Monthly Archives: September 2011

Have Your Say at Workers’ Comp Rate Hearings

After initially floating the idea of raising average workers’ comp rates 5-9 percent in 2012, the Department of Labor and Industries officially proposed an average rate increase of 2.5 percent. 

A few weeks ago L&I asked its Workers’ Comp Advisory Committee to consider increases ranging from five to nine percent.  After protests by business groups including AGC’s call for a zero percent increase, L&I came back and officially proposed the 2.5 percent increase.  Rates would vary by business type and risk class.  Some examples for construction: 13% increase for excavation, road construction, landclearing; 8% for masonry; 1% for elevator installation

CLICK HERE for proposed rate by business type and risk classification code.

The final rates will be adopted in early December and go into effect Jan. 1, 2012. Public hearings on the proposed rates will be held in:

  • Vancouver, Oct. 25, 9 a.m., Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay
  • Tukwila, Oct. 26, 1 p.m., L&I Office
  • Bellingham, Oct. 26, 1 p.m., Bellingham Public Library
  • Richland, Oct. 27, 1 p.m., Red Lion Hotel Richland Hanford House
  • Spokane Valley, Oct. 28, 10 a.m., Spokane CenterPlace Event Center
  • Tumwater, Oct. 28, 10 a.m., L&I Headquarters

Tower Crane Off Endangered Species List?

They were once so ubiquitous some thought the species should be the official state bird.  Then, within just a couple of years, there were nearly none.  But today volunteers (me and my colleague Stacy Mullane) counted nine!

The construction tower crane is back from the brink of extinction in Seattle!  See these photos as evidence.

From our AGC offices on the shores of Lake Union, we have a pretty good view of the Seattle skyline — from downtown to Capitol Hill to the U District.  Just four years ago, we counted no fewer than 20 tower cranes from our windows.  Then, as the economy crashed, their numbers dwindled over the next few years to nearly zero.  Now…nine!  That’s nowhere near the level it once was, and it does not diminish the distressing fact that the construction industry has lost 35 percent of its jobs since the 2007 peak with little or no growth expected soon. 

But it’s something.

At a time when a silver lining among the clouds of market slumps, Greek debt, political dysfunction and foreclosures can barely be detected…let the tower crane soar!

Colman Residence rises from Western

The Colman Residence apartment building has jumped out of the ground at the corner of Columbia and Western near Pioneer Square.

Turner Construction crews are forming the tower’s 44 concrete columns and will start the first level’s concrete decks later this month, followed by level two’s decks in early to mid-October. They are also pouring the building’s two cores: one that will house elevators, a trash room and stairs; and the other a shear wall and second stair.

The concrete work team includes Stoneway (supplier), Pacer Steel (reinforcing steel) and Brundage-Bone (concrete pumper). Turner is in charge of concrete forming, placing and finishing.

When finished, the 16-story building will have retail at the ground level, parking on levels 2-5, and 208 apartments above that.

The project team is: Goodman Real Estate, owner; Turner Construction, general contractor; Weber Thompson, architect; and Magnusson Klemencic Associates, structural engineer.

Seattle Seeks to Boost C&D Recycling with New Requirements

Seattle Public Utilities plans to boost construction and demolition recycling from the 61 percent current level to 70 percent by 2020 through a suite of new programs and requirements.

SPU says the new programs mainly bump up recycling requirements on materials that already, or will soon have, secure end markets. Some of these materials are already banned from garbage disposal if they come from public works construction projects. Others, like metal and cardboard, are banned from City commercial and residential garbage containers.

Among the specific elements of the proposal are:

  • Ban carpet from disposal in the garbage by 2013, when a carpet take-back program will be in place.
  • Ban recyclable metal and cardboard from C&D sites from disposal by 2012.
  • Ban asphalt, brick, and concrete paving from disposal by 2012.
  • Ban clean wood, clean gypsum, and plastic film from disposal by 2013.
  • Ban tear-off asphalt shingles from disposal 2014.

Click SPU’s recycling proposal for more information – the Construction and Demolition requirements are found in Chapter 5, Other Solid Waste Programs.

Everyone is invited to a forum hosted by the AGC Education Foundation and Seattle Public Utilities to learn more about, and comment on, the propsed plan. To sign up for the Stakeholders’ Forum, click here.

Is the National Labor Relations Board misusing its powers and turning the agency from a neutral arbiter of labor law disputes into a political activist organization?

There is widespread belief in the business community that the National Labor Relations Board is actively promoting union organizing with its recently issued Final Rule that impacts as many as six million private employers – not only the construction industry but large and small businesses, virtually all non-agricultural industries, that need to create jobs to strengthen our economy.

First, the NLRB overruled a 2007 decision granting employees the ability to file a decertification petition for a secret-ballot election within 45 days after an employer recognizes a union as a monopoly bargaining agent.

Second, the board ruled in favor of creating a new standard for a bargaining unit, despite the fact that the current 20-year old standard has been without controversy.

On August 30, 2011, the NLRB voted to require all private sector employers, except those expressly excluded from coverage under the National Labor Relations Act, to post an 11” x 17” poster notification to its employees of their right to unionize. The sole Republican member, Brian Hayes, sharply criticized the rule as an effort to boost union membership in the face of its steady decline. He further argued that the National Labor Relations Act does not authorize the Board to require employers to bear such a notice-posting burden now, for the first time in the Board’s 76-year history.

These decisions follow other recent NLRB actions including a Final Rule forcing employers to display a poster in their workplaces containing a select list of employee rights; the NLRB’s proposal to dramatically shorten the time between a petition filing and a union certification election (from an average 47 days to 10 days); and the move to block Boeing from building a facility in a right-to-work state.

According to an August 25, 2011, NY Times article, New Rules Seen as Aid to Efforts to Unionize, “The board’s chairwoman, Wilma B. Liebman, steps down on Saturday, when her term expires. The new regulations are part of a push by the board’s 3-to-1 Democratic majority to finish cases and rules before she leaves.”

Many comments filed with the Board by private-sector employers and employer groups disputed the NLRB’s statutory authority to enact the proposed rule in the first place. Others have argued that the Board has failed to justify its actions in proposing and issuing the Final Rule when employees already have access to information of this type over the internet.

This appears to be another example of the current administration implementing anti-business policies through agency rules that it can’t get through Congress, even when both houses of Congress were Democrat controlled. But apparently the NLRB taking these over-reaching pro-union actions is not enough: organized labor is angry with the Obama Administration for not doing more to promote unionization of the American work force.

Employers and employer groups are considering legal action now that the rules have been issued. Employers should closely monitor the situation to learn whether a legal challenge has been filed that could affect whether the rule will or will not take effect on November 14, 2011, but should be prepared to comply with the new notice requirements at that time.