MCAA Regional Report, Region D
Presented at the 2018 MCAA Convention
By Lynn Vasquez
Illinois - Tom Vacala
Indiana - Dan Kwiatkowski
Wisconsin - Anna Weickhardt
Workforce DevelopmentIndustry and Union has a call for Apprentices. Union will enforce a ratio of 1-5 and unlike in the past 5 yrs Contractors are snatching them up. Our DCTC (District Council Training Center), is the Bricklayer Apprenticeship School for the area. IUBAC still uses the facility for nationwide training sessions on occasion. There website is www.bac2school.org. A labor management group called CISCO (www.cisco.org) has picked up the slack visiting trade schools and making presentations whenever needed. There were 2 Pre-Apprentice classes last year Feb. and May and all of those Apprentices are game fully employed. 2018 classes start in February of 2018 and there will be another in May. The timing will have them out by spring and summer for construction season.
The IUBAC has searched out and promoted other areas of construction that Bricklayers and their Union is claiming. It is a new category you may look at the International Masonry Institute is titled it “NEW WORK OPPORTUNITIES” (www.imiweb.org).
Chicago remains thrilled with the DCTC and the quality of the instruction awarded our Union Bricklayers. There will be a class starting in January and the school is able to train 30+.
Our recent assumption that “of the bricklayers who left for other work many will jump back in for the $45+ an hour plus benefits.” That did not occur originally but we are having some success. We were pretty confident they can be lured back into the industry with the Wages and Benefits and this would be the single biggest blow to Non-Union. Restoration Contractors (which many of our contractors have morphed into doing this work now) have had consistent hours but the Non-Union element has taken leaps and bounds in this arena as well.
MCA of Greater Chicago – members want any dollars spent on Workforce Development programs for and by the MCAA to be documented and shared with all the MCAA members to make sure that all members of the MCAA are receiving the benefit of their efforts and dollars $$. We have all the confidence in the national and trust we can all make masonry attractive for young people across the country. We also understand we can do much more together than we can apart.
Economic ClimateBricklayer hours reported monthly (report shows annual totals):
a list of Union Bricklayer hours worked and reported for each month in the past 8+ years. Hours worked have declined considerably from the 2003’s “banner” year (6 million Hours). Restoration of commercial buildings continues to be a market some have found some work. The Bricklayers Union merged with Tuckpointers in regards to training and working together in the future. This should be a very positive merger and contractors are encouraging the sharing of information. New Masonry has picked up and hours have increased steadily over the past 3 years, but we (a Union Mason Contractor Association) are still feeling the pinch of our 3 biggest “enemies – Competing Products, Non-Union and “Quasi” Union Mason Contractors.
Membership Growth & Chapter ActivitiesAlthough we have added a couple of membership nothing new, I will leave the info from last year – below because there has been little change to this statement from the last couple of years: “ Membership is stagnant in the greater Chicago chapter. –We continue to lose more members due to failures. We have had some surprising former members completely leaving the industry and most likely for good. Unfunded Liability issues restrict these contractors from alternative construction contracting. “Supporting Members” have been very active and generous, allowing the chapter’s social activities to continue but they are not growing for now. We have added 2 new members for 2017….sad but that’s it!
OSHA & SafetyLocally the MCA of Greater Chicago continues to support the Chicagoland Construction Safety Council (CCSC). Our donations and (1 cent) contributions from the CBA, the Laborers, Bricklayers and Operating Engineers along with others should give the CCSC the needed funds to operate. CCSC serves our Bricklayers and Laborers well. Search the web @ www.buildsafe.org they can help you too!
SilicaWe rely heavily on the MCAA to guide us through these turbulent times. We have not been disappointed. Disappointed with the outcome but not the support, fight and efforts after the passing of this standard. The MCAA has lead the way with their Train the Trainer Series and all the support they have given contractors…..Thank you MCAA. OSHA is continuing to place employers in the Severe Violators Enforcement Program (SVEP) when they are found to disregard safety and health, and issued repeat or willful violations. Other items we can expect are increased enforcement in programs such as violence in the workplace, Whistleblower Protection Program, recordkeeping and fall protection – now SILICA.
Lobby EffortsAnd certainly nothing has changed here – except maybe for the better - More Contractors, more involvement and MORE INFLUENCE!!!! The MAC PAC Rocks!!
MCA of Greater Chicago is very pleased with the efforts put forth by MCAA It remains a bright spot, one of many that keep Chicago is enthused with the MCAA. MCA of Greater Chicago will make an effort to increase our MAC-PAC involvement – WE BELIEVE in the MCAA. Jeff and MCAA’s efforts continue to show our chapter why we should support the MCAA. We are too small to fight this alone a strong national organization and grass roots are the only way we can effect change. Local and national policy has been affective. The willingness of our MCAA to help in all aspects has made it easy to stay involved. Concrete Masonry Units “Check off Program” and Pension Reform are our largest issues. Go MCAA Legislative Committee!
