company, Yue Yuen Holdings, was ordered to pay tens of millions of dollars to its 48,000 employees in back pay for housing and social insurance.
While in most developed countries, workers have the right to join the union of their choosing and bargain collectively, in China workers are only allowed to join a union in the state run All-China Federation of Trade Unions.
Ever wonder what the point of life is? Well, if you watched 1980's television, you probably remember Cliff Claven's answer in the final episode of Cheers: "Comfortable shoes. Yeah, if you're not wearing comfortable shoes, life is just chaos. I mean, the greatest accomplishments in history have been made by men wearing accommodating shoes."
As fellow crane operators and riggers, we know the importance of a high quality pair of work boots. We also recognize that we should try to buy products made in America and by people who are paid a good wage for their labor.
The folks atwww.theunionbootpro.comsatisfy both requirements by selling only American, union-made boots.
Theunionbootpro.com sells Thorogood, Hellfire, and Work One brand boots, all made by Weinbrenner Shoe Company in Wisconsin. The company has been around since 1892 and operates two of the only factories left in the US making professional grade work boots.
And until April 11th, they will donate $3 towards Autism Speaks Research.
Click on the banner below to check out their selection.
Dawes Rigging an Crane Rental received several awards at the recent SC&RA annual conference. Dawes is based out of Milwaukee, with several other branches in Wisconsin, and is a member of the ALL Erection and Crane Rental family of companies. Dawes was awarded a "65 Year Longevity Award" and had six crane operators receive the Crane Operator Safety Award. Additionally, DST (Dawes' trucking division) earned two awards for safety.
New Mexico and Texas based Mark's Crane and Rigging has been purchased by private equity group ML Holdings, Inc. As reported in American Cranes and Transport, this acquisition includes 9 service locations, 235 employees, 135 cranes and 210 trailers. This is the third crane and rigging company ML Holdings has added to its portfolio. They also own east coast United Crane and Rigging and New Mexico based Crane Service. Inc.
TNT Crane Owners Exploring Sale Options - Several news outlets have recently ran articles announcing that three people "familiar with the matter" have said that Odyssey Investment Partners, LLC is looking into selling its portfolio company TNT Crane & Rigging. As noted inthis Reuters article, TNT is one of the largest US crane service providers and could sell for more than $800 million. Also reported, TNT has asked JP Morgan Chase to run the auction for the company. Odyssey Investment has about $3 billion in assets currently under management. They have owned TNT Crane since they purchased it from MML Capital Partners LLP in 2011. Noted in the article, Odyssey and JP Morgan declined to comment and a TNT representative did not respond to a request for a comment. See more information from theReuters articleor onvertikal.net.
Groves Equipment Rental, Groves Texas, has donated the use of a RT880 to Baylor University to assist in the construction of the schools new football stadium. The crane come custom painted in Baylor's colors and sporting the schools name on the boom and counterweight. The owner of Groves, Steve McReynolds, and many members of his family, are Baylor alumni. The stadium will seat 45,000 spectators and is expected to bring in more football fans, more jobs, and to better the economic development in the region. Work is expected to be completed in the fall of 2014. See more, including a picture of the Baylor crane, here.
There is a lot of work coming up in Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma. Our local unions and the IUOE International are doing all we can to ensure that the projects are manned up with the best operators and riggers, enjoying the best wages, benefits and working conditions available. If you are looking for work now, OR if you are finally fed up with being taken advantage of by unscrupulous contractors who only care about the companies' profit, consider giving one of our locals a call. Maybe you have the skill set that our signatory contractors are seeking. See the Contact section of this website for our phone numbers and addresses.
A couple of things to consider:
1. If you are on the fence, you can look around this website for more information. But, don't take our word for it. Just type "Pension vs. 401K" into Google. You'll notice among the search results a recent article on Fox Business News. And the opportunity to participate in a pension plan is just one of the IUOE benefits.
Why Pension Plans are Eating Your 401(KI) Plan's Lunch
2. Our local unions are not only looking for crane operators and riggers. If you are a highly skilled grader, dozer, excavator, or backhoe operator...or basically if you excel at running any piece of heavy equipment, give us a call. One of our contractors just might have a place for you.
