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The “Best of the Best” in Merit Shop Construction

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thd photoAs open-shop contractors, we don’t spend a lot of time touting the quality of our work.  In fact, our ABC chapter has one event each year dedicated to celebrating the cutting-edge work our members do.

 

That event, the Excellence in Construction Awards (EICA) dinner, was held on Wednesday, November 19th at the Granite Links Golf Club, Quincy.  Andy Hiller of channel 7 news served as master of ceremonies.

 

The awards are the culmination of a rigorous process that begins when ABC member companies submit some of the best work they have done in the past year.  Those projects are reviewed by an independent panel of judges, who select Eagle, Merit, Spirit, Safety and Green awards in a variety of construction categories.

 

We hope you joined us to celebrate the best the Massachusetts construction industry has to offer.  And if you didn’t enter this year, we’ll hope you’ll start thinking about entering for 2015.

 

Unlike construction unions, we don’t have the money, the political clout, the time – or frankly the inclination – to promote our accomplishments on a full-time basis.  But like the unions, our contractors do very good work – and they also provide superior value.

 

Perhaps we can learn from construction unions when it comes to doing a better job of promoting our work.  Coming to celebrate some of the very best construction projects in Massachusetts and support the open shop contractors who built them would be a good place to start.

Exercise Your Right

ABCMA Blog

thd photoSometimes it seems as though we’re in one endless election cycle, but the truth is that it’s been awhile since there’s been an election more important to ABC members than the one coming up on November 4th.

For eight years, ABC and the open shop have been closed out of the governor’s office.  During the administration of Deval Patrick that has translated into union-only project labor agreements, licensing boards packed exclusively with union members and other attempts to force us to operate under the union model.  Only the outstanding work of our government affairs team has kept things from being even worse.

But we are confident that November 4th will be the beginning of the end of that era.  We have developed strong relationships with both of the major party candidates for governor Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker.

As many of you know, the attorney general’s office is just as important to ABC members as the governor’s office.  Prevailing wage enforcement, bid protests and many other matters that are important to the construction industry are under the control of the AG.  We are also working to develop a relationship with Maura Healey, who is the favorite to replace Martha Coakley as attorney general.  The fact is Healey is not beholden to the unions or anyone else for her significant primary win.  We’ve talked with her on the importance of a level playing field and a fair chance for open shops to compete, and we believe she approaches our issues with an open mind.

ABC members will be holding fundraisers for some of the candidates for important state offices.  We hope you will keep in mind that what happens on November 4th will have a strong impact on your business and do your part to support our cause.

And no matter which candidates you prefer, let your voice be heard on November 4th, and encourage your employees to do the same.  As we have long said at ABC, “Get into politics or get out of business.”

Market Basket Lesson for All: Chairman’s Message

ABCMA Blog

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The story has been front-page news all summer.  One faction executes a hostile takeover of a non-union company and the employees rise up, risking their livelihoods to return the loyalty their former CEO has always shown them.

The media and the public find the Market Basket story irresistible, but we know it isn’t unique.  ABC member companies and their employees have long shared that kind of loyalty.  But it sure is nice for the public to learn that those kinds of employment relationships still exist in an increasingly cynical world.

The Market Basket example couldn’t come at a better time for ABC.  Increasing public awareness of the bonds between non-union companies and their employees will only accelerate the momentum we’re already gaining among elected officials.  The two-year legislative session that recently ended was among the most successful we’ve ever had.  In addition to defeating or amending bills that would have been harmful to the construction industry, we also took a more pro-active role.

Process piping was just one example of the issues on which ABC exercised the growing respect it has earned by organizing and leading a coalition of industry and outside groups to advocate for our position.  We used a similar strategy to amend portions of an Unemployment Insurance reform bill that would have been devastating to construction employers.  Like Market Basket’s loyal, hard-working employees, our members are making for better outcomes on Beacon Hill by working together.

