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Tripartite conference tackles tough challenges

“We have successfully changed the more adversarial industry relationship of nearly 30 years ago to a working partnership.”

— IP Newton B. Jones

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Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) addresses the conference via a pre-recorded video regarding the impact of EPA regulations.

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IP Newton Jones introduces a Boilermaker-produced film about acceptable behavior on construction jobs.

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Economist Peter Phillips explains the Great Recession’s impact on the construction industry.

EPA carbon rules continue to threaten energy industry

PARTNERS IN THE MOST Tripartite Alliance met in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Oct. 7-9 to continue the mission of problem solving and relationship building.

It was the 24th anniversary of the national conference, which brings together the Boilermakers union, signatory contractors, and owners.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule targeting carbon emission limits for new coal-fired power units generated anger and frustration among participants, as did the agency’s recent move to begin developing a proposed rule for existing coal-fired plants.

The proposed rule for new coal-fired units would set CO2 emission limits so low that they could only be achieved using carbon capture and storage (CCS), a technology that has not been proven on a commercial scale. The agency has yet to offer specific limits for existing coal-fired units, but further restrictions could lead to even more plant closures and more lost jobs.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-PA) spoke to the group via a pre-recorded video, with an impassioned argument against the EPA’s harsh limits.

“The president’s climate change agenda clearly outlines a plan that will put the coal industry out of business forever,” he said. “What the administration doesn’t seem to understand is that coal is America’s most abundant, most reliable, and most affordable source of energy, and it will continue to be for several decades to come.”

Manchin called for a balance among the nation’s energy future, the economy, and the environment.

“The president’s climate change agenda clearly outlines a plan that will put the coal industry out of business forever.”

— Sen. Joe Manchin

“Government should work as our partner, not as an adversary to create a secure and affordable energy future,” he said.

Union previews film about acceptable behavior

INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT Newton B. Jones introduced a new film aimed at educating Boilermakers, especially new members, about acceptable behavior on the job. Titled “The Red Ass Legacy,” the film examines adversarial and confrontational relationships — especially during the turbulent 1980s and 1990s. “Red ass” was the slang term used during that time to describe uncooperative behavior and job disruptions.

The film includes interviews with veteran members who were on the tools during that era. The film includes frank discussions of how unacceptable behavior can damage contractors, owners, and the union.

President Jones said the union is also working on a Boilermaker code of conduct to reinforce standards of excellence and professionalism. He stressed that the tripartite alliance has been very successful in promoting trust and cooperation among alliance partners.

“We have — over these past 28 years — made tremendous progress. We have successfully changed the more adversarial industry relationship of nearly 30 years ago to a working partnership where all parties are recognized as part of the solution . . . not just part of the problem.”

Economist examines recession’s impact on construction industry

ECONOMIST PETER PHILLIPS addressed the conference on the impact of the Great Recession on the U.S. jobs market, with emphasis on the construction industry. A professor at the University of Utah and chair of the college’s Economics Department, Phillips is one of the top experts in labor economics and has spoken several times at the Western States Tripartite Conference.

“We have globalized, but not in a winning fashion. We have not been winning players.”

— Economist Peter Phillips

He explained the history of U.S. recessions since 1945 using the analogy of Olympic swimmers lined up along the edge of a pool. He compared the dive of each swimmer to a particular recession. Some divers go in deep but come back up quickly, he noted, while others dive shallower but take a longer time to resurface. In the current recession, the dive is both very deep and the resurfacing very slow.

Phillips noted that during the Great Depression of the 1930s, half of all construction jobs were lost. In the Great Recession, 30 percent of all construction jobs have been lost, five times higher than jobs in the economy as a whole, which suffered a 6 percent loss.

“The construction economy has been hit so hard that it looks more like the Great Depression of the 1930s than any other recession,” he said, adding that the industry is “ground zero” for lost jobs.

Phillips predicted the economy will return to 2007 job numbers in 2015. However, the general construction industry will recover more slowly, reaching 2007 numbers between 2018 and 2020. Boilermaker construction jobs may lag beyond that time-frame, he said.

Phillips suggested that the interconnectedness of the global economy partly explains the trend in more protracted U.S. recessions. While America has opened its economy to other nations, it has not succeeded in getting comparable access to other economies.

“We have globalized, but not in a winning fashion. We have not been winning players.”

Reporter  V53N1
Published on the Web: February 13, 2014

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