3. Also important to note, and actually, MOST important to note...we are looking for skilled craftsmen who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. We want members who are willing to stand up for themselves AND other members. The "every man for himself" mentality that exists in certain areas of our industry does no good for the workers - however, it is highly beneficial to the companies who seek to keep skilled craftsmen divided.
We are not interested in people who are willing to accept all of the benefits of belonging to a union, but the first time they have a 40 hour week, they go running back to whomever promises them the most hours. We understand that you have to provide for your family...that is why we work every day to improve the industry. However, you have to ask yourself, is working 80 hours a week for the next few months more important than NOT having to work 80 hours a week when you are 65?
If you are ready to commit to improving your future, AND are ready to commit to standing together with the other skilled tradesmen in the IUOE, give us a call.
College Football Players Seek Union Representation
Everyone is pretty familiar with the NFL Players Association, the union that represents professional football players. The Players Association represents NFL players in matters concerning wages and working conditions, and negotiates their retirement and insurance benefits. While NFL players are definitely highly paid (they are the best football players in the world…), the Association assists them in a variety of other ways, such as negotiating rules for off-season team workouts (and enforcing them).
Now it looks like the football team at Northwestern University near Chicago is looking for union representation as well. Former Northwestern quarterback, Kain Colter, is leading the charge to unionize. From Colter: “There is no way student athletes should be stuck with medical bills from their playing days. Graduation rates hover around 50%; this is an unacceptable trend. I came to the conclusion these injustices exist in NCAA sports because athletes don’t have a seat at the table.”
The top 5 programs (Texas, Notre Dame, Alabama, LSU and Michigan) brought in over a quarter of a billion dollars in profit in 2013. These 5 teams have a combined value of about $575 million. With all that money coming in, you’d think the players are just trying to get their fair share of it, in the form of a big paycheck?
Wrong. According to Ramogi Huma, founder of the National College Players Association (and a former linebacker for UCLA), they are not even discussing being paid. He says their stance is that they are already paid for playing college sports – through scholarships. Some of the things they are seeking: finding ways to make the game safer from concussions, a due process system so that coaches can’t take away scholarships at whim, and a guarantee that scholarships won’t be taken away if a player becomes injured.
According to a Fox News Sports article, the officials at Northwestern are proud of their players for standing up for something that is important to them…but the university will fight the player’s attempt to unionize.
This situation provides an excellent example of how organizing into a union is not always just about pay. In fact, workers that are already well-compensated, often choose to form a union for completely different reasons. Just like these young student athletes, they want better protections at work. Workers want to switch from being at-will employees to ones that can’t be fired without just cause. They want a safer work environment. They want to have a more secure retirement. And like these student athletes…they want a seat at the table.
Even if Northwestern University prevails in their fight to prevent their players from unionizing, the school officials are right about one thing, you do have to give the football team credit for standing up for what they believe in.
Well, it appears that they certainly did this week. In three separate Supreme Court cases, the court sided with employers about discrimination, retaliation, and product liability.
The court decisions include:
All in all, the Supreme court has continued to rule against workers and individual citizens and in favor of large corporations.Click here to read a more in depth description of the court cases and their implications.
However, even if you do not have vacation plans in the near future, the government shutdown can have an effect on you. As mentioned on this website numerous times before, the National Labor Relations Board is the federal agency that is tasked with protecting your rights at work. Of the 1611 employees at the NLRB, all but 11 are now furloughed. See more, including the NLRB shutdown plan, at www.nlrb.gov.
Encana Oil and Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Encana Corporation, a leading oil and gas producer in North America. They currently have assets located around the United States and in Western Canada.
"Gaining a position in a world class, oil rich resource like the Eagle Ford accelerates the transition of our portfolio and underscores our investment focus on high margin assets,"says Doug Suttles, Encana President & CEO. "With this transaction, combined with our announced divestments of Jonah and properties in East Texas, we're replacing natural gas production with high margin oil and liquids production."
The company’s press release noted that the transaction is subject to closing conditions and regulatory approvals.
