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Virtual CSO/ISO conferences convene leaders, info and ideas

Coming out of this pandemic, the work will return in force.

IP Newton B. Jones

Speakers wait for the virtual ISO conference to begin. ED-ISO Tyler Brown emcees

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With a pandemic still raging around the world, Boilermakers enjoyed a semblance of normality in May through the return of two of the union’s events: the Industrial Sector Operations and Construction Sector Operations conferences. Lodge leaders from each sector met in one-day virtual formats for a much-needed touchpoint after a year-plus of lost connections.

The conferences, which were broadcast through Kelly Companies and Quince Media, utilized the same technology and studios employed for the virtual National Football League draft. The same resources will be used to virtually host the 34th Consolidated Convention, giving CSO and ISO conference participants a chance to explore the format ahead of the convention.

Even delivered virtually, the message was clear during both conferences: Boilermakers remained strong and resilient in a year of unprecedented upheaval.

“We’ve had a difficult year,” acknowledged International President Newton B. Jones in the conference openings. “We’ve weathered the storm financially very well. The pension is holding steady. It’s better news than we thought we’d be having.”

During the early days of the pandemic in 2020, jobs were shuttered and workers went home, causing lost manhours and jobs left undone.

“Coming out of this pandemic, the work will return in force,” IP Jones said. “A lot of this work was deferred and it has to be done. We’re going to be helping you the best we can to make sure your jobs are properly manned.”

Concerning the Industrial Sector, he noted that membership has remained stable. “Almost all of our units went on working through the pandemic. The ISO has been strong and steady.”

He highlighted a few bright spots from the past year: Several independent lodges joined forces with the Boilermakers including Honeywell and SIFCO in Ohio, and service workers in New York State.

“We welcome you and will do our level best to represent you going forward and to help you grow as well,” IP Jones said.  

Full video from both virtual events is available at boilermakers.org/2021-cso-iso.

Construction Sector Operations

Updates on union gains due to the M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund took center stage during the CSO conference. Martin Williams, National Coordinator of State Legislative Affairs gave an overview of state legislative activity across the U.S.

Williams said that in California, SB 54 has “transformed the building trades and showed it’s possible to go on offense and win.” Measures like SB54, requiring a certain percentage of skilled workers who graduated from registered apprenticeship programs, have also passed in Washington State and New Jersey with similar legislation brewing in Colorado, Arizona, Delaware, Virginia and Minnesota. The Hazardous Workforce Training Act, a bill that just passed the Illinois House in April, is now in the state senate.

In addition, Williams said, there’s an interest in state-level investments and incentives for carbon capture increasing with 22 states considering carbon capture-related legislation.

D-CDS, D-NRS, AIP Tim Simmons gave an overview of the successful M.O.R.E. Work Program job targeting. Simmons said the initiative assists local lodges in regaining market share in areas where Boilermaker employers have been unable to maintain a strong presence, allowing them to enter new industries.

Every man-hour counts toward making certain our members and their families are taken care of and that our Boilermakers National Funds are secure.

D-CDS Tim Simmons

To date, the M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund has allowed Boilermaker employers to bid work in 158 facilities, of which 53% are not solely fossil fuel power generation. Job targeting efforts have gained the trade over 365,812.35 man-hours.

“Every man-hour counts toward making certain our members and their families are taken care of and that our Boilermakers National Funds are secure,” Simmons said.

Marketing Manager Johnny Baca presented an overview of the M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund state recruiting initiatives. The program brings in recruits to locals when there’s job demand and worker shortage. Baca also gave attendees a peek at a new recruiting brochure available to construction locals.

IVP-NE John Fultz updated attendees on the Boilermakers National Funds status. He shared the news that since 2013, the BNF team has saved members $864 million by performing audits to monitor the Fund’s business partners and by negotiating business partner contracts. Efficiencies and cost savings were catalyzed by the reorganization of BNF, particularly the Health & Welfare Fund, as directed by IP Jones in 2011, which has saved between $30 and $40 million per year. IVP Fultz also gave an overview of numerous ways BNF helped Boilermakers during the pandemic.

Also of special note, Marty Stanton, SAIP, D-JS-CSO, D-NCA, AD-CSO alerted all that the United Association’s President Mark McManus inexplicably cancelled INFO-67 and all other jurisdictional agreements between the UA and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers earlier in the year, essentially also ending the relationship between the two unions.

Other speakers included NACBE Executive Director Ron Traxler and D-NTDS/AD-CSO Mike West, who took attendees through M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund Recovery Agreements. International Secretary-Treasurer Bill Creeden shared financials and membership numbers. He emphasized the importance of organizing and recruiting.

Additionally, Director of Government Affairs Cecile Conroy spoke on the Biden Administration’s energy policy. IR Erica Stewart, also National Coordinator of Women in the Trades Initiative, offered updates on NABTU’s Tradeswomen Build Nations. Communications Director Amy Wiser gave an overview of M.O.R.E. Work Investment Fund marketing initiatives, and AD-CSO/Canada Cory Channon, also International Director of Climate Change Policy Solutions, discussed balancing jobs and the economies of science in relation to climate change mitigation.

Industrial Sector Operations

In addition to hearing from keynote speakers during an opening plenary session, ISO lodge leaders connected through “Zoom rooms,” dedicated to addressing topics including an NLRB update, arbitration, financial officer training, legislative updates, organizing and safety, among others. Members also broke out into industry-specific sessions.

During the conference plenary session, James Hart, President of the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department offered good news for union members in manufacturing and shipbuilding.

“America is back, and workers have survived thanks to a coalition of unions like the AFL-CIO,” Hart said.

That the mission to grow the metal trades comes from the affiliates, of which Boilermakers are the largest. One recent big win was at the Philly Shipyard, with new shipbuilding contracts leading to more work for Boilermakers.

“A coalition of good hard trade unionists got together and worked their butts off to get that yard reopened, and nobody took ‘no’ for answer,” Hart said. “Philly Shipyard is back.” With 65% of the work represented by the Boilermakers, Hart said the contract means 10 years of work on the books and 2,000 jobs.

“Workers belong in the union,” Hart said. “It’s your job each and every day to knock on someone’s door and ask if they’re in the union.”

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association in the United Kingdom also spoke during the plenary session and called for unity as workers continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. TSSA, an independent trade union in the United Kingdom and Ireland for the transport and travel trade industries, is a partner of the Boilermakers union.

Cortes cited an article in The Economist outlining the fact that unions are necessary for workers’ safety and fairness. He said unions “ensure working people won’t foot the bill for this pandemic. That’s why it’s important that we work together.

“It was the efforts of working people that has pulled us out of this pandemic. We need to build a world that’s better for working people going forward.”

Attendees also heard from Rick Vanderveen, D-ISO/Canada, who offered a comprehensive overview of all the ISO lodges in Canada.