Improving Project Outcomes: Advice to Owners, Designers & Builders

Improving Project Outcomes is an ongoing, open discussion among construction industry stakeholders in Pennsylvania.  Established in 2017, these collaboration colloquies are held three to four times a year and have been hosted by leading construction organizations in our Commonwealth. 

In 2020, CMAA Central PA, COAA PA, CSI Central PA, DBIA Alleghenies and KCA set out to find the best pieces of advice for industry stakeholders.  With the construction industry well represented by all stakeholders, we held three different events: 1. Advice to Owners from Builders & Designers; 2. Advice to Designers from Owners & Builders; and, 3. Advice to Builders from Owners & Designers. Below are the three lists that our five organizations believe can help Improve Project Outcomes:

To watch the unveiling of these lists at an Improving Project Outcome session visit: IPO 2021 Kickoff featuring Advice to Stakeholders.

Advice for Owners!

1. Involve more End-Users/Maintenance personnel in the design process (early)! 

2. HOLD Team Members Accountable! 

3. Expect Lean Techniques/Principles, continuous improvement process 

4. Stand behind QA/QC schedule 

5. Review Qualifications before price! 

6. Increase FEES! 

7. Improve communication flow Architects/Vendors

8. More clearly define Stakeholders 

9. Security/Safety, same as everything else! 

10. More Time Upfront and better Early Stage Decision Making, alternatives/innovation 

11. Project Delivery decision, earlier

12. Support the Use of Technology

13. Continuity of Expectations 

14. Design for Future Flexibility 

Advice for Designers!

1. More transparency into the design process – more collaboration and better collaboration early! 

2. Improve leadership during preconstruction and construction

3. FUN, more FUN

4. More construction visits and better strategy for CA. 

5. Make sure young designers get field experience!

6. Design to Budget, process in place. 

7. Must consider tolerances in Design! 

8. More exploration for Renovation work!

9. Adhere to agreed upon Design Schedule. 

10.Get to know each other, Team Building! 

11. Decision-Making! Include life-cycle cost analysis!

12. Understand the complete budget! 

13. Open to and Understand DA

14.Continuous estimating and Lean principles, get smart.  

Advice for Builders!

1. Open Lines of Communication – more collaboration and better collaboration early! 

2. Bring Solutions to the table, not RFI’s! 

3. More FUN! Team Building! Trades too. 

4. Realistic/Achievable Schedules, do not over promise!  

5. Understand Scope and Goals for project, ensure quality time during preconstruction when invited! 

6. Utilize Value-Adding Technology, develop plan for project and get the model to the field. 

7. Involve Entire Team in Pursuit Presentations, want to hear from key Superintendents/Project Managers/Foreman! 

8. Remove the Waste, explore prefabrication, bring it! 

9. Push for Design Assist, we need to stop complaining about the design!

10. Continuous Estimating, figure it out, please! 

NOTE: Safety is extremely important to all organizations, companies and professionals associated with Improving Project Outcomes.  Each session starts with a Safety Minute and we have held Safety sessions too.  It was discussed that Safety is an area that Owners, Designers and Builders embrace, and all the stakeholders care about the health and welfare of everyone associated with their projects.  While Safety is not a Top 10 list, we felt it was important to include this item on our publication because we all celebrate Safety!

To request information on Improving Project Outcomes or to be alerted of upcoming sessions, please contact Jon O’Brien – 717-884-2801 or Jon@KeystoneContractors.com.

EVENT: 2020 Lessons Learned from PA Safety Directors

A Zoom webinar titled “2020 Lessons Learned from Pennsylvania Safety Directors” will be held virtually on Tuesday, January 26 at 3:00 PM.

2020 was a year like none other. The commercial construction industry had to change the way it operates to keep its workers safe. Hear from safety directors from across Pennsylvania as they share lessons learned and look ahead to 2021.

The esteemed panel features:

  • Darren Rech of Alexander Building Construction Company
  • Don Tracey of Quandel Construction
  • Mike Penrod of Rycon Construction
  • Tom Scott of McClure Company
  • Moderated by Bob McCall of the Master Builders’ Association

To register please email the Keystone Contractors Association (SethKohr@KeystoneContractors.com).