On March, 5th, 2013,OSHA announced two informal stakeholder meetings to solicit public comments regarding crane operator certification requirements. In particular, they are seeking information from the public on "(1) the usefulness of certifying operators for different capacities of cranes, and (2) the risks of allowing an operator to operate all capacities of cranes within a specific type."
Currently, the OSHA standard requires all operators to be certified by November 2014. Also, the certified testing organization must specify the "capacity and type" of equipment on which the operator is certified.
On March 21st of this year, OSHA announced a third informal stakeholder meeting for the same purpose. Please see this announcementfor more information regarding the meeting time and location
Among the symptoms listed for heat exhaustion, OSHA includes: headache, dizziness, weakness, irritability or confusion and thirst, nausea or vomiting. If no action is taken, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.
Heat stroke can be live threatening. A person suffering from heat stroke may not be able to think clearly and they may stop sweating.
If you, or a coworker, exhibits signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke, you should take immediate steps to cool down the affected person. This includes providing cool water, moving them to a cooler area, and loosening outer clothing. If anyone exhibits symptoms of heat stroke, you should call 911 immediately.
Additional information can be found on theCenter for Disease Control’s website.
While the NLRB's operation may be limited during the shutdown, the operation of IUOE Locals 178, 406, 450 and 627 are not (because we are not government entities). We are here to answer any questions you have and to assist you with any concerns about your employment.
Our local unions will do everything we can to protect your right to organize yourselves to improve your wages, benefits and working conditions.
Middle Class Income and Collective Bargaining
A recent article from Ross Eisenbrey at the Economic Policy Institute points out the correlation between reduced union density and the fall in the middle class share of our countries’ income.
"We now know what happens when employers hold most of the cards and employee power is diminished: profits and CEO pay skyrocket, and worker pay flat lines."
"Politicians who care about the middle class should be looking for ways to help workers gain access to collective bargaining and restore union strength. They certainly ought not weaken them further and limit or forbid collective bargaining."
Check out the information at the Economic Policy Institute, including a chart showing the matching declines in union density and the middle class.
Another Graphic on the Declining Middle Class
The information below is from the Pew Charitable Trusts. It shows that the middle class has declined in every state since 2000.
We've been weakening worker protections and reducing union density for decades, anyone think the shrinking middle class trend will reverse itself it we continue to do the same things?
The New Oil Boom
The town of Nixon, TX is located about an hour southeast of San Antonio. It has a population of about 2,200. According to recent data, the median household income in Nixon is about $22,000 (less than half the median nationwide). Many of its main street businesses have been closed.
So, why was Nixon recently highlighted in a story in the New York Times? It provides an example of how the new oil boom in the United States can really turn around a small town. A refinery has existed on the outskirts of Nixon since about 1980, but since being built, it has been closed for more years than it has been open. It is a relatively small, 56 acre facility, that traditionally has had a hard time competing with the mega-refineries further south and east along the Gulf Coast that could purchase huge amounts of crude oil from world-wide suppliers.
That all changed with the massive increase in oil production in the Eagle Ford Shale in south Texas. Thanks to new drilling technology, high grade crude oil is now being pumped out of the ground all over the region.
Today, Blue Dolphin Energy operates the refinery, processing that Eagle Ford crude into a range of products, including diesel fuel, naphtha and atmospheric gas. They run about 15,000 barrels of crude through the system every day and have a storage capacity of close to 300,000 barrels.
Restarting the refinery had a great impact on the town. The facility employs more than 50 local residents, many of who were previously out of work. The great thing about higher paying jobs is that the people then spend a big portion of that money locally. According to the New York Times article, the local restaurants are now full with workers and truck drivers associated with the refinery. It has been reported that investors are exploring the idea of building a new hotel in Nixon.
The new work, incomes, and spending has also meant that sales tax revenue has doubled since the refinery opened. This has allowed the town to improve roads and its water system and to hire an additional police officer. Likewise, property values in the little town have increased nearly 400%.
The success of the recent surge in oil refining is certainly not limited to small Nixon, TX. The big refineries along the Gulf Coast are also ramping up production and several smaller refineries are being built in elsewhere in Texas, in North Dakota and in Utah. Valero alone is expected to spend $800 million in the near future to upgrade its existing refineries to accept the light crude from the Eagle Ford. Compact distillation towers to partially refine condensates are in the works in a few states as well.
