GCAP: Governor’s Veto of Legislation that Provided COVID-19 Liability Protection for Employers is Disappointing

November 30, 2020, Harrisburg, PA – The General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania (GCAP) was one of eighty Pennsylvania associations who united, led by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry, to support House Bill 1737.  This legislation included comprehensive, temporary, pandemic-related liability protections.  A statewide, collective sigh of rejection from the eighty organizations happened today when Governor Tom Wolf vetoed HB1737.

GCAP executive director Jon O’Brien issued the following statement in response to Governor Tom Wolf’s veto:

“Across Pennsylvania, during the COVID-19 pandemic, construction companies have been focused on keeping the workforce safe while trying to recover economically.  GCAP construction companies have been exemplary in abiding by Pennsylvania’s Construction Guidelines and we continue to share our best practices with Pennsylvania Departments of Community Economic Development and Labor & Industry.  Also, concerning the guidelines, I feel compelled to point that we assisted in creating them (Governor Wolf’s press release announcing the creation of Construction Guidelines).”

“This veto was deflating and comes at perhaps the worst time.  During these unprecedented times, many construction companies are working in good faith when it comes to arming our workers with the PPE to be safe on the jobsites, since these PPE costs were not part of the original estimate and no one foresaw what 2020 would bring.  Many clients are telling contractors that ‘they’ll settle up’ after the project on added PPE costs.  Additionally, backlog of future work is down since some clients are unsure of what the future holds so they are not willing to put work out to bid.  Our industry was hopeful that we could get some good news and some much-needed liability protections, instead construction companies have to keep their guard up against trial lawyers anxious to profit from the pandemic.”

“The construction industry will get through this pandemic stronger and smarter than before.  Our industry always learns from challenges that face us.  While the veto of HB1737 was definitely disappointing, we look forward to working with the General Assembly and groups like the Pennsylvania Chamber to improve our economy while keeping our workforce safe.”

ABOUT GCAP: Established in 1953, GCAP is an organization representing the memberships of General Building Contractors Association, Keystone Contractors Association, and Master Builders’ Association. Collectively, GCAP represents over 700-plus commercial construction companies based throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For more information visit https://generalcontractorsofpa.com/.

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Building PA Podcast Season 1, Episode 9: Cement Masons Apprenticeship Training Program

“On a scale of 1 to 10, we always shoot for a 10.”

This was such a cool interview. Listening to Ron Stefaniak, I could just picture a concrete pour on an early morning jobsite as he spoke. Some people work but don’t like what they do and some people do like the work they’re in, but when you meet someone who has a strong passion for their profession it’s awesome to hear. I even felt the passion for concrete come through while reading this transcript. I can envision a perfectly poured floor when Ron says: “on a scale of 1 to 10, we always shoot for a 10.” Enjoy the transcript, but as great as it is to read Ron’s words nothing beats the passion in his voice. Listen hear: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-building-pa-podcast-61501833/episode/apprenticeship-training-cement-masons-61532370/

Chris Martin (00:00):

Welcome to the Building PA Podcast. I am sitting here with Jon O’Brien, my partner. My name is Chris Martin. I’m with Atlas Marketing. Good morning. How’s it going? Good, good morning. And I am with Ron Stefaniak. Well, I should say we are with Ron Stefanik, who’s the apprenticeship coordinator with the Plasterers and Cement Masons, correct? I apologize.

Ron Stefaniak:

Yep.

Chris Martin:

So Ron, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got here. Okay.

Ron Stefaniak (00:31):

I was taught by the greatest generation. That was my uncles who came back from the second World War and they were such an influence on me because they were my heroes. So naturally I listened to the stories every night at that dinner table. Even though mom wanted me to go to college, I did go to college and I got my degree, but that inside of me still I said I wanted to do construction. So lo and behold, after all these years, 40 years as a Cement Mason, but totally 51 years, because I started out as a Laborer out of Kittanning, PA in 1952. So that’s where I’m at this point in my life.

Chris Martin (01:13):

That is so… I love how you talk about the greatest generation and how you got here in terms of the influence from your uncles. That’s great because we know that is very typical in the construction industry. So what made you choose to become a Cement Mason?

Ron Stefaniak (01:33):

Okay so the thing about it is, at the time that I graduated or whatever, that’s when the Pittsburgh steel industry was in a downturn and we didn’t have the Renaissance yet, like we had today. So it was very easy for me, I started off with an office job with Babcock and Wilcox, and I knew that making out checks and doing time sheets wasn’t my cup of tea. I had to be out there with the excitement sounds of construction and the beep beep beeps and all that kind of stuff. So I followed my heart and I fell in. My mum passed away and my dad was still in the industry. And I said, no greater thing to be able to work with your father. So that’s why I evolved into that. The cement makes it, my dad would have been electrician or whatever. I would have followed them that way because he was my hero. And that’s why I chose to stay with the you know, the concrete end of it. So it’s because of my father.

Chris Martin (02:35):

And I liked that too, because all the unions that we work with and say with Jon and the KCA and everything, everybody has that family story.

Ron Stefaniak (03:00):

And that’s the nice thing about the union side of construction is that brother, that hey tomorrow, I’m going to put my arm around you. We’re going to show you how to do this. So you’re not going to fail. And I can, you know, as the apprenticeship coordinator, that’s part of what you’re doing, you know, on a daily basis. Exactly.