KCA Announces Virtual Legislative Event – Feb 1 at 10 AM

TITLE: Legislative Insiders Provide Insights to the 2021/22 Pennsylvania General Assembly Session

WHEN: Monday, February 1st at 10:00 AM

VIRTUAL: KCA’s Zoom Channel

If you’re wondering what may happen in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania during this upcoming legislative session, then this is the event for you. Listen to respected capital insiders as they share their opinions on the upcoming legislative session.

This event features:

  • Stephen Caruso of Pennsylvania Capital-Star
  • Alex Halper of Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry
  • Jan Murphy of PennLive/ The Patriot-News
  • John Wanner of Wanner Associates
  • Moderated by Jon O’Brien of Keystone Contractors Association/ General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania

To register please email the Keystone Contractors Association (SethKohr@KeystoneContractors.com).

Building PA Podcast Season 1, Episode 13: Building a Safety Culture at Leibold Inc.

Introduction: When I was hired at the Keystone Contractors Association, I explained how 90% of my construction contacts are Pittsburgh-based and I would welcome being introduced to others in the industry located around Pennsylvania.  KCA Board of Director Dave Jones of Cresswell Brothers was one of the first to offer help: “Hey Jon you should call Clayton Leibold.  He runs an impressive operation and places a strong emphasis on safety.” I’m glad Dave made that suggestion.  Clayton operates Leibold Inc., a mechanical contractor based in Pottsville, PA.  His company is highly respected in the industry due to its reliability, production and excellence in safety.  But how did Leibold come to be a safety-first operation? Listen to this Building PA Podcast interview to find out.

 

To listen to the entire interview visit: Building a Safety Culture at Leibold Inc.

Jon O’Brien (00:03):

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Building PA Podcast, a construction industry podcast taped and recorded right here in the great state of Pennsylvania for our wonderful construction industry. I am Jon O’Brien from the Keystone Contractors Association.

Chris Martin:

And I’m Chris Martin with Atlas Marketing, and we tell stories for people who build things.

Jon O’Brien:

Awesome. Good stuff. Hello, Chris, how are we doing today?

Chris Martin:

Hey, Jon, how are you doing today? I’m looking forward to our discussion today.

Jon O’Brien:

It should be fun. We’re talking safety today. We have a Clayton Leibold from Leibold Inc.. A fine mechanical contractor based in the great town of Pottsville, Pennsylvania. Hello Clay.

Clayton Leibold (00:47):

Hello. How are you doing today?

Jon O’Brien (00:49):

Good. Doing great. Doing good. Well, you are joining us and we’re going to talk safety. And this is part of our safety podcast series we’re calling, Building a Safety Culture.  Your company has been a member now I believe three years, going on three years at the KCA, which is awesome. And during that time, your company has taken home two of the KCA safety awards for safest subcontractor under 50,000 man hours worked with, this is the important part, with zero injuries. So you’re going on a two year streak here, zero injuries. So who better to speak with concerning safety culture, then an award winning safety contractor that places a strong emphasis in the area safety. So welcome to the podcast. Yeah like I said, we’re gonna talk safety here. So you know, you want to touch on your company and just first off, maybe introduce yourself and your company and then we can kind of delve into the safety topic.

Clayton Leibold (02:07):

Sure, sure. So, as you mentioned my name is Clayton Leibold, the owner and president of Leibold Incorporated. We’re a full mechanical HVAC sheet metal and piping contractor located here in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. We are going on eight years in business. My company has been going to be in business for eight years here, but I personally have been in the construction industry and in the field for going on 24 years as a union pipe fitter. So that’s kinda my background. And then as I mentioned, my company was formed about eight years ago and we, you know, serve as all of, pretty much all of Pennsylvania and surrounding States. And we do, you know, emphasize safety as a very important part and aspect of our job and our day to day activities in, in the field.

