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Posted on Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Union training events to stay in Ann Arbor this year; future placement under consideration after right-to-work's passage

By Amy Biolchini

Michigan's passage of right-to-work legislation will be a point of discussion for union organizations that hold their annual training events in Ann Arbor after 2013, according to official representatives.

At a recent Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners meeting, local leaders discussed concerns that the lucrative union training events that visit Ann Arbor each year may be in jeopardy of moving to more union-friendly locales after the Michigan legislature passed controversial right-to-work laws in December.


Dustin Ashmore, a pipefitting apprentice from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, concentrates during a 2009 competition during the UA of of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry at Washtenaw Community College. Michigan's passage of right-to-work laws will be a point of discussion for union leaders in planning the location of future training events.

Lon Horwedel | Ann file photo

Union officials have confirmed that the Ironworkers, United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry (UA), and the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association will keep their training events in Ann Arbor this year.

“We have made this decision in spite of the recent very disappointing action of the Michigan legislature and Governor approving so-called ‘right to work’ legislation,” said Rick Terven, executive vice president of the UA, in an emailed statement.

“We are aware of the painful irony that our conference, which is largely paid for by union dues, will significantly and positively impact the economy of Michigan at a time when the public policy in Michigan is to restrict (the union’s) financial ability to accomplish such worthy goals in the future.”

David Kolbe, legislative and political director for the Ironworkers, said the union was “extremely disappointed in the short-sightedness of the governor” in passing right-to-work legislation, but has no plans to move its annual training event from Washtenaw Community College after 2013.

However, plans for future siting for the other union events in Ann Arbor are not concrete.

“Personally, it was disappointing to see Michigan take that action — particularly a state with such a well-grounded tradition,” said Michael Callanan, executive director of the NJATC for the Electrical Construction and Maintenance Industry of the IBEW and NECA.

Local unions

  • UA Local 190
    • About 1,500 members in Washtenaw County
    • Building trades contract (encompassing 750 to 800 workers) expires June 1, 2014
    • Gas distribution contract for state of Michigan expires April 2016
    • Gas distribution contract for the state of Ohio expires Sept. 2015
  • IBEW Local 252
    • About 800 members in Washtenaw and Jackson counties, as well as the southernmost townships of Ingham and Livingston counties
    • Commercial contract expires in 2.5 years
    • Residential contract expires in 1 year
    • Voice data and video contract up for negotiation this spring
  • Ironworkers Local 25
    • Covers 34 counties in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, including Washtenaw County
The national union conventions bring about $12 million into the county’s economy every year and account for 22,000 hotel nights, according to the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The passage of the right-to-work legislation will not impact the NJATC’s events this year, which the unions already have scheduled and signed contracts for, Callanan said.

“I’m certain it will be a topic for discussion,” Callanan said of right-to-work legislation. “We’ll have to see what the response is there.”

Mary Kerr, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said her office has contacted the directors of all the union training programs since the passage of the right-to-work legislation.

“We continue to reach out to them to ensure that we’re continuing to provide the best level of service, and that we look forward to welcoming them back here in the future,” Kerr said. “We love having (the union events) here. We work with them year-round on these events. We look forward to welcoming them back.”

Kerr said her office helps to connect the union training programs with businesses in the community to facilitate the events.

“We want to ensure they have the best experience … in the community,” Kerr said.

The UA has used Great Lakes Regional Training Center at Washtenaw Community College for more than 20 years to train 350,000 workers who travel from across the country to Ann Arbor each year for the event.

The UA will be celebrating its 60th anniversary of its training program this year.

“We have had a long, constructive and mutually respectful relationship with the greater Ann Arbor community and Washtenaw Community College, a connection which we would like to preserve,” said Terven in a statement. “Whether the labor policies of the State of Michigan will allow us to continue this tradition is a question which we will periodically re-evaluate.”

Kevin Groeb, business manager for UA Local 190, said the fate of the annual union conventions in Ann Arbor is out of the hands of the local offices. How the unions themselves will handle operations after right-to-work legislation takes effect in March is unknown, Groeb said.

Callanan said planning talks for the NJATC’s 2014 training events will begin right after this year’s event ends.

The NJATC has located its annual training event in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan for the past three years.

“No doubt it’s disappointing,” Callanan said of the passage of right-to-work in Michigan. “Whether it will play a significant role in the future of the institute (in Ann Arbor), it’s too soon to tell.”

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 9:14 p.m.

When I lived in IN, I worked in a small steel plant division of a large Steel Co out of PA. The PA workers were all unionized; the IN workers were not unionized. The pay ratesnwerenthesame for each job description andnlevel. Who took home the most $'s?? The IN plant workers because they didn't have a deduction for Union Dues!! There was absolutely no other differences in their jobs. In fact the IN workers were happier and actually out produced the PA workers doing the same job. IN workers were happier also. The yad more money to take home!! If the Unions want to keep their members, start by treating them special favors for sluggards and trouble makers!!


Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 5:21 p.m.

I remember my mother talking about strikes in PA. When the unions thought the workers needed more money or better hours they would haggle with the bosses. If no sides relented? Another strike? My mother remembers more strikes growing up then anything else. She and I both agree, unions are good for some things, but not a lot of things.


Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 12:25 a.m.

Drew, You do not know what you are taking about. You also probably are a union minion. I retired. Our plant was a great place to work for 30 years !!


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 10:07 p.m.