Jon O’Brien:

How long did it take you to become the apprenticeship coordinator?

Ron Stefaniak:

Well it was actually okay. About 30 years I was in the field. Okay. And so I’ve been an apprentice coordinator for going on nine, actually going on 10 years. So if you take the 10 from the 40 years of concrete and simple math, that’s about what I was out and field for about 30 years. Doing floors, doing chimneys, doing well, you name it exposed me to a lot of different things over the years, so who better to teach the next generation, right? Yeah. Yeah. And as long as the passion is still there, as long as the passion, and then there’s such an opportunity for these young people today, that it’s unbelievable. And I want to make sure that, you know, I always say on my tombstone, I want it to be ‘Ron, did everything he could to perpetuate unionism on planet earth’ and I’ll be happy that these young kids followed my path. Right. That’s great. Great.

Jon O’Brien (04:20):

Very good. Speaking of young kids, let’s reach out to them and let’s focus on them for a little bit. So like what can they expect if they wanted to be a Cement Mason? Like what’s a Cement Mason do nowadays, what’s the training, like just kinda touch on that a little bit.

Ron Stefaniak (04:37):

Okay. So we look at, you have to, you have to be like an active type person and we don’t make you take a test, but when I interview, I want to see that sort of I need that look in your eyes that says, ‘yeah, I’m an outdoors person.’ I played a team sport because concrete is a team activity. It’s just like playing football or whatever. I’m looking for somebody that is not afraid of a challenge every day. You’re going to get challenged with the wind, the rain, the snow and the batching plant and all these things you have to, you can’t be that kind of place, a complacent person that says, ‘Oh, you know what I don’t want that kind of challenge.’ So I look at all these different things. Some of them are students, aren’t A students.

Ron Stefaniak (05:31):

They’re C, B students, but that doesn’t hold them back from not being dynamite workers, because a lot of them really didn’t like school, you know? And now I don’t hold that because some of my best workers are C and D students. So, I want to make sure I give them that opportunity. Maybe I don’t see something right away, but I get them out in the field and all of that light bulb comes on and it’s like, and that’s already happened to me. So we give them every opportunity to spread their wings and flying at the business, especially now when we all need workers that are willing to work and get a sustainable income, families is standing income for you know, and so that’s what we look for.

Jon O’Brien (06:21):

Absolutely. Absolutely. So is there anything a high school student could do now while they’re in school to prepare to become a Cement Mason?

Ron Stefaniak (06:30):

Well, yeah. When we interview I normally have somebody from one of the either the heavy highway or the builders trade that comes over and what we look at, we look at attendance, we look at that’s a big thing because that demonstrates the ability to want to learn. And if I get an apprentice out there and if he’s bucking me all the time and he doesn’t want to listen, well, then he’s not gonna learn. So I tell them naturally it’s good to you know, have good math skills and science skills, but that’s not a big thing in our business because, you know, we’re going to electrician to brain workers. We’re making calculations all the time. We’re more or less the type of guys that are like you know, I got girls in our custom cross-country skiers, and I got guys that are traders in a gym that was very active people that can sit still. That’s what I want to see. As a young person, no complacency because there’s no room for complacency when that paving machine starts going, you gotta have to be able to run with it and know that you’re that kind of person, that this is my challenge for today, and this is what I want to do, and I’m not going to get beat up, you know? So that’s what we’re really,

Jon O’Brien (08:04):

What have you seen over your 10 years as the training director, as far as the type people that are entering the program, people looking to get into the program, have you seen a shift at all as the economy has changed over the last 10 years?

Ron Stefaniak (08:19):

Absolutely. First of all, we preach, like my mum used to say, ‘till we’re blue in the face’, cleats you kid. So we preached to the guidance counselors in the high schools, and we say, listen you know, everybody wants their child to go to college, but yet there’s students out there that aren’t college material that want to work with their hands. And so please encourage them if they don’t want to go to college. I don’t want them sitting at home watching reruns of going in dial-in in her mom’s basement. And I want them to know that the building trades, 16 of us, there are workers: boilermakers, cement masons, on and on, and whatever that they’re going to be able to come in there and we’re going to embrace them and tell them, yes, we need warm bodies. We need people.

Ron Stefaniak (09:15):

And you’re the type of person that wants to work, we’re going to show you how to make family-sustaining wages. And it’s a very warm situation that you know, all the ethnic groups of females or whatever, everybody has an opportunity. Unlike it’s ever been in my 40 years, it’s never been like this. It’s like, you know, when we’re begging them, people that say, come on, you know, and join the trades. And so that’s it’s so exciting. And right now it’s off the chart. As far as like these Cracker Plants, heavy highway, there is a need to do so many bridges in so many ways, like two years ago Pennsylvania, if he did we’d repair 600 bridges in so much time. So all of a sudden the money’s there and we’re going to deal with

Jon O’Brien (10:07):

Absolutely. Yeah. It’s a very, very exciting time for the industry, for sure. So yeah, you find, you know, a high school grad, he’s motivated, he’s excited. He wants to work out in the field. What’s he to expect the first year when it comes to training. And I heard a little rumor, you guys earn while you learn, so you might want to throw that in there too. But yeah, what’s the first year to expect?

