News in brief

Unemployment Figures Down

The unemployment rate at the end of February 1998 was 4.6 percent, down 0.1 percent from the previous month, according to the Department of Labor. The number of nonfarm payroll jobs rose by 310,000 during the month, with continuing strength in services and construction.

Construction employment rose by 41,000 in February; since October, construction job growth has totaled 230,000. The Department of Labor attributes the recent growth to a strong housing market, unusually mild temperatures over most of the country, and cleanup and reconstruction activity following inclement weather in the West and Northeast.

Calif. Supreme Court To Hear ABC Appeal

Four justices of the California Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals from the Associated Builders and Contractors, a non-union trade association devoted to the merit shop philosophy of open competition in construction, in two cases involving the decision of public agencies to limit construction to only union contractors.

The appeals are against the Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District and the San Francisco Airport Commission, who limited bidding to only contractors willing to sign a union contract with the local AFL-CIO Building Trades Council. The question on appeal is whether such restrictions violate California's open bidding laws.

American Standard Obtains Injunction

American Standard Inc. of Piscataway, NJ, has obtained a preliminary injunction against Lyons Industries Inc. of Dowagiac, MI. The injunction prevents Lyons manufacturing, selling or distributing kitchen sinks that infringe on the design patents of American Standard, and from using merchandising materials that are likely to cause confusion with American Standard or its products.

In its lawsuit against Lyons, American Standard charged that the PanHandler single and double bowl sinks of Lyons copied the patented American Standard SilhouetteÆ design.

CPSC, Manufacturers Announce Recall Program; Lawsuit Continues

In a landmark action, virtually the entire furnace and boiler industry together with the manufacturers of high-temperature plastic vent (HTPV) pipes have joined with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to announce a recall program. The program will replace, free of charge, an estimated 250,000 HTPV pipe systems attached to gas, propane furnaces or boilers in consumers' homes. The HTPV pipes could crack or separate at the joints and leak carbon monoxide, presenting a deadly threat to consumers.

However, the settlement did not address charges in a national class action lawsuit still facing manufacturers with potential damages estimated at $300 million. The lawsuit seeks to reclaim punitive damages and out-of-pocket expenses consumers might have incurred due to failure of the HTPV pipes.

The settlement reached by the CPSC and manufacturers only calls for partial reimbursement of the costs to replace failed vent pipes and does not address restitution for other costs or punitive damages.

Indiana Subcontractors Association Advocates Lien Law Reforms

The Indiana Subcontractors Association is lobbying in favor of a bill that could reform the state's current lien laws, HB 1303, an Act to Amend the Indiana Code Concerning Property.

The bill would limit construction contracts on residential projects that include no-lien clauses, and would prohibit the waiver of lien and bond claims before a subcontractor receives payment. It also includes a venue provision that requires out-of-state general contractors to abide by the laws of Indiana, and would prohibit pay-if-paid clauses in construction contracts.

GroupMac Announces $71 Million In Acquisitions

GroupMac (NYSE: MAK) announced it signed definitive agreements or closed transactions to acquire an additional eight companies with aggregate revenues in excess of $71 million.

These acquisitions take GroupMac's annualized revenues to approximately $510 million. The consolidator now operates in 45 cities in 22 states.

Amcast To Sell West Coast Facility

Amcast Industrial Corp. (NYSE: AIZ) announced that an agreement has been signed to sell its west coast investment casting operation, Amcast Precision, Rancho Cucamonga, CA, to Citation Corp. for approximately $25 million.

American Water Heater Co. Earns Safety Award

American Water Heater Co.'s Johnson City, TN, plant has earned Southcorp's inaugural Managing Director's Safety Award for recording more than four million work hours without a lost-time injury.

QSC To Meet In Portland

The Quality Service Contractors will deliver a multifaceted two-day program at Power Meeting IX, June 4-6 in Portland, OR. The conference is highlighted by Roger Blackwell, the American Marketing Association's "Marketer of the Year."

Wisconsin River Valley Elects Officers

The Wisconsin River Valley Mechanical Contractors Association elected Fran Lamer president, Clarence Flath as vice president and Clifford Anderson as secretary/treasurer. David Seitz continues to serve as executive vice president.

RectorSeal Completes Manufacturing Plant

The RectorSeal Corporation announced its relocation to the new offices and manufacturing facility at 2601 Spenwick Drive in Houston, TX. The 200,000 sq. ft. facility represents more than a two-fold increase in operating area.