Jon O’Brien (03:16):

Now, concerning safety, is something that was kind of instilled in you during your 24 years working in the field prior to starting your company?

Clayton Leibold (03:27):

Yeah, it was early on, I could tell that obviously safety is important in the field and it was kind of brought to our attention on a regular basis and we always strive to do things in the safest manner. As you know, going back 24 years, as it’s starting out as an apprentice, obviously you are learning every day and things and certain incidences come up and hopefully you learn from them and can grow and understand how things work, how and why safety is so important, especially in the construction industry, in our field with so many things that could happen you know, on the job site related to heavy objects, multiple things that can occur that we may or may not have control of.

Clayton Leibold (04:31):

So my foreman, project managers I feel did a good job from early on instilling the simple fact that safety is so important. And if you want to continue to do your job, be healthy and continue to be able to do the job that you’re wanting to do it in the proper correct manner. And just be aware of your surroundings and always have it on your mind and kinda remain, not get too laid back in your day to day activities.

Chris Martin (05:13):

Clayton with your experience and clearly you have some amazing experiences leading into this, but what do you see as the biggest challenge for not only the safety industry, but more importantly, the construction industry as it relates to safety?

Clayton Leibold (05:31):

Probably maybe overcoming the jobsite hurdles, the things that are constantly brought up and in the day to day active daily activities of being on site, your timelines are getting shorter and shorter. Things are being accelerated, whether whatever the reason maybe, but I think we all have to keep in mind that can’t compromise the safety of how the job is getting done. And the manner that you do it. So I would say the more recent trend maybe of trying to do as much work as possible in a very short timeframe you know, we just can’t, we can look past or beyond the fact of just doing it in a safe manner.

Chris Martin (06:30):

You know, the construction industry has a, we’ve been talking about it with clients on our end. And I know Jon and I have spoken about it multiple times, and that is a worker shortage. Are you finding that in the safety industry as well? Are you having a hard time finding qualified safety professionals?

Clayton Leibold (06:53):

You know not as hard as someone may think. It is I guess the fact that the construction industry is experiencing a shortage in some fields with us being a union mechanical construction company, we have a good source for competent well-trained individuals up and coming through our apprenticeship programs. So the good key individuals are there to be found. And we’ve had good luck with taking some key employees – foreman, project managers – and kind of molding them into good safety individuals. So, you know, it kind of worked out real well good for us because I feel they’re the best and most competent because we’re taking their field expertise and knowledge and just fine tuning that and molding them into a good safety individual to lead and lay the foundation for the rest of our company as far as the safety program goes

Jon O’Brien (08:17):

And concerning new hires. And when you bring someone on new, either in the field or a project manager is onboarding a challenge at all, as far as making sure that these new hires also believe in safety and they buy into the safety cultures. Is that a challenge at all with new people?

Clayton Leibold (08:40):

Yeah, it can be especially maybe the younger generation or someone that’s not had the experience of being in the field, seeing examples of how safety is so important and possibly not experiencing near misses or smaller accidents that might catch their attention. If they don’t have that knowledge and if they’re coming from a field or something, or straight out of maybe, you know college or high school that just don’t have the experience it is harder, but we just have to take the time to educate them and give them the proper paperwork, the information the protocol of how we operate as a company. And we just have to make sure they understand it and abide by it because it’s not going to be taken lightly. And that’s what I would expect from all my employees. So it’s something that needs to be done and done correctly, or it’s just not going to work out.

Jon O’Brien (09:55):

Yeah. And I’m getting to know your company more and more, you know, we’re a few hours apart, but I’m getting to know your company more. And it seems as though there’s a buy-in amongst your foreman and your top people in the field and in the office on safety, and I’m sure that’s extremely helpful when it comes to onboarding. Do you have any advice to other companies, like how do you get the buy-in or I don’t know if you can touch on that a little bit.