CMU Check-Off Program got out of the house……!!!!! But not out of the Senate! SAD. We will be ramping up efforts to once again work on this.
IndianaMasonry work and work in general in the State of Indiana is strong but for union hours are only up 1.8% for the year.
Work looks like it will remain strong for next year but the non-union competition is gaining strength throughout the state. Being a union contractor is a struggle to remain competitive at times.
Also we are preparing and training for the OSHA silica to take full effect which will likely hurt masonry designed in buildings because of additional cost being passed on to the owners. Again VE masonry out for cost savings, we all have seen it.
We have work lined up to carry us through the winter which has not occurred in many years--an indication the economy is strong.
We continue to promote structural masonry throughout the state through the Structural Masonry Coalition. And we continue to train young men and women for our future of the industry. We have experienced a severe skilled worker shortage.
WisconsinThe construction of apartment buildings and residential housing continues to increase as well the rise of masonry included in these projects. Commercial projects have changed slightly in regards to the demand for use of natural stone or brick in lieu of manufactured stone. I feel this is due to the amount of issues that have occurred within the last year specific to water problems. Unfortunately, it’s not the manufactured stone causing issues, it’s the masons who are still cutting corners, inspectors that are too busy to look at the wall before masonry installed; the acceptable industry standards that are completely unacceptable and zero accountability for those responsible. There are multiple apartment buildings in the Madison, WI area that are less than 3 years old with efflorescence problems like you’ve never seen before. It’s ignored as long as possible or until a lawsuit is filed which we are seeing/hearing a lot lately. It’s truly disappointing to see this happen when it could have all been avoided if commercial jobs weren’t still being awarded to the lowest bidder.
The residential (single-family) market is still strong and we are continuing to see an increase in interior masonry trends. In particular, tumbled brick with white mortar, overgrouted or stick finish mortar joints, a lot of clients are paying extra for that curb appeal.
Brick on the exterior of homes is also starting to make a comeback and the Modern Farmhouse is without a doubt the most popular style home.
Compared to last year, natural stone is being used on about 60% of the higher end homes. We (Kalish Masonry) have been promoting the benefits of natural stone for quite some time and feel it’s finally paying off. At one point, a benefit of manufactured stone was based on price, currently there are numerous manufactured stone brands that are substantially more expensive than natural stone. I also feel that the amount/volume of homes with manufactured stone has taken its toll as it has been overly used in far too many neighborhoods. Not just a few homes on a block, I’m talking entire subdivisions.
Shortage of manpower (lack of quality workers) continues to be a concern throughout the state.
And finally, SILICA! The awareness or lack thereof here in the Madison, WI area is appalling. I know for certain that more than half of our competitors haven’t even bothered with any of the required training. I believe there is (1) small size company (3 employees) that is trained and certified but the so-called “independent contractors” could care less. Just as they could care less about workers comp, paying guys in cash vs. payroll, etc. I have a great concern of possibly violating employee privacy or HIPAA laws when complying with the OSHA requirements.
The biggest “Silica Law” obstacle for me, personally, is making GC’s and Builders aware of how important and how expensive it is to be compliant vs. others that are not. They don’t care, OSHA won’t show up at their job site. The law doesn’t apply to them – even when they’re told about the multi-employer citation policy. Until a company gets hit with a fine and the GC is forced to close its doors based on their citation history, nobody believes this Silica is actually worth anything so to speak.
GC’s are starting to require a “proof” of Silica compliance but a lot of the mason contractors that have recently been awarded projects are not compliant. They might have 1-2 guys trained and then downloaded a WECP from online, applied it to all employees and called it their own
Until then, we are having to decline any work such as tuckpointing that would require the use of respirators. I’m struggling with how to convey this information to the public or even a regular homeowner, I’ve tried several different approaches and they all end up making me feel like the bad guy. We have had to turn down all requests for historic buildings that we cannot touch and because of the new Silica law, I don’t even have a mason contractor that I could refer to them that also knows the historic restoration practices.
On a more positive note, we are very thankful for the Builders and GC’s that we work with who do care and do make it a point to stress the importance of rules, using building materials above building codes and truly care about keeping promises with their clients.
2017 was a great year and we’re hoping that we see another successful year in 2018.
About the Author
Lynn Vasquez is the Executive Director for the Masonry Institute of Southern Illinois. She has served as Region D Vice President for the Mason Contractors Association of America (MCAA).