All of these developments, and the construction and operations jobs they create, can be attributed to the new shale oil drilling. More at NYTimes.com
A Bill by Any Other Name…
It has been less than one week since Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the “Religious Freedom” law, and the backlash from across the nation has been staggering. How can that be? Doesn’t America stand for religious freedom? Isn’t that even the main reason we were told the Pilgrims came to the New World? So, how can so many people, corporations, celebrities, sports stars, and even state governments come out so strongly against a “Religious Freedom” law?
Well, it should come as no surprise that sometimes our elected government representatives will label a bill with a happy, positive sounding name in an effort to get the public to support it. In any case, we’d like to discuss a couple of things related to the passage of the “Religious Freedom” act and the immediate, large scale effort to get it changed.
First though, we’d like to point out that we are going to be talking about the Indiana bill, but this website is still solely focused on the crane and rigging industry, and news that is directly related to the same.
We are not seeking to influence anyone’s religious beliefs or to specifically sway anyone’s position on the Indiana law. The passage of the law and the backlash simply provide an excellent example for a point that we feel should be made…a point that IS directly related to all workers, including those in crane and rigging, both union and non-union.
The Law, Supporters and Opponents.
The “Religious Freedom” law, taken at face value, seeks to ensure that one’s religious beliefs are protected. As has been pointed out by supporters, there is already a federal law and multiple state laws that do the same thing. Previous issues that have come up along those lines include that the government should not require people to deviate from their religious beliefs regarding clothing, facial hair, or medical procedures.
Opponents of the bill state that the Indiana version is different in two main ways. First, it allows for-profit businesses to assert a right to “the free exercise of religion”. It basically claims that corporations have a right to claim a religious exemption for any number of things it chooses to do or not to do. Secondly, the new law allows for anyone who feels their religious beliefs were burdened to assert this as a defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, whether or not the other party is a government entity or an individual. So basically, a person or a business can use their religious belief as justification for their actions against individuals that might bring them to court. Opponents of the bill claim that this can be used to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation.
Immediately after the signing of the law and in the days that followed, numerous politicians, CEOs, and organizations have come out against it. The response ranges from The NBA asserting that they will continue to ensure that all fans are welcome at their games located in Indiana to the state of Connecticut banning state funded travel to Indiana. Nine CEO’s, including those at Angie’s List, Salesforce, Cummings and Dow Agroscience have called on Indiana to change the law. Additionally, Angie’s list has stated they will not be going forward with a $40 million expansion in the state due to the legislation. Leaders at Purdue, Butler, and Indiana Universities have come out against the legislation. Tim Cook and Jeremy Stoppelman, the CEOs of Apple and Yelp have done the same. AFSCME cancelled their October conference in the state. The band Wilco has canceled its concert in Indianapolis. These are just a few examples of the backlash.
Additionally, thousands of people rallied in Indianapolis on Saturday to protest the bill. People all over the world took to Twitter and Facebook to express their opposition. The hashtag #BoycottIndiana has been retweeted over 55,000 times.
So…what was that point we were going to make???
The state of Indiana passed a law that may or may not have much to do with protecting an individual’s religious freedom. Millions of people around the country, dozens of companies, celebrities, and politicians immediately came out against it. They took it to the streets, the opposition went “viral” on the internet, boycotts were immediately organized, and projects, events, and concerts were cancelled. All in less than a week. That, regardless of what you think of the law, is simply extraordinary! And on March 31st, according to a Fox News source, Governor Pense in Indiana has stated they will “fix” the law.
So, our point is twofold.
1. There has been and continues to be an enormous amount of legislation passed and proposed by numerous states that is anti-worker. Sometimes they also have happy, positive sounding names, most notably “Right-to-Work”. In Ohio, they actually call it the “Workplace Freedom Act”. Just to reiterate, “Right-to-Work” is non-sense. You already have the right to work pretty much as much as you want and anywhere someone will hire you. And “Workplace Freedom”? According to all the data, maybe it would give Ohioans the “freedom” to join the other RTW states that on average earn less each year, have less pensions, worse health insurance coverage, etc.