Clayton Leibold (10:23):

Sure, sure. It is difficult at times to make sure that everybody is buying in. It’s important to have the top guys in our safety program leading by example showing that their fellow employees have someone to take after, or look up to, or just bounce questions off of, or conditions of a job site maybe, or someone there to offer some advice or guidance if they would have questions. But as long as they’re there leading by example, getting the rest of the crews to buy in and understand, that’s a way of doing business, that’s the way that I want the culture of the company to be like. And you know, they’re there to make a point that we’re going to discuss safety on a weekly, even daily basis.

Clayton Leibold (11:28):

And that’s what is expected and it is gonna have to happen. And if you just keep driving home that point eventually they believe that it does make sense. And there is proof that it works obviously we’re winning some safety awards and are zero injuries in the field speaks to that so if they see the results and as the results are compounding and building we are on a, knock on wood, a pretty good streak here of not having any work injuries in over three years. So they see the results. And I think it’s easier for them to buy in and accept it as a way of the daily routine.

Chris Martin (12:30):

Yeah. It’s obviously no accident in three years. That’s a great run. And obviously the buy in is there. Also maybe touch on outside resources? I mean, do you reach outside the company to help with maybe training at all? You mentioned the unions, are they helpful at all?

Clayton Leibold (12:50):

Yeah. Yep. They’re very helpful. We belong to a couple different associations, similar to Keystone Contractors Association. We affiliated with SMACNA Sheet Metal Contractors Association, also the MCAA, the Mechanical Contractors Association, and they do offer a wealth of continued education, safety seminars, conferences you know on a regular basis. So we do lean towards them with providing additional valuable tools such as the toolbox talks, the guidelines, some additional safety information that we can implement and add to our portfolio. It cannot hurt to have too much information. You don’t want to keep repeating certain things or harp on certain conditions or aspects. It’s always good to mix it up a bit.

Jon O’Brien (13:58):

Do you have any advice, maybe you’d like to share with a young entrepreneur that wants to start out in industry advice, safety related obviously. There’s various pieces of advice you can give someone, but when it comes to starting a construction company, anything you’d like to share

Clayton Leibold (14:21):

I would say there’s no real, no good example where taking a shortcut in safety, whether it’s your employee, yourself, your fellow employees, or your coworkers, there’s no good reason to do any shortcuts that would compromise the safety of anyone. It would really benefit anyone and would certainly do more harm than good by possibly causing accidents. Whether, like I said, to yourself or to others just for the simple reason that it might be quicker to do a certain task, one way that may be a little bit more unsafe or whatever the reason may be. I just wouldn’t recommend any shortcuts or trying to compromise doing something in a safe way. I actually have had the experience where I had to make a tough call and tell my guys to pull off of a job just for the sole reason that it was unsafe. And it wasn’t a popular decision. The customer was not happy, but in the long run, after further explanation from my point of view, he understood it and ultimately was okay with it and then thanked me. So that’s just a brief example of doing something correctly to not compromise potentially unsafe condition.

Chris Martin (16:11):

Clayton, that’s a great example of safety first, not only for your company, for your employees, but also for the client and the fact that the client came back and said, thank you, hats off to you for that, because that just doesn’t happen that often. But, but my question to you is do you find that a lot of your clients aren’t really focused on safety?

Clayton Leibold (16:38):

You know, honestly I don’t, we don’t. We are finding even more and more of our customers and clients are gearing up and leaning more towards a much safer environment, working environment and job site conditions and working conditions and doing the certain tasks that we were hired to do in the most safe, the safest manner possible. So maybe it’s cause we have some pretty good customers and clients, but I do feel.

Clayton Leibold (17:12):

We definitely work in some very sensitive facilities where that the unsafe type of work is just not tolerated. So we can’t afford to do anything but the job, but do the job safely because we just won’t be working there any longer. So I’ve found that the more, I can honestly say most of our customers and clients expect us and hold us to a very high safety standard. And that’s probably one of the main reasons we continue to be safe is we, we also have that in the back of our minds that if we don’t do this the right way, we may not be working here, not only for my company, but at that facility anyway.