And if that job was great and the pay was great why arent you still working there and still living in Indiana? Must not have have all milk and honey like you want us to believe.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 9:18 p.m.

Sorry for the typo's: ratesnwerenthesame = rates were the same; andnlevel. = and level; There was absolutely = There were absolutely ; The yad = They had sorry...cold fingers and computer bumps!

Susie Q

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

I think it is reasonable for unions to want to hold conferences and events in locations where they feel welcome and where the money that they spend will not be used against them. I am sure the union hating folks of A2 will not miss them. It will be easier and cheaper to get a hotel room during their usual visits and easier to find a table at a local restaurant.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 5:04 p.m.

It is due to the unions that children are lacking education. The teachers and the BOE decide on a school calendar. I am noticing this year that the teachers are really stretching the year what with next Friday off from the hi school and the middle school on Friday and Monday with half days. No wonder AAPS is cash strapped. The teahcers are milking it for what it is worth hiding behind tenure and the MEA. I can't wait to see the MEA become lesser of what it is in a few years due to this new law. Sorry teachers, but you don't need 3 half days and 3 whole days off at the high school level and 2 half and one whole next Friday thru Tuesday for middle. You don't see the elementary teachers doing this so why should you? Can't wait to see some of the days reduced. Bye bye unions.


Mon, Jan 21, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

Grieve all you want teachers, but if you lessen the days you will see yourself getting us out earlier. Also, try more on line classes students if you don't like what service you are getting at the hi school level? Mine is adding two more classes on line because teachers are not teaching and the hi school is not offering classes at certain periods of the day. Forcing the child to rearrange their schedule and giving up favorite teachers and relearning new ones. Not fair to the students and not fair to the teachers. On line from what I am seeing is a better choice. Especially after reading your comments. Guess we will lessen your work load this semester.

Susie Q

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 8:25 p.m.

The days off that are in the middle of the year are not nre, nor has anything changed. The children go to school and the teachers work the same number of days and hours this year as they have for the past ten years or so. And yes, Don Bee, the Core Curriculum will add to the teachers' workload, but most of them support it. Because it will be useful and productive work rather than filling out endless forms, paperwork and computer data entry to satisfy state requirements. BTW,,,,at the high school level many teachers have well over 150 students since the classes are often much larger than 30. When an English or Social Studies teacher assigns just a three page paper for students.....and if you figure a minimum of 10 minutes to grade each paper; if a teacher needs to grade 150 papers it would take a minimum of 25 hours just to evaluate those assignments. Then they must be entered into a gradebook (online usually), discussed with students and parents, if necessary.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 6:59 p.m.

grye - 150 during the day - 5 periods right? That is 30 or so at a time. Nothing special about that, you make it sound like you have 150 all day long. As to work at home, thank you for doing it. Have you looked at the President Obama backed Core Curriculum? Want to talk about adding work at home for teachers - that program will do it in spades.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 6:44 p.m.

That is ridiculous. Try teaching and find out that it is probably the most difficult job for the money. Trying personally managing 150 children throughout the day. Try dealing with unhappy parents whose kids didn't get all As. Try dealing with State mandated changes that add additional hours at home. Mind you that your day doesn't end when the kids leave. There is homework to correct, lesson plans to make, meetings with staff to discuss issues, tests to create, tests to grade, ... Least we not forget that they are required to take additional educational classes to maintain their certification. Do you consider the hundreds of dollars, if not thousands that teachers spend out of their own pocket to enhance the learning process at provide supplies to children who are in need? What an easy job that teachers schedules need to be much tougher? Don't blame the teachers. If you want to blame the MEA, go ahead. Teachers are doing the best that they can with what they have.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.

Exactly the mentality that gives the public reason to not support unions. Punish the businesses, and the workers at those businesses, and the suppliers of those businesses instead of working to show employees at companies with unions the value that you're providing to them and why they'd want to become a union member.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 10:03 p.m.

You do realize the those behind RTW were organizations like Mi Chamber of Commerce and scum like Dick DeVos. Did you have issue with their attacks on Unions or just vice versa?


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

Union or not, give me good service and I will support the store with more of my business and my friends as well.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

So, Sunset, you believe that as wages fall to appropriate levels, the cost of living will fall as well? Can you cite any facts for that? Can you show where that has occurred, in which state? I don't believe it.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 10:13 p.m.

Bogie: If life was as great as you say in that specific RTW State do you still live? If living expenses were so low I gotta believe you were living high on the hog and there would be no way you would leave such paradise.


Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

I am not sure about the fall of cost of living. Especially in a state, that the majority of state workers are in the union, but I will tell you this. My money went further with my non union job, in a right to work state. There was not a state income tax, and my property taxes were 400 dollars a year, on a 6 year old house.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Jan 20, 2013 : 12:09 p.m.

It appears petulant local officials didn't get their way. Maybe if members of the Board of Commissioners hold their collective breath long enough, unions will eventually give them their wish. Meanwhile, it's nice that we have right-to-work. This can only help bring new jobs to Michigan and help convince existing employers that our governor is job-friendly. Statistics show quite clearly that wages are higher in right-to-work states, compared to the cost of living. The unions, which certainly spend enough on purchasing elected officials, like to claim wages are lower in right-to-work states. That's only because we have closed shop in almost all of the most expensive states in the country. Cost of living is a more relevant measuring stick because it represents what a wage actually purchases.