Ron Stefaniak (10:33):

Okay. The first year kids, what we do is we take, put them through a pre-apprenticeship for two weeks. Pre-Apprenticeship we make sure they have OSHA 10, so they’re safe. We make sure they have CPR, AED and first day we take them out that week. We show them how to pound pins, set forms. They’re not going to be homerun hitters in two weeks, but they’re not going to be like a deer in the headlights either. They’re good, but we get their toe in the water. So then after two weeks, we put them on the out of work list. And then our contractors, our signatory contractors, we encourage them. Here’s young people. We need to get them to work. And so as June and July and August comes and we place these apprentices with the signatory contractors, whether it be heavy highway or building trade, and then that’s their opportunity to learn in real time, not just in a classroom setting, but in real time, all the sights and sounds, and smells and everything that’s involved in being on the job. That’s the beauty of apprenticeship.

Chris Martin (11:54):

And in that pre-apprenticeship period, a two week period, are they mostly in the classroom versus on the job? Which again, on Jon’s question, what can they expect there?

Ron Stefaniak (12:00):

What we do is we’ll about the first week we make them safe. Okay. We get them in a classroom. Then the second week we’ll go to like there might be a contractor out there that needs a section of driveway poured at his facility. We have a place down in Millville, Pittsburgh, mobile that has batches, he has a batching trucks and he’ll batch us 20 yards of concrete or whatever. And we’ll pour a section there. He always has something to pour. So that second week we actually take them on a jobsite forms and create real time, you know? And so the date that they have a real idea of just not, we first start them out in wet sand, just like you do. And at the beach, we start them off at wet sand and show them exactly how to straight edge, how to edge and everything. And then the next step is you. And then like that’s what we do the second week. We’ll find him something to pour. And sometimes we’ll even do community stuff like dugouts and little league field, or a set of steps or something like that, something that for a nonprofit, for profit organization. Perfect. Perfect. Yeah.

Chris Martin (13:22):

Yeah. With that said, what are some of the requirements that if I’m a high school senior hearing you talk or saying, ‘Hey, wait a second. I really want to do an adult job like this.’ What do I need to do to get involved?

Ron Stefaniak (13:37):

Okay, first of all, we cover 33 counties. So we’re not going to send you to one place to where you can get on a bus and go to work for the next 30 years. So we tell you, you have to have a driver’s license, you know, and then you have to have access to an automobile. Sometimes these young people, they don’t have any money yet. So grandma has a car, a grandfather has a car, as long as we have some sort of ownership that says, yeah, you know, an owner’s card, it says they have the ability to go to work social security card. Absolutely. They have to have it. We can take your applications before they’re 18 and get all the preliminaries done, but we can’t send them to work till they’re 18. So that’s a, you know, we can train them, we can get them ready, but then by June, the first after we get done with pre-apprenticeship in April, then they have to be ready. And you have to have a high school diploma or GED. And so we tell them, work on this. So it’s all out of the way. So there’s no roadblocks or obstacles to us getting you into the workforce.

Jon O’Brien (14:54):

And like you said, it’s a great time to get in.

Ron Stefaniak (15:00):

So I don’t know why you wouldn’t, let me leave you with this thought. So I asked myself, why did I decide to do this? I remember when I was in Catholic school, the nuns wanted me, they said, I liked art and they wanted to be an artist. Well, now I tell these young people that when I’m going to career fairs and stuff like that, I say our portrait is on the ground. Okay. My portrait is that concrete comes out of the truck and it looks like mother’s art or whatever at the end of the day, there’s your portrait. And so that’s the excitement, I look at myself as an artist. If I’m going to do your driveway or if I’m going to do you want to see some words street, go to Las Vegas and you’ll see, pervious concrete, you’ll see colored concrete, you’ll see polished concrete.

Ron Stefaniak (15:56):

And that’s just one example of the beauty of what we could do with something to I’ve got at a truck in the morning. So that’s what always floated my boat as far as taking something and developing a portrait. And so it’s that wow, that I do that at the end of the day, you know? And if you have the right team and mother nature support you as far as the beautiful day, no rain, no wind, all that kind of stuff. Then everything falls in line and it’s like, then you’re, you know, you’re happy, you know, you’re yeah. On a scale of one to 10, we always shoot for a 10. And so all those different things have to line up mother nature in a batching plant the correct amount of team work, you know, and so on and so forth.

Ron Stefaniak (16:46):

And then it’s like, yeah, I did my homework and everything’s great. So that’s it, every day is a challenge every day. And you have to have that kind of person that’s willing to accept that challenge. Just like it’s like the Steelers are playing somebody, you gotta be ready to go. That’s the way our industry is.

Chris Martin:

And yeah, I really love what you just said though, about how you were at you coming out of high school, you were in art, you liked art. You were really there, and you can apply that to the Cement Masons and your line of work. So any high school senior high school, junior out there, boy or girl, she can relate to that. And I think that’s important to help some of the younger kids now understand that you’re not going to go out on the job site and just be this nonstop hammer nails, and doing all these things. There’s an art form to it. There is a beauty to it. So thank you for sharing that. I think that’s great. That’s really good.