Another example of a misleading name given to bills is “Paycheck Protection”. What this actually does is further tilt political influence towards big business.
Likewise, Republicans at the federal level, have just reintroduced the “Family Friendly and Workplace Flexibility Act”. Who could be against that, right? What it actually does is weaken overtime laws.
There are efforts in multiple states and at the federal level to repeal Davis Bacon (prevailing wage) laws. These laws set a minimum wage to be paid on projects that receive government funding. The laws seek to ensure that contractors cannot underbid others by cutting their wages below what is standard in the area.
2. While there has certainly been some union opposition to these anti-worker efforts, and some politicians (democrat and republican) and businesses have come out against them, there has never been an effort that matches the immediate response to Indiana’s “Religious Freedom” law. WHY NOT???
The backlash against Indiana shows that the people of this country have the power to change legislation that they do not agree with. We can stop anti-worker legislation in Indiana, in Michigan, in Missouri, in Wisconsin. We can bring Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s assault on unions to a screeching halt. We can reverse the trend of states passing “Right-to-Work” laws that seek to reduce workers’ bargaining power (and thus wages, benefits and working conditions).
In a matter of days, Indiana Governor Pense went from signing the “Religious Freedom” law and staunchly saying they absolutely are not going to change the law, to him saying that they will “fix” it. Since the anti-worker legislation is being backed by the biggest industry groups in the country, the biggest political super-PACS, and the country’s wealthiest billionaires, it might take us more than a week…but it can be done. It HAS to be done.
What Determines Your Wages and Benefits?
What determines the wages and benefits for a particular trade or craft? Primarily, a couple of things:
Everyone is aware that for the current demand, there is a shortage of skilled craftsmen. For the near future, the construction and maintenance work outlook is optimistic. However, the supply/demand of a particular market ebbs and flows. The only way to sustain higher wages and ensure stability in a particular craft labor pool is for those workers to have collective bargaining power. The degree of bargaining power is determined by “market share”. These are relatively simple principles to understand.
Let’s think about the term “market share”.
From the authority on everything…Wikipedia: Market Share is defined as “the percentage of a market accounted for by a specific entity”. So, if there are 100 crane operators in a given
area and 75 of them are IUOE members, then the union has a 75% market share. If there are 3 crane companies that operate in a given market, and all of them are IUOE signatories, then the union has 100% market share of the companies. Obviously, it is often not that simple, but it is easy to see: as more people join the union in a given geographic area, the higher the market share will be.
Market share is really simple when it comes to unions. The higher the market share, the stronger the union can be. When the union gets stronger, it negotiates contracts with employers from a greater position of strength. The better the position the union has in contract negotiations, the better the contract will be for the members.
The “go-it-alone” mentality that prevails in some places, is not a recipe for long term career stability for construction craftsmen. The only way to achieve a level of stability for wages, benefits and working conditions, is when the majority of those craftsmen stick together and refuse to provide their skills below a certain standard of compensation and treatment.
This is the basic principle of why the International Union of Operating Engineers was formed, and why it still exists today. It is simply for the mutual aid and protection of its membership. So, when all skilled crane and rigging personnel decide to stick together, you will determine the future of your career and your retirement, not the stock holders that own your company. It is that simple. When your parents and grandparents did it, they created the strongest economy and middle class in the history of the United States. The solution is simple, and the process to achieve it is easy.
In addition, IUOE members enjoy the very best training in the industry, as well as retirement and health benefits, which are second to none. For more information, contact the IUOE local union where you live, or use the contact form on this website.
As most of you have probably heard, OSHA has proposed to postpone the compliance date for crane operator certification to November 10, 2017. This delay is primarily so that OSHA can examine concerns over the “Certifying by Capacity” requirement. Numerous industry leaders, including the International Union of Operating Engineers have participated in the recent informal stake holder meetings to address the issue.
The NCCCO has compiled an online resource center to answer questions about the OSHA Rule Reopening.