Jon O’Brien (18:06):

Right, right. And I think too, you know, to your point that the entire industry has obviously put a huge emphasis on safety over the last 20 to 30 years, at least, we’ve even seen it with our clients you know, working with trade unions and, and contractors that we go on photo shoots and we know we can’t take photography or video of certain elements because there has to be a certain safety functionality to it. If not, it shows the wrong story or gives the wrong message if you will. So I think you’re right. It’s a balance of everybody understanding how important safety is to move the industry forward and get out of the typical thoughts and perception of the industry itself. So I’m glad to hear that from both you and your company and your clients. That’s great. That’s great. Right? Yep. Kinda done a lot to me. We touched on a lot here today, Chris, any other questions or comments or to say Clayton thank you. This has been really enlightening. And hopefully we can ask you back in the future and we can talk more about safety as it relates, not only to your company, but talk a little bit more about your company in general too.

Clayton Leibold (19:29):

Sure. Sounds good. I appreciate the time that we’re able to take in and continue to shed some light on a safety culture within the skilled trades sector and of the construction industry, and I’m happy to happy to help.

Jon O’Brien (19:52):

Absolutely. And you have been an award winning contractor. Of course, we’d like to have you back on, but I got to have one request. If we have you back in the future, we have to record it at your company. Chris, you have to see the farm. He has goats, horses. I believe you have horses and pigs and you name it. I love it.

Clayton Leibold (20:18):

Sure. We’re happy to show some folks around when we have visitors. We just had a baby donkey last week. So she’s she’s pretty darn cute. So she’s hanging around here, she’s always fun to hang around with. So it works out pretty well. Yeah.

Chris Martin (20:36):

Well, yeah, I’m there, man. I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a baby donkey, so that’ll be interesting.

Clayton Leibold (20:46):

Sure, absolutely.

Chris Martin (20:48):

All the stuff we talk about here. It’s not just about construction, right. It’s awesome.

Jon O’Brien (20:53):

Yeah.

Chris Martin (20:54):

Very cool. Yeah. Well, thank you for your time here. This is an excellent conversation and we look forward to seeing the baby donkey.

Clayton Leibold (21:05):

That sounds good. Anytime. Thanks for having me.

Building PA Podcast 2020 Year In Review

The Building PA Podcast made it to the 2020 finish line. The Keystone Contractors Association enjoyed working with Atlas Marketing in this endeavor as we talk construction with Pennsylvania’s construction professionals. Afterall, it was the guests who were the true stars of this podcast and we thank each and every guest we’ve had on the show. In 2021 and beyond, we look forward to getting more of you to join the conversation!

For more information on the Building PA Podcast, please visit: https://buildingpapodcast.com/

Building PA Podcast Shareable 2020 Fun Facts

Building PA Podcast published 46 episodes in 2020. The first was Business of Construction – Crisis communications published April 03 and the last was How Drone Technology is Impacting the Construction Industry published December 14. Did we improve this year? (Tweet)

In 2020, the most popular episode of Building PA Podcast was Apprenticeship Training – Sheet Metal Workers, published April 05 and downloaded 208 times. What was your favorite episode? (Tweet)

In 2020, Building PA Podcast was downloaded 902 times from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; our most popular city! Where do you listen from? (Tweet)

In 2020, fans of Building PA Podcast listened most using Apple Podcasts, iHeartRadio, and Your Buzzsprout Site apps. What’s your favorite app for listening to podcasts? (Tweet)

In 2020, Building PA Podcast published 46 episodes totaling about 21 hours of content. That’s about 1,250 minutes or 75,018 seconds for your listening pleasure. What was your favorite episode?(Tweet)

Building PA Podcast Season 1, Episode 12: The Joys of Being a Small Business Owner in the Construction Industry

Introduction: I don’t know if jealousy is the word to describe it. Nah that’s not the right word to describe it. I think it’s admiration – yeah that’s it. I admire business owners, especially the ones who started from scratch. I love when we interview business owners on the Building PA Podcast so we can hear about their launch, the challenges they faced and how they overcame those challenges. My co-host Chris Martin is a fellow business owner and I think it’s awesome when he interacts and shares experiences with our entrepreneur guests. Here’s a transcript of a podcast interview of Sandra Palone. Checkout her story, it’s a good one. I hope it inspires future entrepreneurs.