Recognition that ABC member companies are highly professional and treat their employees as such has been growing in state government.  As the Market Basket story plays out in headlines and in TV screens across New England and beyond, the public is also learning about the partnership between our member companies and their workers.

The Market Basket drama ultimately had a happy ending.  It stands as a reminder that great things can happen when we come together – and sometimes sacrifice – for the common good.

Chairman’s Message: Let MAP Offset YOUR Labor Demands this Season

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thd photoIt feels like spring has finally arrived in New England, which means a seasonal “bump” in construction projects.  This year, the bump promises to be bigger than usual.  After being among the sectors hardest hit by the Great Recession, studies are now showing that construction is among the nation’s fastest-growing industries.

With new work comes the need for more workers.  ABC’s Merit Apprenticeship Program (MAP) provides a way for you to solve your labor problems at the same time as you help the open shop compete on a level playing field.

MAP provides companies with an opportunity to augment their hiring process and find qualified candidates from the program’s nine labor pools located across the Commonwealth and in southern New Hampshire. MAP can free human resource personnel or owners from much of the bureaucratic maze of paperwork, thus allowing them to focus on other important responsibilities.

MAP also provides member companies with the opportunity to bid on virtually any public sector prevailing wage job – be it federal, state, local or out-of-state – because the program is registered with the Department of Workforce Development’s Division of Apprentice Standards.

And MAP, like its member companies, is gearing up for the increase in labor demand.  Each spring we bring in new candidates such as vocational school graduates and veterans to replenish our regional labor pools.  We also send “to the minors,” those candidates who have not responded to job requests or are not reachable due to changes in phone or email addresses.

If you are part of a construction firm’s management team, I urge you to talk to member companies and see how you as an individual contractor can be part of the largest registered merit group program in Massachusetts without losing control of your company or your labor force.

Don’t worry if you are trying to build up a backlog of work before you request new employee candidates; MAP candidates are available all year round.  MAP can also help to keep you in compliance if you’re working on jobs in which it’s importantto hire minorities, women or residents of a specific city.

If you want more information on MAP, how to join or how to access our labor pools, please go to our website: www.meritapprentice.org, call ABC MA at 781-273-0123 or email our director of workforce development standards and compliance John Rich john@abcma.org.

Chairman’s Message: Membership a Tradition Unlike Any Other

ABCMA Blog

thd photoThe theme of last year’s ABC MA membership drive was “Membership… A Tradition Unlike any Other.”  As we approach this year’s drive on April 30th and May 1st, that tradition has grown even stronger.

Earlier this month, the Massachusetts chapter earned a best practice award from ABC national for last year’s membership drive, which netted 26 new members in two days. The drive was an important part of the yearlong efforts by our membership team of Ken Ledwak and Dave Murphy that pushed chapter membership above 400 for the first time since 2007.  In 2013, Massachusetts was one of the nation’s fastest-growing ABC chapters.

It was a truly an outstanding recruitment effort with great results, but we cannot rest on our laurels; we need to build on last year’s success.  And that means getting our best recruiters, our current members, to participate.

It is easier then you can imagine.   You don’t need to give up a whole day to take part in the drive; just one two-hour shift on either day.  We will break up into teams and each will have a captain.  Rather than cold calling people you may not know, we ask you to reach out to prospects you know and believe could benefit from ABC membership.

Like last year, we will offer prizes to the individuals and teams who recruit the most new members.  We will also hold a kick-off party the night before the drive on April 29th.

In my December message, I wrote about why membership is so critical for our organization.  From being able to walk into meetings with legislators accompanied by someone who is an employer in the Senator’s or Representative’s district to having the capacity to provide members with legal, lobbying, public relations and programming resources, it all relies on membership.  It is the members that provide ABC with the both the financial resources and the number of potential voters that allows ABC to be effective inside the state house.

Our membership team, has been recognized for excellence in recruitment by ABC national and membership is on the rise.  Please help us build on success by taking part in this year’s drive.

