Warm Weather Puts Trades to Work

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — A late spring and the slow return of higher energy prices have kept skilled tradesman in the building and construction unions away from job sites in northeastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, their business agents say.

Work should be available for most of their members, they agree, by the middle of June with the need for road and bridge repair, maintaining the General Motors plant in Lordstown, work on office buildings and hospitals, and building energy infrastructure.

“It looks like it’s going to be a good year,” says Rocky DiGennaro Jr., business agent for Local 125 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. “It’s looking good but we had a slow start because of the weather. There’s a lot of work” in the repair of roads and bridges as well as parking decks at hospitals and Youngstown State University.

Demand for the skilled tradesmen “varies greatly by craft,” says Jim Burgham, secretary/treasurer of the Western Reserve Building and Construction Trades Council and business manager of Local 64 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Boardman. The council is the umbrella group for 18 locals in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties that range from heat and frost insulators to sheet metal workers.

The need for those in the mechanical crafts, for example, “is better in Trumbull County than in Mahoning and Columbiana,” Burgham reports. “We’re not as busy as we have been in the past five years because of oil prices,” he says, “but we’re still OK.”
For the electricians in his local, he points to the work still needed at hospitals. “An entire floor is being renovated at St. Elizabeth’s in Youngstown” Burgham says. “They’re renovating their seventh-floor psychiatric ward. Earlier we finished their sixth-floor expansion in Boardman.”

Local 64 is working on the renovation of Melnick Hall at YSU and the university’s “new substation for high-voltage power distribution across campus,” he adds.
Work at the Vallourec pipe mill in Youngstown will draw on the skills of several locals. “All the crafts will be working on the new piercing mill,” says Rick Ellis, business agent for Local 207 of the Structural Ironworkers union.

Besides Vallourec, Local 207 ironworkers are in the old Westinghouse building in Sharon, Pa., where Ellwood Crankshaft is spending $80 million to build the largest crankshaft press in the world.

As repair of bridges in the region gears up and the Clean Energy Future LLC plant in Lordstown gets underway, possibly in October, Ellis sees all 300 of his members having work.

Besides the ironworkers, much needed work on roads and bridges in Trumbull and Mahoning counties will keep the Laborers busy, say DiGennaro and his counterpart in Warren, Jody Stringer, business agent for Local 935. Local 125 will work on Interstate 80 to the Trumbull County line – work was to begin at 6 p.m. May 29 – and Local 935 will pick up the six-lane highway from there.

The outgoing president of the Western Reserve Council, Don Crane, who was also business agent for Local 1090 of the Millwrights and Piledrivers union, reports that local “is doing really well” with the work underway at Vallourec, the Matalco aluminum extrusion plant in Lordstown, the bridges in I-80 at the Meander Reservoir, the overpass on Western Reserve Road that crosses Interstate 680, and U.S. Route 224 overpass above state Route 11 in Canfield.
Crane, who this month became director for the state of Ohio in the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, adds that Local 171 of the Carpenters union will work on the parking decks at YSU as well as at Vallourec.

“There’s a lot of hours [of work] as they get started to do Matalco,” he says, with Matalco hiring a signatory contractor, which means it will use union labor from the Mahoning Valley.

Butch Taylor, business agent for Local 396 of the Plumbers and Pipefitters union, succeeds Crane as president of the Western Reserve Council. His 500 active members, who include 90 apprentices, are or will be working at the Clean Energy Future power plant, in the hotels under construction in the Valley, in schools when summer vacation begins and at the Southern Park and Eastwood malls. At the Eastwood complex, plumbers are working on the new headquarters of The Cafaro Co.

Welders and plumbers skilled in HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) are in demand in the three counties, Taylor reports. With rising energy prices, work in the Utica shale should pick up as energy companies step up work on the pipelines that carry oil and natural gas to processing plants.

Local 8 of the Bricklayers union “is not real busy at present,” says business agent Brian Collier, but he expects that will change with his members’ skills needed to place the refractory brick at Vallourec.

His members are working on the restoration of the Wells Building in downtown Youngstown, to be the home of Strollo Architects this fall, and engaging in repair work on the Mahoning County Courthouse and the Judge Thomas Lambros federal courthouse opposite it on Market Street.

Local 8 members employed by Youngstown Tile & Terrazzo Co., Canfield, have completed work at the Austintown Plaza and are a work in the new Cafaro headquarters. Roughly half of his 169 active members are working, Collier says, and he sees that number increasing with work on the AcelorMittal coke batteries in Warren, among other projects.

Pictured: Ground was broken last September for Matalco Inc.’s $100 million aluminum billet manufacturing plant in Lordstown.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.