To listen to the entire interview visit: The Joys of Being a Small Business Owner in the Construction Industry.

Jon O’Brien (00:00):

Hello, and welcome to another episode of Building Pennsylvania, a construction podcast for Pennsylvania’s construction industry. I am Jon O’Brien from the Keystone Contractors Association.

Chris Martin:

And this is Chris Martin with Atlas Marketing.

Jon O’Brien:

Hello, Chris, how are we doing today?

Chris Martin:

Oh, I’m doing well, Jon. Hopefully little technical challenges aren’t going to screw us up, but hey, we’re doing really well.

Jon O’Brien:

Yes we are. And let’s hope. Yeah. Let’s hope there’s no issues. We have a great, great guest today. We have Sandra Palone from Palone and Associates. Hello, Sandra.

Sandra Palone (00:39):

Hi. And if I may Sandra Palone and Associates.

Jon O’Brien (00:44):

Oh, I’m sorry. Oh, okay. You got it. Sorry about that mistake. Welcome. And today we want to talk about a woman owned companies in the industry and you know, you’ve been around a few years. Well, you know, instead of me, why don’t you just give us a little history on your company and get us up to date on your company?

Sandra Palone (01:07):

Sure. Let’s see. I’m going to try to keep this brief. I opened the doors of Sandra Palone and Associates in 2015. So we’re about four and a half now. It’s been an interesting ride. I started the company as mainly a manufacturer’s representative for specialty precast concrete items and construction. That’s my background and I have grown into also now supplying of precast products, certain kinds. And I also do some consultation if you will. Whether it’s in the form of doing onsite representation for manufacturers of precast or other types of materials now. But that’s where we’ve gone from. We’ve gone from being a rep to a rep and a supplier and also to some consulting,

Jon O’Brien (02:10):

Pretty amazing four and a half years, time flies.

Sandra Palone (02:15):

It feels like it flies. And then it feels sometimes like it’s going very slowly. But it’s been really, really interesting.

Jon O’Brien (02:26):

And your market, is it public or private and what kind of your territory as far as what bridges do you cover?

Sandra Palone (02:34):

So my primary market is Pennsylvania. So quite honestly whether it’s Western Pennsylvania, center of the State or in the Eastern part, all over Pennsylvania, mid Atlantic overall, I would say that my secondary state is Maryland at this time. And those are the two areas where I have my WBE women business enterprise certifications as well. So I spend a fair amount of time in the public sector, as well as in commercial construction.

Jon O’Brien (03:17):

And concerning the certification, the WBE certification. You said two States, so Pennsylvania and Maryland, any lessons learned you’d like to pass on the future company owners or is that, or are we not have enough time for that?

Sandra Palone (03:35):

Well I will say this if I believe that the women business enterprise or the, what they call the disadvantaged is what it’s currently called. It’s kind of a bit of a umbrella term disadvantaged business enterprise, otherwise known as DBE. I think that these particular types of agencies and certifications are doing a really good work, trying to get people like myself involved in projects and whether that’s for a PennDOT project or whether it’s for a transit project. These agencies do a very good job of trying to do that. I will say that it is not an easy process getting certified. It’s not showing up and saying, Hey, I’m a woman. Gosh, I’d really like a certification. And that would be nice if it doesn’t work that way. It’s a very tedious process that is based off of mostly your financials and to show that you have financial control of your company. So I would say, go for it just don’t be daunted by the paperwork.

Chris Martin (04:55):

I’ve heard that too. And especially in the, you know, the marketing and advertising industry are there. It’s, I mean, obviously it’s the same across the board, but there’s a lot of there’s a lot of call for minority and women owned businesses, but Sandra, you mentioned working agencies, can you help our listeners understand what agencies you work with and what that means?