For more information, please contact ABC Membership Director Ken Ledwak at (781) 273-0123 or ken@abcma.org

 

 

The Next Governor Must Understand the Facts About PLA’s

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Tom Descoteaux
2014 ABC MA Chairman

At its core, our organization is about promoting fair and open competition in the construction industry.  There is no policy that runs more contrary to that goal than project labor agreements (PLAs), which exclude the more than 80 percent of Massachusetts construction workers who don’t belong to a union from working on a project.

In his State of the Commonwealth address last month, Governor Patrick not only touted his use of union-only project labor agreements on state-funded construction projects, he said he could demonstrate the savings from PLAs.

If he can, he’ll be the first.  Studies by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University and the Worcester Regional Research Bureau have demonstrated that PLAs dramatically increase project costs.  As a result, 18 states, including Maine and even union-friendly Michigan – have banned them on state-funded projects.

Higher costs aren’t the only problem with PLAs.  They also harm efforts to increase minority participation in public construction projects.  The percentage of minority construction workers in Massachusetts who don’t belong to a union is even higher – about 90 percent.

In 2010 Congressional testimony, Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund President Anthony W. Robinson specifically cited PLAs as “disadvantageous to minority-owned construction companies and their desire to employ minority workers.”  Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said they create “an environment of economic apartheid.”

Unions claim that PLAs eliminate the risk of labor unrest.  But another Beacon Hill study looked at federal construction projects built between 2001 and 2008, when a federal PLA ban was in place.  They didn’t find a single instance in which labor unrest was a problem.

No matter what Governor Patrick says, there’s not a single viable argument for locking more than 80 percent of Massachusetts construction workers out of state-funded projects, reducing competition and increasing the burden on taxpayers.  It’s unlikely that we will change the Governor’s mind at this point, but let’s work to make sure his successor understands that simple fact.

We Know You’re Busy. So We’re Making it MUCH Easier to Get the Info & Resources You Need

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thd photoThe New Year marks the rollout of ABC MA’s initiative to improve communication with our members with a blog, updated weekly news, a redesigned monthly newsletter, a new format for event registrations, and an overhaul on our social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

Our blog, The Workbench, will provide tips and resources; information on upcoming events; and the latest government, industry, and business news.  It will streamline all public content in a branded, easily accessed and shared medium, and provide an efficient way for ABC MA to present information that can be linked to all other platforms.

The blog will not include sensitive information, since it is available to all who are interested.  But it will refer to members-only information to prompt prospects to join. Members-only information will be communicated via redesigned weekly news emails that have been condensed to include the most important information on three topics:  Member content and resources, upcoming events, and government issues.

The weekly news will be sent out every Tuesday. ABC MA’s monthly newsletter also has a new look.  It will continue to include this message, as well as streamlined information on member news, recaps of events with photos and video, and government and legislative updates. Newsletter space is available for sponsors or advertisers interested in reaching the ABC community.

ABC MA has listened to members’ request for easier event registration and renewals.  Registration can now be completed online with immediate online confirmations where PayPal payments are accepted. Once registered, members will receive follow-up event emails such as reminders, and a Google Map with directions to event locations.

Our online social media presence has been strengthened thanks to major updates of our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages. Our Facebook page has been redesigned as a “business” page and will include a navigation tab that leads to our website, blog, events and registration.

The Facebook page will be integrated with our LinkedIn page, which will also include links to our events, blog posts, videos and photos.  It too will offer advertising opportunities. Like LinkedIn, Twitter will include important content, images and videos, as well as promote upcoming events.

ABC MA has created a YouTube channel which will feature videos of chapter events. In the future, our YouTube channel will include informative interviews on important industry topics.