Jon O’Brien (17:44):

The market’s good. And the Cement Masons are looking for a future artists. So look them up

Ron Stefaniak (17:50):

I like that.

Chris Martin (17:51):

And if you’re interested in becoming a cement artist reach out to our friend here, Ron Stefanik. How can kids get a hold of you?

Ron Stefaniak (18:01):

Okay. First of all we have a website it’s www.opcmia526.org. Okay. And you can also look on the Builder’s Guild or apprentice order, but the Builders Guild of Western Pennsylvania, it’s very elaborate. And they highlight all the trades. So, if I get a young person that maybe not sure of wanting to be at Cement Mason, I just say, listen, we want you in our union family. So, we want you to follow your heart. So make yourself happy and pick one of the trades. If I’m not one of them, I still feel you’re in good hands because there’s no bad picks in the building trades of western Pennsylvania, none. You know what? You’re in. good hands.

Chris Martin (18:51):

That’s true. True.  Great advice for our young folks who are considering a construction trade. So thank you. Thank you. Well, thank you for joining us today on the Building PA Podcast and Ron, thank you for stopping by. I appreciate it. Thanks a lot, Ron, and tune into our next podcast. Again, that’s the Building PA Podcast and have a great day. Thank you.

Building PA Podcast Season 1, Episode 8: Meet Bill Sproule, EST of the Carpenters Union

For this episode we have a nice chat with the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters EST Bill Sproule. I’ve been fortunate to have known and learned from many great leaders, from sports coaches growing up to Navy enlisted and officers to many in the construction world. I feel like I know a great leader when I see one and from what I’ve seen I think the Carpenters in Pennsylvania have some sort of leadership factory. Each of the ESTs I’ve dealt with have been exemplary – Brooks, Waterkotte and now Sproule. The representatives and training staffs work tirelessly to do what’s best for the industry. And the carpenters in the field are the best at what they do. So I hope you enjoy this episode as you get to know the new EST, his experiences, leadership style and he even touches on worker misclassification too. Mr. Sproule is the real deal, man of his word and I think you’ll agree that comes across in this chat. To listen to the episode click here: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-building-pa-podcast-61501833/episode/labor-meet-the-est-of-61532378/.

Jon O’Brien (00:00):

Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Building Pennsylvania Podcast, a construction industry podcast, recorded right here in the great state of Pennsylvania for our Commonwealth’s best industry. I’m Jon O’Brien from the Keystone Contractors Association…

Chris Martin:

And this is Chris Martin with Atlas Marketing. Joining us today, we’re pretty proud of this and pretty excited about this. We have Bill Sproule, the EST – Executive Secretary Treasurer for the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters. Hello Bill.

Bill Sproule (00:34):

Good morning, gentlemen. Thank you very much for having me on the podcast.

Jon O’Brien (00:39):

Thank you. So you’ve been EST now year and a half, maybe two years now.

Bill Sproule (00:43):

Actually I was appointed EST in April of 2019 when a promotion took place. My former EST Bill Waterkotte was promoted to Eastern District Vice President for our International. So in April I was appointed to the job and then we had an upcoming election that took place in August, where I was elected to a four year term to represent what was then Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters. We just renamed the council due to the very unique and diverse territories that we have in the Eastern and Atlantic States. So I was elected to that position in August of 19. So I’m in the first year of my term.

Jon O’Brien (01:33):

There is a diverse territory that the Carpenters Council now covers. And the big question is: who is Bill Sproule? You want to introduce yourself to our contractors?

Bill Sproule (01:47):

Sure, absolutely. I’m a 31 year member of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. I got into the apprenticeship a little bit later. I was 22 years of age. When I finally got into the carpenter’s union back in 1989, it was pretty difficult to get in back then. I was trying in Philadelphia and I was trying down the shore and the Atlantic City area. And I grew up in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, but I spent my summers at the sure, but I’ve actually been in construction probably going back to the summer of 1981. I’ve been a roofer’s helper in the summers down the shore with some relatives that were involved in that business and actually got into Roofer’s Local 30 B, the residential arm of that on my 18th birthday in 1984. So I’ve basically been banging nails, carrying shingles, or doing carpentry, whether it’s interior systems or concrete you know, for quite some time now, although I was able to have the unique opportunity in 1999, I was working on the Brigantine tunnel connector project down in Atlantic city.

Bill Sproule (03:06):

I was a shop steward there with 90 Carpenters and one of our business representatives was considering retirement. And it blew me away when you know the business manager. And he came out to my site, which was the tunnel. It was a nice three year project, which you didn’t really see those kinds of jobs that often. And they asked me if I’d be interested in being a, you know, an organizer and a business representative. And I was actually able to make the cut and be the person that was hired for that position. And worked my way up. And it’s just been a learning experience ever since we’ve been an evolution of many regional councils. I started out as a rep in a council called the Southern New Jersey Regional Council of Carpenters. At that particular time, there were four councils in New Jersey.

