Builders Association Negotiates for Its Members

VIENNA, Ohio — The primary challenge that faces the Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania and its members – the availability of projects – is largely out of its control, its executive vice president, Kevin Reilly, admits.

But the challenge The Builders can influence – making sure its members are as competitive as possible when they bid for projects – falls into one of its primary responsibilities.

The Builders negotiate with local trade unions on behalf of its 150 members to ensure they are “not handcuffed with collective bargaining agreements that make them uncompetitive,” Riley says. The organization negotiates 18 labor contracts with the trades.

“We negotiate with all the building trades except for the electricians and the plumbers,” he says. Trades unions with which The Builders negotiate include bricklayers, carpenters, cement masons, sheet metal workers, ironworkers and Teamsters.

Last year The Builders negotiated four agreements that resulted in a 2.5% increase in average wage and benefits packages. This year it is negotiating with three locals, 33 of the sheet metal workers and 125 and 935 of the laborers.

The primary issues at this stage are financial, he continues. “Those labor agreements for the most part over the years have been cleaned up. We don’t have a lot of onerous terms and conditions in the contracts. So both sets of negotiations have been fairly limited as far as terms and conditions,” he remarks.

In addition to collective bargaining, the association is involved in resolving disputes that might arise, he says.

“So if there are grievances filed under those collective bargaining agreements, we’ll appoint a board to hear those disputes and come to a resolution,” he comments.

The association also oversees pension, health and welfare funds and is involved with apprenticeship programs for the craft unions.

“We have a good working relationship with the crafts,” he says. The craft unions recognize the competitive environment and the need to make sure the association’s members are competitive. “They recognize that without the employers getting work they don’t have work for their members,” he points out.

“The projects aren’t as fast and furious as they have been in previous years,” acknowledges Howard Agueda, subcontract manager for VEC Inc. in Girard and president of The Builders.

Unlike in recent years, no major projects are in the pipeline such as construction of Vallourec’s new pipe mill in Youngstown or Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course.

Association membership is down from past years as well, Agueda acknowledges. As a result, The Builders is taking what he characterizes as a “more regional approach.

There is a general thrust to provide better services for our members in regard to promoting their serv-ices and promoting them in the marketplace,” he adds, along with education programs and initiatives to enhance members’ businesses.

“You want to make sure educational topics are current and forward-looking,” he says. Another challenge is scheduling to maximize member participation.

Classes that focus on safety and business draw well, along with “anything having to do with technological improvements and how they’re being used and impacting the construction market,” Agueda says.

Some examples of technology-related applications in construction are the use of drones, Google glasses “and just the general inclusion of mobile devices” on construction sites such as tablets, he continues.

Among the ways drones can be used are site election, survey and real-time updates on a job’s progress, Agueda explains. As drone technology progresses, he describes its potential as “limitless.”

Technology has improved communication, allowing people in the field to get answers and resolve problems on the spot. “If there’s an issue, multiple parties can view the issue at the same time and arrive at a direction to move past it,” he says.

Being involved with The Builders provides more opportunities to network and hold discussions with peers, Agueda says. `DeSalvo Construction Co., Hubbard, a member since its founding in 1984, has leaned on The Builders for support about changes in the industry and information on how to be more productive and safe, says Joe DeSalvo, the company’s executive vice president.

DeSalvo Construction also benefits from the role the association plays in collective bargaining, he adds.

“They have an experienced group that’s been doing it for so long. I can’t remember any significant work stoppages in the last 20 years,” he says. “As contractors, we rely on unions to execute the work that we do. The fact that The Builders association has maintained a good, strong working relationship has been invaluable.”

Pictured: Howard Agueda, subcontract manager for VEC Inc., is president of The Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. Kevin Reilly is executive vice president. The trade group’s office is in Vienna.

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