Sandra Palone (05:19):

So there are agencies that do, what’s called a, like a third party certification, and this is in a sense, like an independent certification process. And so what that means is instead of self-certifying, for instance, going to the state website and saying, I’m a woman own business click, it’s its own entity. If you will, these agencies, these third parties, and they actually have yes, a sort of a federal guideline as to what type information that they ask from you in order to determine your status. But they also have a component of an onsite audit to ensure that you are who you say you are and be that you do what you say you do. So that is all a part of it. And so one of the agencies that I am certified with that this called the Pennsylvania Unification Certification. I said that wrong. So I’m going to repeat it is the Pennsylvania Unified Certification Program PUCP and under that umbrella, is Southeastern Pennsylvania Transport Authority and a host of other government agencies such as in my area, Allegheny County.

Chris Martin (06:57):

Okay. So, as you’re working with these agencies, obviously setting and establishing your women business owned company, are you seeing advantages from that or are you running into more challenges?

Sandra Palone (07:15):

Both. and I’ll describe what I’m talking about. The nice thing about it is, it opens the door for me to bid on all kinds of projects. As I said, whether it’s a PennDOT project perhaps it’s something with a County, maybe it’s the turnpike or, or SEPTA. As I mentioned earlier, it gives me that opportunity to do that in order to meet certain goals that the general contractors normally have to meet the set asides, is that there’s a stigma out there. And difficulty, sometimes general contractors have with their own kind of qualification of people like myself to ensure that they are going to get an, one quality supplier to make sure that it’s not just someone who’s going to be a pass through. And so that’s where I think the real work is for a company like myself to differentiate myself. Sometimes they have to give me a shot in order to see what I can do for them. And what I have available to them is really my ability to service them as much as possible any opportunity I can to make their jobs a little easier. That’s how I distinguish myself. So, and that’s also how I break some of the stigma of what any woman business or a disadvantage business do.

Jon O’Brien (08:57):

Have you been involved at all with any of the DGS, the Department of General Services, any of their Best Value projects?

Sandra Palone (09:05):

Well, I’m working towards one now. We’ll see how it turns out. There is a DNA test lab that has recently been bid in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. That’s a DGS project. The types of projects that I go after, don’t always fall under DGS were the ones that I look for, but I do keep my eyes out for them.

Jon O’Brien (09:38):

Yeah. So over the past, you know, 15 years DGS has been using Best Value Contracting and, you know, to applaud them, they’ve been reaching out to stakeholders and various construction associations and various DBEs and general contractors, and they, I think they really want to get it right. When it comes to DBE and the bidding of a project, there have been, you know, quite a few black eyes with a lot of pass throughs, you know, assisting, you know, various contractors and getting work. And I think they’re on the on the right road to correcting these issues. I was just wondering if you’ve been involved in any of these peer groups or any of these feedback sessions that DGS claims to be holding them, they claim to be holding these events around the state.

Sandra Palone (10:32):

I have to say I haven’t been a part of that, but I do have an opinion and my opinion is that if it, the one way the great equalizer, you know, the common denominator, the way that things are checked seems to be through amounts of money on a project. So if you have a hundred dollar project and you need $12 of it to be with a woman own business, the easiest way to calculate that is to say, well, I’m buying $12 from this company therefore check the box. It’s just an easy way to do it. I personally think that beyond offering a product, which tends to push towards this pass-through scenario that they should look more for companies to offer an expertise in the form of say, if you want to call it consulting great.

Sandra Palone (11:40):

And what I’m getting at is whether it be onsite representation. As I started out saying, I started my business as a manufacturer’s rep, and you could take that through a project. If you know what you’re doing you could take your expertise and understanding of product and offering your service, if you will, as a value, add to a contractor whether it be in the form of really good communication to make sure that anticipate a problem that you might see down the road and take care of it before it happens ways to increase the quality of a project which also reduces the risk on a project for the contractor, finding ways to reduce risk. I can’t think of a better way to add value to a project than to help a contractor reduce their exposure. So that’s my opinion. Okay.

Chris Martin (12:53):

And Sandra is risk exposure, is that something that you offer in your consultation side of your business?