Bill Sproule (04:06):

There were multiple councils in the state of Pennsylvania, and there were hundreds of locals in the region as well. It was almost like every County or, or even more than that had a local. So in 2002, there was some mergers that took place. And some consolidations and New Jersey was turned into a regional council as a whole, instead of four councils. And they still remained having like 26 local unions throughout the state at that time. But I had already been on staff and was learning the ropes. And then and I was promoted to senior representative and then organizing director and regional manager. At one point, I became the president of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters, which was a merger that took place in 2011. And you know things have just been evolving. The Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters was actually kind of disbanded and merged into KML and that occurred in 2018.

Bill Sproule (05:15):

And we were KML and I served as Bill Waterkotte’s assistant executive secretary treasurer, helping him run pretty much the whole Eastern side of the operation, which would be New Jersey Southeastern Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Valley right on down through Washington DC in Virginia. And then we went ahead and Bill moved up and we just petitioned the International for our name change. It’s funny, you know, Keystone Mountain Lakes was a great name when the former Greater PA Council merged with West Virginia. But when you add a New Jersey, Delaware, DC, Maryland, Virginia, to that mix, you know, we used to joke around what are we going to call this Keystone Mountain Lakes Bays and Estuaries. So we started thinking of what could the name be and unanimously in early December, each board meeting we kind of came to a conclusion that everybody was on board with Eastern Atlantic States. I wrote to the International to request to see if we can get a name change. And they actually granted that within a week or so. So we’re in a unique spot right now where we’re rebranding. We are building our website out and our apps and things like that. And getting all of our identity changed around to the new council and get looking at a new logo and things of that nature. So it’s a pretty exciting time.

Jon O’Brien (06:53):

Very exciting, indeed. Yeah. For the early on I kept calling them the Keystone Carpenters and then the KML name finally clicked with me and I started using KML and then it switches again and then I’m sure I’ll adapt.

Bill Sproule (07:10):

The only one that was frustrated with us changing the name again, I hear it every time I would encounter folks that I hadn’t seen in a while. And I think one of the things that pushed me over the edge to really fast track this was we had a group of representatives attend an event called the League of Municipalities in New Jersey down in Atlantic City. And it’s basically three days where every elected official from a municipal level, county level, state level converges on AC and there’s workshops and it’s a conference. Well, we actually did a booth this year and we had some of our folks down there and people were coming up and they would recognize the carpenter’s label or the insignia that we have had since 1881. But when they saw the KML, they’d be like what’s KML?

Bill Sproule (08:06):

And it just got to a point where we really needed to change our identity. And I think in another six months or another year or so people really recognize who we are: Eastern Atlantic States, and we are Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, and now Puerto Rico. And we actually have 10 counties in Northern North Carolina. What’s unique about this council, we have a 42,000 plus members at this time and a good majority of those members actually hail from Pennsylvania or New Jersey in those numbers. I got some numbers here for our Pennsylvania members, since we’re talking about the industry and the market and the diversity in the Keystone state, and we have 14,349 active members in the state, and we have 4,817 retired members in the State. So when you look at that you know, a really good percentage of our council is certainly domiciled here in Pennsylvania.

Jon O’Brien (09:17):

So different name, but same great partnership with the contractors. And you know, we just enjoy this relationship we have with the carpenters and let’s keep it going, but when it comes to your leadership style what sort of role and what can you pull on from your past experiences during your 31 years in the field and as a rep, is there certain people that kind of mentored you along and kind of guided you? Is there any certain experiences that really stick out to you?

Bill Sproule (09:50):

Absolutely. You know when I first started, well go back to the tools you know, being a roofer and then coming into the carpenters, I kind of thought I’d be able to just jump right in there and no sweat. I mean, I was strong, young, not afraid of heights you know, could handle a hammer and other tools and things of that nature. And I got dumped on a drywall job and I had never really done drywall. So I don’t know if you can imagine it. And I was tucked in the back of the Taj Mahal, you know, in the back Carter’s where they were doing triple layer dry wall. And the screws were like two and a half inches long. So starting out in that environment, on your first day, it was a little intimidating, but being that I worked with tools and I had a good construction background, I started picking it up pretty fast and became a really good interior systems carpenter, thanks to the journeymen that I had to work with.

Bill Sproule (10:55):

And although back then they used to torture the apprentices a bit, but they were very helpful in teaching us the craft. That’s something that we’re definitely getting away from is the old school where the hazing that used to take place, if you will it’s something that we’re definitely turning a corner on, and trying to avoid that, especially with the millennials you know, I’m a Gen Xer, and that’s how it was. And it was a great experience. I got to learn interior systems. I got to learn some finish work and then I got to get really good at and learn concrete work and high rises. I worked on several of the casino additions, as well as the tunnel and some bridges. So it was a very well rounded experience where I got to learn how to multitask and diversify my skills.

Bill Sproule (11:51):

I got to see the ups and downs, the cyclical nature of the business, you know, through booms and busts in the economy and got to learn how important it was to have a good reputation and be extremely productive if you want to make a good living. And you know, if you’ve got contractors that always want to try to get you on board, then you’re gonna make it through thick and thin. So that was a great experience. And then becoming a representative was kind of like starting all over again, because you got to imagine, I guess a 32 year old, I was working on concrete at the time, bolt bag and Spud, branch and formal, and, you know, just getting it. We had 50 foot by 30 foot gang forms on the tunnel that weighed 30 tons.

