Pension changes headline meeting
CONSTRUCTION LODGE LEADERS from across North America gathered in Marco Island, Florida, March 6-9 to address challenges, opportunities and changes affecting the Boilermaker membership.
International President Newton B. Jones began his remarks by announcing the retirement of IVP-NE David Haggerty, the IEC’s election of ED-CSO John Fultz to that office as well as staff changes in Construction Sector Operations.
Changes to the Boilermaker-Blacksmith National Pension Trust drew extensive discussion and debate as presenters explained why changes are necessary and what they will entail.
IP Jones stressed that the funds are entirely separate from the Boilermakers union. “The International — and certainly the International President — do not control any of the national funds,” he said. “Those are independent from the organization. They’re governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, ERISA. They do not allow influence from the International President or International Vice President or International Executive Council.”
Defined benefit pension plans across the country, including many in the construction trades, are facing funding problems due to the Great Recession of 2008 and a slow economic recovery, Jones said. He also pointed to restrictive environmental regulations and shifting market conditions that have cut deeply into Boilermaker man-hours.
“It’s really up to us to see to it that every man-hour opportunity we have is filled by a Boilermaker who’s going to have that contribution come into the pension plan,” he said.
John Fultz, who serves as Secretary on both the Boilermaker-Blacksmith National Pension Trust and the Boilermakers National Health & Welfare Fund, led a presentation on the pension plan changes, along with Director of Retirement Plans Christine King and Tom DelFiacco, an actuary from The Segal Group. Fund trustees at the conference also participated. Business managers expressed their concerns about the impact of pension changes as presenters detailed why changes are necessary and how decisions were reached.
King said the National Funds Office will mail all pension plan participants a detailed explanation of the changes. The office will also produce an informational video that will be posted to www.BNF-KC.com. DVDs will be mailed to each lodge that has members participating in the pension fund.
Also addressing the topic of defined benefit pensions was Michael Scott, Executive Director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans. Scott spoke on the key developments that may impact union pensions in the future, including a proposal to create a “composite pension plan.” Such a plan would include a defined contribution option such as a 401(K). The Boilermakers union is strongly opposed to such an option, as it would undercut the strength of defined benefit plans.
IP Jones outlines initiatives for growth
A KEY ELEMENT in restoring the pension to full health — while also strengthening the union — is growing the membership, a topic IP Jones emphasized during his remarks. He announced several initiatives to achieve that end.
Two recent staff appointments will address training and recruitment, respectively.
Jeffrey Hughes, BM-ST of Local 26 (Savannah, Georgia) is now Director – National Training Services. He will focus on upgrading training standards where needed and ensuring construction members have the right welding skills required by the industry.
Tim Simons, BM-ST of Local 108 (Birmingham, Alabama), is now Director – National Recruitment Services. He will focus on identifying and placing new recruits into construction lodges to help ensure they have sufficient workers to fully man jobs.
“I have great confidence that Jeffrey Hughes has the skill and the dedication in his heart to help us improve the training we’re doing across the country,” Jones said. “He will work closely with Tim Simmons. We have a lot of recruitment that goes on in some areas, but in some we don’t. We need to get out there and recruit. We have to grow. I’m confident we can do this.”
Jones also spoke about the need to consider market recovery initiatives in states like Texas, where union labor density is low. He said expanding tripartite outreach into such states is under consideration.
NACBE speaker recounts career as Air Force pilot
NACBE GUEST SPEAKER, Maj. Brian Shul, U.S. Air Force, retired, took the stage to relate the harrowing story of his survival and recovery after being shot down near the Cambodian border during the Vietnam War and his “second career” piloting the SR-71 Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft, the fastest and highest-flying plane in the world.
After Shul’s crash, doctors told him he’d never fly again because of the extensive burns he’d suffered. He proved them wrong. “The best day was the day I walked out of the hospital and an Air Force man was taking me back to fly again. It was like a do-over,” he said.
He used his “do-over” to become one of only 93 people to pilot the elite spy plane, the SR-71 Blackbird, which could travel at three times the speed of sound. During his seven years piloting the SR-71, he took up photography as a hobby and used his skills to shoot photos of the Blackbird and other aircraft. After 20 years of military service, Shul retired to pursue photography and other endeavors. He encouraged conference participants to follow their passion and live in the moment. “Don’t miss a minute of your life or any opportunity.”
Entrepreneur urges CCUS tax credit
IAN MACGREGOR, CHAIRMAN of North West Upgrading, described the NWR Sturgeon Refinery near Edmonton, Alberta — an $8 billion project that incorporates CCUS into the overall design. Once phase one is complete at the end of 2017, the refinery will have the capacity to process approximately 79,000 barrels per day of bitumen-blend feed stock into approximately 80,000 barrels per day of high-value, high-demand refined products, according to MacGregor.
He said there is a need for U.S. tax credits now being applied to alternative energy development to go to CCUS retrofits of coal-burning plants. MacGregor said if the U.S. could get the $23 per megawatt subsidy now going toward solar energy, there could be thousands of new jobs retrofitting old plants and an abundant supply of cheap electricity.
BOL’s Snowden seeks local lodge support
MIKE SNOWDEN, WHO joined the Bank of Labor as Executive Vice President of Operations in 2016, stressed that BOL is the Boilermakers’ bank, existing to serve the union community. He said the bank has invested a significant amount of time and energy raising its awareness across the labor community. He encouraged business managers to help the bank grow.
“Now that people know who we are, we’re going to target union hall to union hall and ask for their business,” said Snowden. “It’s the right thing to do. It’s the right place to put our money.”
Speakers update MOST, BNAP, other areas
CONFERENCE PRESENTERS COVERED a range of other topics on areas of importance to local lodge leaders in the Construction Sector.
Participants heard from D-DGA Cecile Conroy on political and legislative developments and D-NCA Tony Jacobs on national agreements. MOST Administrator Dale “Skipper” Branscum discussed the Boilermaker Code and other MOST programs, and BNAP National Coordinator Mark Wertz provided updates on the Boilermaker National Apprenticeship Program. AD-CSO Marty Stanton spoke about Boilermaker jurisdiction, and D-H&SS Mark Garrett reported on health and safety issues.
Also addressing the conference were Nick Trella of Segal Marco Advisors; Walt Ingram, Director of Union Relations with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance; and Ed Smith, President and CEO of ULLICO (Union Labor Life Insurance Company).