We encourage you to check it out…and if you still have questions, call your local IUOE union hall for answers.
Included in their resources are:
The Top Ten Frequently Asked Questions
An article from ACT on the Industry’s view on capacity.
Union Nights with the Houston Astros
Discounted tickets to Houston Astros games at Minute Maid Park are available for select games over the next four months. All you have to do is go to their website linked below, select the game you'd like to attend, and enter "union" in the password/code box. It looks like the discount varies based on your seat selection and which game you want to attend.
More information at their website, or by calling 1-800-ASTROS2
Cesar Chavez Opens Today in Theaters
A civil rights activist and labor leader, Cesar Chavez co-founded the United Farm Workers union in 1962 to fight abuses by employers in the fields of California. His legacy lives on in the streets, buildings, monuments and the UFW headquarters which bear his name. His union organizer jacket is held by the Smithsonian, his portrait hangs in the National Gallery in Washington.
2013-2014 NCCCO Board of Directors
The National Commission of the Certification of Crane Operators (NCCCO)recently announcedtheir Board of Directors for 2013-2014.
Thom Sicklesteel of Sicklesteel Cranes in Washington State has been elected to serve an additional 1 year term as president. Becht Engineering's Joseph Collins will serve an additional year as Vice President. J. Kerry Hulse, from Deep South Crane, will continue for this term as Secretary/Treasurer. J. Chris Ryan, Boh Brothers Construction, will continue as Immediate Past President.
Other members of the Board of Directors for the NCCCO are James T. Callahan, General President of the IUOE, Vinal George Bell of Cianbro, Peter Juhren of Morrow Equipment, Tim Watters, Hoffman Equipment, and Ellis Vliet from Turner Industries.
Of the employers listed above, the IUOE has relationships with Sicklesteel Cranes, Deep South Crane, Boh Brothers Construction, Morrow Equipment, Hoffman Equipment, and Turner Industries.
As you can see from the pictures on the home page, our local apprenticeship facilities have been built with training and certification in mind. According to the United States Department of Labor, there are close to 400,000 apprentices in the US (all trades).
While some sectors of the economy have seen limited job opportunities in the last few years, trained and certified heavy equipment operators are in high demand in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.
Read more on apprenticeships in thisUS News article.
Union Made 4th of July Products
Be sure to check AFL-CIO Now for more made-in-America, union product spotlights (this list is not exhaustive for each product type).
Picnic Supplies: Weber Q series grill, coolers by Igloo and Rubbermaid, red Solo cups and don’t forget the sunscreen by Coppertone and Bain de Soleil.
Hot Dogs, Sausages and Other Grill Meats: Ball Park, Boar’s Head, Dearborn Sausage Co., Fischer Meats, Hebrew National, Hofmann, Johnsonville, Oscar Mayer.
Condiments: French’s Mustard, Guldens Mustard, Heinz Ketchup, Hidden Valley Ranch, Lucky Whip, Vlasic.
Buns and Bread: Ottenbergs, Stroehmann, Sara Lee, Vie de France Bakery. See more.
Sodas and Bottled Water: Coke, Diet Sprite, Pepsi, Sprite, American Springs, Pocono Northern Fall's, Poland Spring.
Beer: Budweiser, Bud Light, Henry Weinhard's Private Reserve, Lionshead, Mad River, Michelob, MillerCoors, Rolling Rock.
Snacks and Dessert: Breyers Ice Cream, Flips Pretzels, Frito-Lay Chips, Good Humor Ice Cream.
Supreme Court Ruling on Unpaid Time at Work
Companies can require their workers to go through security screening before allowing them to go home and they do not have to pay them for the time it takes to do the screening, according to a Supreme Court ruling yesterday.
In this particular case, the court sided with Integrity Staffing Solutions, a contractor who provided workers at an Amazon.com warehouse. The workers said that they had to wait up to 25 minutes a day to be processed through the end of the day security screening, time for which they were not paid.
While an earlier court had considered that the screenings were part of the workers employment conditions, and thus could merit compensation, the Supreme Court saw it differently.