Bill Sproule (12:42):

And I was on that gang. I was a signal man and in the shop steward. And then next thing, you know, I’m walking into an office trying to figure out what to do with a fax machine. So it’s kinda funny to me, don’t even use those things anymore. But so I struggled a little bit for a short time in the office, just getting the hang of you know, wearing a tie and it wasn’t all office work. Obviously I was out in the field organizing and going on job sites and turning jobs around and gaining market share for our local and our members. But I think the best thing is I always had the mindset that you got to learn something new every day, no matter how experienced you are, there’s always somebody out there that’s going to probably teach us something.

Bill Sproule (13:31):

And then you know, as I get older now and move up in ranks in the position, you start to notice that you gotta actually be able to convey that same energy back to the people that are working for you so that they can learn. And you got to give them the opportunities to have failures and success at the same time. It’s the only way people are going to learn. So that’s kinda like my management style. I surround myself with a great team, my leadership team, everybody else, I expect them to work hard. This is not just a job. It’s more of a lifestyle. I can honestly say I probably log about 3000 hours plus a year. And I don’t expect everybody to do that. That’s what I have to do with my travels and everything else that’s going on, but I expect my people to work hard for the membership and we have a great team and I’m not afraid to surround myself with people that may even be smarter than I am, especially with the technology stuff we need folks that are great organizing things and great with the computer technology.

Bill Sproule (14:48):

I’ve been learning that as I go. And you know, I’m doing okay with it. I do read my emails, which is something in this day and age I never imagined that emails would be like the worst thing that you have to deal with in work. But just to give you an example, I come back from a vacation and I have over a thousand of the things. So, and I do read them some of the guys that have my job just basically say, you know, they leave it up to other folks to track them down about the important emails and all that stuff. But for whatever reason, I’m a glutton for punishment. I stay on top of things and try to multitask and try to lead this organization the best I can, but I honestly gotta say it used to be, I used to say a hundred phone calls, suck the life out here. And that’s when I was a new business agent, dispatching members to work and fielding phone calls and taking care of problems. But now it’s you know, I’d love to have maybe half those phone calls and maybe half less the emails that I deal with. And I think the world would be a better place

Chris Martin (16:05):

Bill, You’re not alone in that because I can say definitively, I feel your pain. That email volume is about the same for me. So I hear ya. Thank you for that introduction to yourself and letting our listeners understand a little bit more about Bill as Jon put it. But I, from my experience in the past, working with with the KML you know, we did website, we did newsletters, we did some other things, presentations and helping on the political side. I know personally that the carpenters have some issues that you want to rectify. Can you talk a little bit about some of those issues and how that’s affecting the vision and the direction that you’re taking in the future.

Bill Sproule (16:55):

Absolutely. Chris I think that the number one issue facing not only the carpenters, but many other trades in the construction industry is a misclassification, the underground economy tax fraud in the construction industry. And it mostly pertains to private sector. In some States you, you see it even in the public sector, work in the prevailing wage where there’s a lax enforcement of the regs and laws. But when you look at the amount of construction workers that are working off the books, just think about every one of those construction workers working off the books, there’s multiple victims and, you know, average people from other occupations do not realize that they’re victims of this as well. And basically what happens is when you have a workforce that’s not helping contribute into local state, County taxes, federal taxes, and things of that nature it creates less opportunities for young people that want to move into the construction trade.

Bill Sproule (18:11):

Not to mention legitimate contractors that have small, medium and large size businesses that have, you know, made their bones in this industry are under siege by this problem, because there’s no way to compete when a developer or an end user or somebody decides that they would rather not use union labor to try to save a few bucks. And the bottom line is that the general contractors that use the unscrupulous subcontractors that operate in this manner still make a ton of money. Margins are off the charts for the subs, because they’re not paying proper workman’s comp, they’re not paying taxes, and they’re exploiting a workforce where they’re violating state and federal laws, you know, labor laws and things of that nature. And it’s something that is an epidemic in some States. And in other States, it’s kind of just been growing and growing.

Bill Sproule (19:17):

And I’m going to say, you know, 30 some years ago when I was a roofer, you never really saw too much of this, not even with the home builders. And, but then it started happening in the residential industry. And then I think when the housing bust took place you know, before the great recession and everything, that’s when it really took off in the commercial industry where these unscrupulous subcontractors and, you know, developers and people that are looking to cut corners and make more money on their investments and save money would rather go down that path then and use a legitimate contractor that pays their workers, fair wages, benefits, and it’s just devastating to the industry. And if it keeps going unchecked and keeps growing we have a real battle on our hands. I deal with this you know in the DC Virginia market and the Maryland markets are ravaged by this practice.

Bill Sproule (20:22):

New Jersey probably has about 35 to 40,000 construction workers. They are working off the books. We’re starting to see it in places like Jersey City and up in the big urban areas now where multimillion dollar projects are being done with crews that are second, third tier subcontractors off the books, and we’re trying to get state government to step up. We know right now, federal government’s not going to do much about it. They’ve been watering down the IRS ever since going back probably two or three presidents ago. And it’s something that this is our battle cry. We did rallies last year in multiple locations on a tax day, April 15th, and we’re gearing up to do it again. And we’re going to continue to educate the public elected officials and anyone we can about this issue and how it affects everybody.

