Assuring mechanical contractors that the United Association will grow and expand as never before, UA General President Martin Maddaloni promised to back his message with the power inherent in the union’s $50 billion pension fund.

“Nonunion competitors can still undercut us by avoiding paying prevailing wages and benefits, and circumventing workplace regulations,” Maddaloni said during the Mechanical Contractors Association of America’s 109th Convention, Feb. 21–26, in San Francisco. “We’re going to have to use every bit of leverage we have when it comes to protecting our work. Sometimes that means forcing corporations and construction buyers to do what we think is in their best interests.”

One way of accomplishing that is through a process dubbed, “proxy voting,” which essentially allows union pension and welfare trustees to exercise their rights as shareholders of their investments in publicly traded stocks.

“It’s high time we get serious about proxy voting,” Maddaloni explained. “I’m tired of seeing corporations use our pension money to build a nonunion project, and relocate overseas and take away jobs from this country. This happens even though our pension funds own stock in these corporations.”

To make this happen, Maddaloni said the union has already hired a financial public relations company to represent the union position, and plans on working with local unions throughout the country to spread the message.

“We’re not going to be radicals,” he said. “We want to be respected, that’s all.”

Maddaloni placed much of the blame for unions “financing” nonunion initiatives on unions, themselves. “I don’t think unions have educated themselves enough to understand where the power is,” he explained. “The power always has been in the dollar. Our UA pension funds represent a lot of bucks and a lot of power. And that’s power we have not used in the past.”

While proxy voting represents a long-range solution to beefing up the union’s strength, Maddaloni also discussed other plans, some already put in place, to work “smarter, more efficiently and — most importantly — as a team with the MCAA.”

Service Work. The National Mechanical Equipment Service and Maintenance Agreement is currently in force in upwards of 26 states. In addition, a few multi-state agreements have been put in place as well. “To achieve one multi-state agreement would have been unthinkable two or three years ago,” Maddaloni added. He predicted continued growth in this field. Training. The UA and MCAA have already established a joint training committee, and Maddaloni promised to bring all UA training programs up to date. He specifically mentioned improvements would soon be made to the union welder certification program, as well as an emphasis on computer skills. Labor Shortage. Emphasizing that the UA “doesn’t have its head in the sand,” regarding such an important issue, Maddaloni said the UA’s advanced training programs can be instituted anywhere in the country. To allow for easier movement, “more local unions have been merged in the past year than had been done in the past 10 years.” He also termed last year’s amnesty program a success in attracting one-time union members back into the fold. For the future, Maddaloni plans on doubling the UA’s apprentice program. “Through the years, our apprentice programs have declined,” he admitted. “If we don’t have a solid base of apprentices, we won’t survive.”

Throughout his speech, Maddaloni emphasized the teamwork approach between the UA and MCAA he’s fostered since taking over as UA leader. Several times, Maddaloni referred to the MCAA audience as “our employers.”

“We all share the same goals,” he explained. “After all when you are the successful bidder, we have the opportunity to win more jobs. And when we complete a job safely, on time and on budget, that should mean more profits for you.”

Maddaloni hopes this new-found camaraderie will help the union regain and expand its share of market. “There’s no substitute for a UA craftsman,” Maddaloni added. “We don’t want to let that just be a catchy slogan. It’s a fact. It’s the truth.”

Maddaloni speech capped off another successful annual show for the MCAA. This year’s show attracted approximately 1,600 people — a new record that appears to be broken with each succeeding show. The five-day event featured a variety of seminars ranging from utility deregulation to contract clauses.

In addition, the convention included speeches by former vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp, and Olympic swimmer Janet Evans.

During the Awards of Excellence Breakfast, MCAA recognized the following companies and individuals:

  • Distinguished Service Award — Daniel “Spence” O’Brien, vice president of labor relations for Cal-Air Inc., Whittier, CA, received the MCAA’s highest honor. The organization bestows the award on a member who has displayed extraordinary dedication and service to the progress, development and expansion of MCAA and the mechanical industry.

    O’Brien has served for 12 years as a member of the Mechanical Service Contractors of America’s Board of Managers, as well as its Education, Industry Relations and Labor Relations. In addition, he served on MCAA’s National Joint Steamfitter/Pipefitter Apprenticeship and Nomination Committees, By-Law Review and Reserve Fund Task Forces.

  • E. Robert Kent Award — The Ivor J. Lee Co., Masury, OH, was recognized for its adaptation of an automatic welding process — previously used only for carbon steel and stainless steel butt welding — to allow time-saving and cost-effective butt-welding of aluminum pipe. The new process cuts welding time to less than an hour from 16 hours of manual work. The award is given each year to recognize innovations that have improved productivity, enhanced motivation, increased profits or achieved cost-effectiveness in the mechanical construction industry.
  • Safety Awards. The awards are based on a company’s safety record in the areas of fatalities; OSHA recordable incidence rates; lost work days incidence rates; and experience modification rates:

    1 million work hours or more 1st Place — J.H. Kelly Inc. 2nd Place — Murphy Co. 3rd Place — BMW Constructors

    300,000–999,999 work hours 1st Place — Plumbing Today 2nd Place — Nooter Construction Co. 3rd Place — Cherne Contracting Corp.

    100,000–299,999 work hours 1st Place — Agmen Inc. Contractors 2nd Place — Performance Mechanical Inc. 3rd Place — Winger Contracting Co. Inc.

    50,0000–99,999 work hours 1st Place — A.B.I. Mechanical Contractors 2nd Place — Professional Mechanical Inc. 3rd Place — Downton & West Inc.

49,999 work hours or less 1st Place — Taylor Plumbing 2nd Place — Thermalair Inc. 3rd Place — Stout Mechanical

In other news, the Partnership Enterprise of the Mechanical Contracting Foundation, a group of foundation sponsors making contributions of $100,000 or more, grew by two. The Mechanical Contractor District of Columbia Association and W.A. Botting Inc., Seattle, increased their original pledges to the Counselor level.

As of December 1997, the Foundation overall had received pledges in excess of $10.7 million.