Speaking of events, our next one is a breakfast on January 22, 2014 at 7:30 a.m. at the Café Escadrille in Burlington. It will feature Grapevine Marketing, the firm ABC used to overhaul member communications.  They will detail the changes we made and help you get your marketing plan ready for 2014.  We encourage all of you to attend this informative event to learn how to use email marketing and social media to grow your business. Register Here.

To coordinate these new tools, ABC MA will keep our content ideas and materials organized in a weekly editorial calendar.  Staff will determine the most important information and we will also address any issues members bring to our attention.

Our goal is to provide members with all the content you need and want in the most convenient way. We will continue to strive for new ways to give you information that will give your company a competitive edge.

Chairman’s Message 2013 Ends With Success! Here’s what 2014 Will Bring

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For years you’ve probably seen the phrase “more members, more clout” at ABC’s office, in our publications and at events.  The logic of this simple message is unassailable, and I’m glad to say that as 2013 draws to an end, our clout is on the rise.

As of early December, ABC MA’s membership hit 400 for the first time in six years.  All of us should thank our membership team of Ken Ledwak and Dave Murphy for the great job they’re doing on our behalf.

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You can see the impact of our growing membership on Beacon Hill, where we have been able to turn to allies in both parties to stop legislation that would be harmful to the merit shop and provide an extra push to bills that promote fair and open competition in the Massachusetts construction industry.  And we have been able to achieve this success despite an administration that is more hostile to the open shop than any in recent memory.

When ABC staff and lobbyist John Bartley meet with legislators, there is nothing quite like bringing along a few members who are employers in the legislator’s district to get his or her attention.

While political clout is critical, it’s not the only reason why a growing roster of members is so important.  Membership revenue produces the financial stability that allows us to provide the legal, lobbying, public relations and programming resources on which you rely.

For example, since my last message, Alexandra Auer has joined the staff as program & event manager.  Alexandra is a Certified Meeting Professional who comes to ABC with over a decade of meeting planning experience with a strong focus on professional trade associations.

One of Alexandra’s top priorities is to call upon the membership to help enhance ABC programming.  If you’d like to give back to ABC MA by presenting a topic at a small gathering or moderating a roundtable discussion, please let her know!

By the end of next year, we will know who our next governor will be.  Regardless of who wins, ABC is likely to have greater access than we do in the Patrick administration.  That means that if we continue to increase membership, we are likely to be in a good position to have a voice in the corner office to go along with our growing legislative influence -   and a healthy balance sheet to enhance our businesses and support our employees…and accompany our growing clout.

Chairman’s Message, The “Best of the Best”

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ABC MA Chairman Tom Descoteaux
Senior VP
R.H. White Companies, Inc.

 

As open-shop contractors, we don’t spend a lot of time touting the quality of our work.  But our ABC chapter just held the Excellence in Construction Awards (EICA), our one annual event dedicated to celebrating the cutting-edge work our members do.

Members earned a record 22 awards at the EICA dinner, held on Wednesday, November 20th at the Westin Hotel in Waltham and once again hosted by Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame member Gary LaPierre.

The EICA awards dinner is the culmination of a rigorous process that begins when ABC member companies submit some of the best work they have done in the past year.  Those projects are reviewed by an independent panel of judges, who select Eagle, Merit and Green awards in a variety of construction categories.

The Spirit Award was also given to the contractor that completed its project with the highest level of participation from their fellow ABC members.  For the first time, five excellence in safety awards were also given.

Please join me in thanking this year’s judges:

  • Mike Davis FAIA, Bergmeyer
  • Paul Guertin, Coler & Colantonio, Inc
  • George J. Khouri, George J. Khouri & Associates
  • Laura Wernick AIA, HMFH Architects

Unlike construction unions, we don’t have the money, the time – or frankly the inclination – to promote our accomplishments on a full-time basis.  But like the unions, our contractors do very good work – and they also provide superior value.

Perhaps we can learn from construction unions when it comes to promoting our work.  If you didn’t submit an entry to EICA this year, entering in 2014 would be a good place to start.