Jon O’Brien (21:24):

Absolutely. It’s a, it’s a huge issue. And I proudly stood with my carpenter friends at some of those rallies spoke at some of the rallies, testified alongside the carpenters. I just got to commend you and your staff and your people for doing an excellent job shedding light on this very serious issue. So Bravo to you, keep it up.

Bill Sproule (21:46):

Thank you very much, Jon.

Jon O’Brien (21:48):

Yeah. Any other big issues that you guys are looking at?

Bill Sproule (21:54):

Absolutely. You know, the industry apprenticeships that the United States Department of Labor and President Trump, I’ve been considering and there was actually a period of time where you could write in and comment on what you as an individual or an organization thought about that stuff. And I know there was hundreds of thousands of responses. We were very proactive. I have seven joint apprentice training funds that I co-chair throughout our council. And we had everyone of our training directors help weigh in on the issue. And we created a response that was kind of a collaboration throughout the council on why this should not happen in the construction industry. And when you look at some of the apprentice programs that have been active outside of the union trades and ours in particular, the UBC carpenter apprentice programs, they’re very watered down.

Bill Sproule (23:06):

There was no clear way of identifying whether or not people are actually fulfilling their obligations with their actual training. And they’re on the job training hours and things of that nature. And quite frankly, there was little or no data out there that actually proves that there’s even graduations and folks that are succeeding on to becoming journey folks. On the other hand, when you look at our stuff, it’s very regimented it’s dollar earned either by the States or the Bureau of Apprenticeship Training. And I had came through the program and I’m extremely proud that I did. And I think it’s a shame that there’s forces out there that want to water this down and allow the same contractors that I was talking about earlier that practice payroll fraud and cheat day in and day out to actually insinuate that they have an apprentice program and have apprentices on their projects that they’re trying to mentor and help them become journey people and create a long lasting career for them because it’s total BS.

Bill Sproule (24:23):

I mean, it’s absurd, but you know, we just have to keep fighting the fight. Our adversaries think that because of what’s going on down in Washington right now, and the administration that they’ve got the upper hand, but the reality is there’s nothing better than a union apprenticeship in this country when it comes to trades, especially when it comes to carpenters, millwrights, dock builders, floor layers, and a perfect example of that is yesterday. When I was out at the Shell Cracker plant, the contractor out there, it’s an offshoot of Bechtel, which everybody knows they’re huge you know, multinational contractor. They actually work all over the world, but the contractor called great Arrow Builders, which is the signatory that is employing a lot of our folks out there and self performing a lot of different things.

Bill Sproule (25:23):

From the scaffold, we have scaffolded subcontractors out there was over 1100 workers on that site right now that are UBC members, carpenters, millwrights, scaffold builders, there’s 240 apprentices on that site. And when I tell you what an organized well-run efficient, safe job site that was to tour yesterday and be down in the labyrinths of a $6 billion project, it was totally amazing. And what I heard from talking to some of the folks, some of our people, was that a similar project had recently been built, I guess, over the past five or eight years down in Louisiana. And it was the same type of a project. And it was before they were considering coming up into this area and doing the Cracker Plant. And basically there’s milestones that have been met on this project where we’ve absolutely out shined the performance of the workers down in Louisiana.

Bill Sproule (26:34):

That was an open shop job. And although, you know, people may not come out and admit it from the corporate world and all that stuff. It’s leaking out there that man, you know, the folks in Western PA that are on that project and all the traveling trades people from the carpenter’s union and all the other unions that are out there building that magnificent facility are doing a knockdown job. I mean, it’s incredible the praise that they’re getting, the safety record, things of that nature. So, we just have to keep making sure that we are promoting what we really are. We are the best in the business: we’re well-trained, we’re professionals. We promote ongoing training and journeymen upgrade, and there should be no reason why any medium or large construction site should ever consider not using those types of workers to build their buildings or their facilities or whatever it is that they’re constructing.

Jon O’Brien (27:49):

Amen to that well said. Yeah. I do a lot of outreach to the clients and the end users, you know, promoting our contractors. And when asked about the workforce, a common word I always use is spoiled. I say, our contractors are spoiled because of the carpenters that we employ on our job sites, you know from the quality construction, safety, and reliable drug free and just a world class best training program. So, we’re spoiled. So thank you for that. Thank you for spoiling us contractors.

Bill Sproule (28:30):

Absolutely done. I want to give you another quick example. Something just popped into my head. That is a perfect real life example of you get what you pay for. There’s a project that unfortunately went open shop down on the coast down in Monmouth County. It’s in Asbury park. And it’s an one of the types of projects that I actually get pretty upset when my team tells me: ”Oh, well, sorry, boss you know that one’s not us. It’s you know, it went non-union.: We’ve been doing investigations. The project might not even be done yet. It’s probably four years in the making, or maybe they’re close. They’re probably gonna try to turn key it maybe by this summer, but it’s a large probably like a 22 story condominium building rather large.

