L-169, L-199 rally for jobs

Four Local 169 members rally for construction jobs in Michigan last fall. L. to r., Josh Fuentes, Brandon Vermeesch, Neal Marsh, and Greg Webb.

Unions speak out in era of economic uncertainty

UNION MEMBERS ACROSS the country are making their voices heard when it comes to getting the work they need to support their families. Recently, Local 169 (Detroit) and Local 199 (Jacksonville, Fla.) took to the streets at rallies in their respective states.

In October, several thousand building and construction trade workers marched to the steps of the state capitol in Lansing, where they protested against Governor Jennifer Granholm’s resistance to constructing new clean-coal power plants. Granholm has stated she favors renewable energy sources such as wind and solar and has reportedly delayed the permit process for two coal plants — a $2 billion Consumers Energy project and a $1.2 billion Wolverine Power Cooperative facility. Meanwhile, four other coal plant projects worth more than $3 billion remain on the drawing boards, stalled by an uncertain political and regulatory environment. Countless construction and long-term jobs hang in the balance.

Michigan unions argue that in a state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation (nearly 15 percent as of December 2009), it makes no sense to delay good jobs constructing and operating new, clean-coal plants.

Among those attending the rally for Local 169 were Josh Fuentes, Brandon Vermeesch, Neal Marsh, and Greg Webb.

Local 199 members also took to the streets last year, targeting the city of Jacksonville, Fla. BM-ST Carl Ferguson said voters had passed a one-half-cent sales tax touted as the “Better Jacksonville Plan,” claiming the revenue created would go to Jacksonville residents.

“Now that some of these projects are materializing, contractors from out of the area are being selected,” Ferguson noted. In response, the North Florida Building Trades began a political action group called “Jobs for Jacksonville.” L-199 Boilermakers were among those who joined in a rally by the group to oppose the city’s contracting practices. According to Ferguson, the city council has reconsidered its support for the mayor in awarding the work.

Local 199 members who participated in the rally were Howell Hodges, David Walsh, Mike Huls, Chris Brown, and Russ Myers.