August 2011

From the Officers
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Tough Market Demands Versatility

This month, we report on the $1.4 billion grant from the U.S. Department of Energy that helped to launch the massive Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station in the Mojave Desert.

It's satisfying to see unemployed journeyman inside wiremen and apprentices going back to work to build the infrastructure for the next generation of renewable energy technology.

Ivanpah and similar federally-aided projects dramatically repudiate political leaders who jaw about all government spending as "wasteful," the same ideologues who sliced infrastructure spending in the federal stimulus in favor of tax cuts. Their mistaken priorities are evident in the recent disappointing jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealing that federal spending constituted the only significant gain in the construction sector. But that funding is already tailing off.

Some of the same forecasters who predicted significant increases in construction spending above the 11-year low set in February are revising their predictions, saying there will be more "stability" in both non-residential and large commercial construction. That translates into little growth, but intense competition. While the federal deficit consumes the national political debate, thousands of our brothers and sisters across North America are left behind, waiting to get back to their tools. Some are even leaving the trade after years of productive labor.

The times demand versatility from local unions and signatory contractors. We need to prepare for all kinds of economic weather just like we do with our natural climate. We keep our storm gear in the truck even when the weatherman says the skies will be clear.

I applaud our local unions that are redoubling their efforts to be competitive in the small commercial sector using our recovery agreements. If that's where the growth is, that is where we need to be.

One forecast says that public construction projects are fourth on the pecking order of states and municipalities with scarce budget dollars—coming after reinstating cutbacks in services, ending employee furloughs and increasing contributions to underfunded pension funds.

This situation calls for local unions to step up lobbying efforts—mobilizing our members—finding allies in our community who are concerned about dilapidated schools and other infrastructure. And it means challenging the Johnny One Notes who say that cutting or freezing taxes is the cure for all that ails us.


Also: Chilia: Playing Politics with Labor Law

Edwin D. Hill
International President