Justice Clarence Thomas said, “Integrity Staffing did not employ its workers to undergo security screenings. The screenings were not an intrinsic element of retrieving products from warehouse shelves or packaging them for shipment.”Justice Thomas continued, “(Integrity) could have eliminated the screenings altogether without impairing the employees’ ability to complete their work”.
The workers also argued that the time they spent waiting to be processed could be reduced if their employer hired additional security personnel. The court also dismissed this saying that argument was “better suited for the bargaining table”.
Unfortunately these workers are not currently unionized.
Labor Unions on Jeopardy
Last Thursday, a category in the Double Jeopardy round was about unions - how well would you have done?
$400 - The blue on the emblem of the largest national union of these is for the “thin blue line” protecting those we serve.
$800 - When the N.A.L.C., the National Association of these, went on strike in NYC in 1970, soldiers delivered the mail.
$1200 – Soon after the United Rubber Workers was founded in this city in 1935, it went on strike against Goodyear.
$1600 - Robert Montgomery and Ronald Reagan each served 2 stints as President of this.
$2000 – The N.E.A. is the USA’s largest labor union; number 2 is the S.E.I.U., short for this “International Union”.
There has been a lot of talk the last few elections about “Big Labor” influence in politics. If you follow the more conservative news sources, you likely read about the “tens of millions of dollars” unions spend on politics.
We would like to point out a couple of things in regards to “Big Labor” and politics.
1. Union political contributions are a fraction of what “outside” conservative-oriented groups spend.
The top TWO conservative oriented super-pacs, “American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS”and “Restore Our Future” spent close to $320 million in 2011-2012.
In the 2012 election cycle,American Crossroads/Crossroads GPS spent about $159 million campaigning against Democrats.
We cite this campaign spending data to make the point that “Big Labor” as a whole, may not be as influential in politics as you are led to believe. However, we also recognize that many conservatives may say, “$500,000 to Obama was too much anyway! I don’t want any of my dues to go to democrats!”
Read on to point number two.
2. Union members have greater control over how their money is spent than stockholders or employees.
Lastly, we would like to point out that unions do not solely donate to democrats. In the last election cycle, close to 10% of Labor Union contributionsto congressional races went to republicans.
In general, unions support political candidates who support policies that are beneficial to our members, such as increasing domestic energy production, prevailing wage laws, improving America’s infrastructure, etc.
As noted by the links provided above, the election spending information comes from the Center for Responsive Politics.
Many of us are accustomed to working outside during the Deep South’s oppressive summers, and know of the risks involved in 100+ degree days. However, there are also lots of folks who may be working in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma for the first time. And really, heat stress is serious business, so everyone can use a refresher.
OSHA has provided a “Quick-Card” to help protect workers from heat related illnesses and fatalities. There are two main categories of heat related problems – heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Why is it such a huge problem? Partially because most local governments do not have the resources to investigate wage theft, and several states have actually closed down or severely cut their labor departments. Thus, the federal DOL is tasked with ensuring that over seven million employers are not committing wage theft. If you divide the 7 million employers by the approximate 1,100 wage and hour investigators… each DOL investigator is tasked with ensuring compliance for over 6,000 companies.
But, even with their limited resources, the DOL recovered over a quarter of a billion dollars in back pay for workers in fiscal year 2012.
And while wage theft is usually talked about in the context of low wage workers, that is certainly not always the case. There is currently an anti-trust lawsuit filed by 64,613 software engineers against Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe. The engineers claim they lost up to $3 billion in wages in 2005-2009 when the technology companies conspired in an illegal agreement to not hire each others employees.
While this may not have been the usual form of wage theft, the agreement basically lowered the earnings power of the engineers. It has been reported that the settlement in the lawsuit will be about $300,000,000 (or, about 1% of the personal net worth of one of the founders of Google…).
Five Things that are “Right”
As a country, the United States is supposed to stand for a few things. Simply put, Americans are supposed to stand up for what is right. Is “what is right” always easy to figure out? No…but it usually is. We’ve touched on a lot of these issues before. Over the next few weeks, some of them will be highlighted one by one.
1. If you work full-time for a successful company, you should be paid enough to comfortably raise a family and afford leisure activities/a vacation.