Bill Sproule (29:27):

And, and they went in there and they’ve been pecking away at this thing. And as you know, time is money. So they got very unscrupulous, low budget contractors in there to get their best price points. But when it came to the interior systems piece, they had hired someone that we know is no good. And basically hires people off the books and then hires the third tier subs. You hire people that just show up and it’s just a real mess, a hot mess. Well, the interior guys had all the doors and hardware as well in their contract. And I learned, I guess about six months ago that one of our signatory contractors that specializes in doors and hardware had to go in on a, we won’t even call it a punch list because it was basically every door, every piece of hardware in this whole building.

Bill Sproule (30:30):

And I’m probably talking about 400 plus condominiums that are in this place. They had to go into this site and practically fix everything. And my point is we do it right the first time, the punch lists are very minimal. Time is money and you get what you pay for. And I’m actually going to follow back up and try to find out from our subcontractor how many hours they logged, fixing every one of those doors and in this multimillion dollar mid-rise building, and hopefully utilize that as a poster child for developers and end users to certainly consider hiring the right contractors that use the best labor force in the industry to do their projects. Yes, indeed. Yeah.

Jon O’Brien (31:24):

Yeah. If you don’t mind sharing any, any sort of case studies that you have, I’m always promoting the contractors, like I said earlier. But yeah, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the discussion, like to keep it up. And Chris, do you have anything you want to add?

Chris Martin:

Oh, Bill, this has been great. It’s been a great chance to get to know you a little bit more and hear your work style and the approach that you bring. So thank you very much. I’m pretty sure our listeners are going to be very happy and hopefully you’ll be hearing from a lot of the KCA members and even other folks in the construction industry in the future.

Bill Sproule (32:03):

Sure. Thank you, Chris. Absolutely. I look forward to it. Guys, I got one more thing I want to bring to your attention, Jon. I haven’t been able to talk to you about this only because it seems like I get a little break and then I’m shot out of a cannon and then all the races again, I think, you know, being on seven health and welfare pension funds kind of keeps me busy every quarter alone, but we just developed a new department within KML and now Eastern Atlantic States called Industry & Labor Compliance. And I have them working hand in hand with our Political Department, our Communications Department and our Organizing Department. I’m starting to commingle these groups into one unit. That’ll basically also work with each region, like the guys out in Lebanon and up in Scranton and out in Duncansville, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, you name it.

Bill Sproule (33:04):

But we did case studies on every state within our council and we know what the laws are on the books against the unscrupulous contractors, as well as the prevailing wage laws. And the new gentleman that I hired for this department is very well versed. And he’s already conducted a couple of hundred forensic audits and we’ve filed complaints with various Department of Labors. Primarily started off in New Jersey cause that’s where he was very familiar with issues, but I have him now educating my teams in Pennsylvania and working with L & I in Harrisburg. We’re looking at Maryland, we’re looking at Delaware, we’re looking at DC, Virginia, but you’re going to hear more and more about this. And we’re trying to plan something right now. And I guess I’m going to have to break this up into regions, but we would like to invite the contractors to come in, meet us and hear about what we’re doing with this new department.

Bill Sproule (34:01):

So once I can figure out when we might be able to schedule something, instead of doing multiple meetings I’m thinking maybe we have Jon, your association come in, maybe I’ll invite the guys from the Pittsburgh area and as well as maybe we’ll do it in Philadelphia and Ben Connors and GBCA, and all those folks will come in. And we’d like to share with you some of the stuff that we’re building here, that’s going to be a very powerful, excuse me, as well as help us fight this issue that we have at hand.

Jon O’Brien (34:41):

Sounds amazing. That sounds awesome. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it and meeting this gentleman. And I can tell you firsthand, whenever I discuss this topic about labor compliance and labor issues with the contractors, and I tell them what the carpenters are doing, at first there was a little hesitation, like, are you sure they’re doing all this? You know, but now they hear directly from the reps and they know that yes, you guys are doing a lot on the issue. And we’re ready to work with you more on the issue. So yeah, it’s very exciting for us.

Bill Sproule (35:15):

Yeah. I think you’re going to see a lot in the next six months with regards to this you know, it used to be some of the representatives were pretty tenacious with this kind of stuff, but it was very limited. And I set out to try to start to educate them and it’s almost like not enough time in a day. You know, a lot of these guys feel like they’re multitasking, but by having this specific department now that can help do a lot of the administrative work and a lot of the tedious stuff that has to be done in order to file a proper complaint. We’re up and running. And you know, I can tell the unscrupulous contractors with all sincerity that we’re coming to a town near, you

Jon O’Brien (36:03):

Let’s do this. I’m excited. I can imagine there’s going to be a few unscrupulous contractors shaking a little bit here. Cause the force of the carpenters coming after him, it was going to be quite impressive.

Bill Sproule (36:17):

Yeah. We’ve already got that going on. Actually, we’ve actually signed a couple of outfits that were ABC affiliates over in Jersey because of this endeavor. So they decided to come over from the dark side. So I’m really looking forward to this program.  

Chris Martin (36:35):

Well Bill thank you for giving us the time today. I appreciate you helping us understand a little bit more about the EAS and the transition that you’re going through and look forward to many more conversations here on Building PA podcast.

Bill Sproule (36:51):

Yeah, absolutely. Gentlemen, I appreciate you having me this morning and have a wonderful rest of the week and we’re going to get off to the rest of our business that we have out here in the lovely town of Pittsburgh. Thank you, gentlemen. Have a good day. Bye bye.