General President Hite speaks at UAC unity conference; 'It's gut-check time for the labor movement'

In order to help union contractors get back the market share they've lost over the years, the United Association is working on an agreement with four national banks to contract their construction and service work to UA members in exchange for marketing the banks' services to its members and members' families, said UA President William P. Hite at the Union-Affiliated Contractors' Unity 2005 conference in Chicago.

If the pilot program is deemed a success, the UA will then take the program to the pharmacy industry. Hite is also trying to get the Building Trades Division of the AFL-CIO involved.

“It's gut-check time for the labor movement,” he said.

Hite talked about other national agreements, such as the National Mechanical and Service Agreement and the Plumbing Service Agreement.

“We think this is where our future lies,” he explained. “These agreements are not designed to interfere with local collective bargaining. They are about getting jobs.”

Several other UA leaders attended the meeting, including Gary Hamilton, international representative; Michael Arndt, director of training and George Bliss, recently retired director of training.

Do You Have Super Foremen?

Approximately 80 signatory contractors, PHCC chapter executives and labor leaders took part in discussions on contract terms and negotiation techniques, building “green,” and estimating.

Kirk Alter, director of the PHCC Educational Foundation's management courses, began the second day of the two-day event with a seminar that pointed out two problems contracting businesses have with getting construction work done effectively.

“The most important guy in your organization is the one up on the ladder turning the wrench,” Alter said. The first problem is that company owners don't have much contact with this important player.

“But an owner does have daily contact with the next important guy - the foreman,” he added. Which leads to the second problem: Most foreman are “anointed,” according to Alter, rather than taught how to be “super foremen.”

Providing hourly structure throughout the day on exactly what foremen should be expected to keep track of was the key in Alter's speech. A daily checklist complete with duties to be performed and exactly at what time to perform them will help.

“Most guys will wait until the end of the work week to do their 'daily' logs,” Alter said. “The typical reason is that there's no time during the day to fill it out. But a well-structured daily log, along with other documentation to back it all up, shouldn't be a project in which the foreman has to find time to do. With the proper training, it should take no time to do since it's completed all the time.”

As a result, many of Alter's “guiding principles” pair specific job responsibilities with specific meetings and paper work. For example, holding a project turnover meeting at the start of the job helps manage the guiding principle, “You can't manage change unless you have a plan to start with.”

Maintaining a labor tracking sheet ties in with the guiding principle. “He has to know what the expected productivity is, and have a place to record it.”

Alter is also associate professor in Purdue University's Department of Building Construction Management and president of Fast Management Inc.

The UAC, an enhanced service group of PHCC, was established to represent a unified voice for the union contractors within PHCC to make sure their special needs and concerns are represented. UAC works to maintain and nurture a working relationship with the UA, and provide its members with new, up-to-date national labor agreements and training programs that will make contractors more competitive in the marketplace. For more information, visit or call 800/533-7694.