2. Workers have a right to as safe a workplace as possible.
3. People are not meant to work from the time they are old enough to walk until the time they die. Workers deserve a secure retirement.
4. If you have a health problem or injury, and a treatment exists to fix it, it should be done...and it should not cost you months of wages for the procedure.
5. In a democracy, individual people should not be allowed to buy elections and then determine policy. The right to vote is guaranteed.
College Football NLRB Decision
Last week, Region 13 of the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Northwestern football players are employees of the university and have the right to unionize and collectively bargain. The university has appealed, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) President, Mark Emmert, has stated that the case will eventually be ruled on my the Supreme Court of the United States.
It is important to note that the players are not looking for a paycheck from the university. They are seeking guaranteed coverage of sports-related medical expenses, the creation of a trust fund to help former athletes finish their education, further study of concussions, and an increase in athletic scholarships.
You may have read that trade union membership in the US hit a 97 year low a couple of months ago. At first, you may think that this has nothing to do with you...after all, you are not a union member. However, as Eric Liu points out in this article on time.com, a higher labor union membership benefits not only the union members themselves, but non-union workers and the economy as a whole.
One of the two main benefits of strong unions expressed by Liu are that they help to create a strong economy by "raising wages for their members and putting more purchasing power to work, enabling more hiring". When unions are weak, "corporations hoard, hiring slows, and inequality deepens".
Secondly, Lui says that unions raise wages for non-union members as well by creating higher prevailing wages.
Lastly, as noted in the article, the decline in union membership has not occured by chance. It has been the result of decades of efforts to "squeeze unions" and "disperse their power".
Like the author of the article linked above, we have to question if there is a correlation between the decline in labor union membership and howcorporate profits are currently at record highswhile workers' wages are at record lows.
The AFL-CIO has recently released its newest version of their “Executive Paywatch” website. Their data, which comes from university studies and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, shows the continuing trend of large income growth for those at the top of the corporate world and stagnant pay for the vast majority of wage earners.
Here are some of the highlights from the website:
The average compensation package for a S&P 500 company CEO in 2012 was $12,259,894.20 (close to $6000/hour, based on a 40 hour week)
As heavy equipment operators and riggers, you likely earn quite a bit more than the average American worker who gets about $34,000 per year (you probably work a lot more than 40 hours a week too!). However, we suggest you try the “How you Compare” tool at the bottom right of the Executive Paywatch website to see how your compensation stacks up against those at the top 1%.
Click on the image below to check out the website for more information on executive pay, off shore profits, overseas job creation by US companies, and how US CEO pay compares to CEOs from comparable sized companies in other developed nations.
Northwest Crane Service
Check out some pictures of Northwest Crane Service and Local 627 members at work. Northwest has several locations around Oklahoma with cranes up to 900t.
Happy Veterans Day!
Thanks to everyone who serves in the US Military! Since tomorrow is Veterans Day, here is a bit of history about how we came to recognize November 11th in honor of those who serve.
November 11th was originally designated “Armistice Day” in recognition of the end of World War I, with the first observance in 1919 (one year after the end of the war). In 1926, the US Congress passed a resolution calling for an annual observance of the day and in 1938, it became an official national holiday. President Eisenhower changed the holiday’s name from Armistice Day to Veterans Day in 1954.For a brief 3 year period, between 1968 and 1971, the holiday was moved to the forth Monday in October. However, President Ford then moved it back to November 11th because of the significant historical importance of that date.
Some Military Facts –
There are about 23 million veterans in the US.
There are close to 8 million surviving Vietnam War era veterans, 5 million Gulf War veterans, 2.6 million World War II Veterans, and 2.8 million Korean War Veterans.
Almost 2 million of our veterans are women.
Since we are honoring veterans, please remember about the Helmets-to-Hardhats program, which connects National Guard Reserve and former military personnel with the best training and employment opportunities around the country in the construction industry.
If you are relying on a 401K plan as your primary retirement, there are a few things of which you should be made aware (click on each point for the source).
We encourage you to do a bit of research about 401K plans...though we know what you will find out...a 401K plan is not the same as an IUOE Negotiated Defined Benefit Plan!