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Western States Tripartite stresses organizing and helpers

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IVP-WS J. Tom Baca discusses how the Helper Program keeps costs down for owners and contractors.

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Professor Peter Philips explains data on the Helper Program.

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Chevron Construction Manager Per Lorentzen provides an update on California refineries.

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Director of Organizing Services Jody Mauller discusses organizing initiatives.

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Robbie Hunter, California Building Trades President, affirms the building trades will meet the needs of the state’s refineries.

10 owners, 44 contractors attend

THE WESTERN STATES Tripartite conducted its 13th annual meeting July 18-20 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, with owners, contractors and Boilermakers attending from across the region. The conference addressed many topics significant to the industry, with special emphasis on both the Helper Program and organizing to meet the increasing demand for Boilermakers.

As part of a Western States initiative to make Boilermakers more competitive, the Helper Program uses less skilled workers for project tasks that do not require advanced capabilities in welding, rigging and other areas. The use of helpers lowers the overall cost of union craft work. The program also helps screen potential apprenticeship candidates before they are indentured into a four-year training program.

Dr. Peter Philips, professor and chair of Economics at the University of Utah, said data starting from 2013 show a 50 percent conversion rate from helper to apprentice.

“The Helper Program is going to make the apprenticeship program more efficient, because you’re going to have a better filter into your apprenticeship program,” he said. “Helpers will have been filtered by fire, will stick to the program, and reduce the cost of [apprenticeship]. Then eventually, the journeymen that come out will be more productive.”

According to Philips, data also suggests that once contractors employ helpers they increase the use of helpers over time.

Western States International Vice President J. Tom Baca stated that adding more helpers, who are paid at 35 percent of the rate of journeyman, will make Boilermakers “the most competitive craft there is” by driving the costs down for contractors and owners. Baca noted that in addition to increasing the use of helpers to stay competitive, Western States is also ramping up recruiting to meet the increasing demand for Boilermakers.

Director of Organizing Services Jody Mauller and ISO Executive Director and Chief of Staff Tyler Brown gave an overview of organizing efforts in the Western States, and across the Brotherhood.

Brown pointed out that 60 years ago union members worked most construction jobs in the United States. “In 1955, the building trades unions did about 80 percent of all construction work. Today we do less than 15 percent.” He said there’s a huge market, and organizing will help us “regain our market share.”

Mauller outlined new organizing efforts in the Western States. The union has hired new full-time organizers and has expanded its online presence at formaunion.com. Western States also partnered with a PR/marketing firm that has extensive experience helping unions with organizing efforts. Mauller said the union has plans for additional organizing tools, which include electronic authorization cards and resources to organize workers in Russian and Latino communities.

“We need to make organizing a part of the Boilermaker culture,” said Mauller. “I think everything we do should be done with organizing new workers in mind.”

Additional guest speakers at the event were Per Lorentzen, Construction Manager for Chevron Richmond Refinery, who spoke about cooperation between owners, contractors and labor, and Robbie Hunter, President of the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California, who gave an update on California refineries.

Also speaking were Dale “Skipper” Branscum, MOST Programs Administrator; Cecile Conroy, Director, Government Affairs; Mark Garrett, Director, Health and Safety; Charles A. Jones, Director, Boilermaker History Preservation Department; Joe Keller, Senior VP, Bank of Labor, and Bob McCall, President, Bank of Labor.

Tags  Headline News
Reporter  V56N3
Published on the Web: September 5, 2017

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