Sandra Palone (13:00):

That is what I market that I am available to work on projects in when I’m staying in my lane of understanding exactly the product and how it can help. I try to at least stay in my lane on that in my specialties as much as possible. But I do offer it and I find that some people say, huh, well, I don’t know if we need that. I mean, we have our project managers and these people have their project managers and I say, yeah, that’s true. I get it. But do you still have headaches? Do you still have issues with getting product? Do you still have when the product comes? Is there something not right. You know, I like to see myself as a bit of a conduit, someone who can help the contractor get the product that they need when they need it.

Sandra Palone (13:54):

And it’s just the part of my stamping on a project that Sandra Palona Associates was here. This product worked out really great. We’re really happy with it. It’s not an easy sell, but most, I think new ideas, if you will aren’t, they’re not easy sells, they’re a bit of an uphill climb. It is something that I continue to offer though, as a DBE, when I’m reselling, that’s what they’re getting, they’re buying that they may be buying a bit of a markup. But the markup is me making sure that’s what the value add is.

Chris Martin (14:35):

Okay. So you’re, you’re focused heavily on customer service and to that point, yeah. To that point, customer service is kind of one of those non-entities, if you will of the construction industry. So can you talk a little bit about how that customer service approach, as it relates to the construction industry is really beneficial.

Sandra Palone (15:03):

So if I am offering architectural precast to a Mason on a project and he calls and he says, Hey, there were supposed to be a 10 pallets, we got nine. Is he calling the manufacturer? No, he’s calling me, he’s calling me. And he’s saying, what’s going on with us? That’s when I go to work and do what I’ve got to do. So that’s what I’m trying to build. I’m trying to build some trust that I’m a seamless part of their operation, that I’m just another person on their team. And I’m the one they’re going to call for the product that they have come to me for. So regardless if everything’s great, and if everything’s so, so, or if there’s a hiccup, that’s what I think really helps. And here’s how you can tell if it works, do they call you again to quote something else and to work on another project that they have? That’s really the best way to measure if you’ve done a good job, in my opinion. And that’s where I operate from this sort of lather rinse, repeat type of mentality based off a service. So it is a non-tangible right? You can’t, it’s something you can’t say. Well, that value was worth is sort of that, but it is something that every project needs

Jon O’Brien (16:36):

Definitely. Yeah. Customer service is very important and definitely helps on future projects. But if you don’t mind, can we maybe travel back a little bit? Can we go back four and a half years? So was there a moment that like, you know what, I should start my own business and also along those lines where you’re fortunate or where you’re able to have any sort of mentors or coaches to kind of help you along. So take me back to 2016, what’s it like?

Sandra Palone (17:09):

Yeah, it’s a little scary. Yeah. 2016, you know, I’ll say this for those who just take a plunge into working for yourself, it may help to remain a teeny bit naive and extremely optimistic which is exactly what I had done. I didn’t have a whole lot going on at the time and early 2016. So let me just give a shout out as to what happened. And I have a mentor. Her name is Laura Kirkoff. I worked for Laura at my first precast plant known as Casscron Stone in Saxonburg, Pennsylvania area. She’s the one who taught me everything about precast. She’s the one who taught me about attention to detail. She was the first woman own business that I ever worked for. They’re third generation family owned business. And she was the best mentor a person could have.

Sandra Palone (18:14):

She was respected by architects, engineers, and by contractors, which is not an easy feat. I’ll say that. So kudos to Laura. Luckily I do represent her product line and it’s excellent stuff today. So I stay in touch. You remember the recession that happened and Castcon Stone was a precaster manufacturer. We were extremely specialized in the type of precast that we did. And the recession when it came along, there was very little vertical construction being built and being that we made 99% of what we did at that time was precast stairs. And we sold to precast garage producers. So there wasn’t a whole lot of that business going on. So we had some pretty slow years where we were trying to pick up the pieces and find other things to quote, and everybody was trying to quote the same work and there really wasn’t much to be had.

Sandra Palone (19:24):

So we basically scraped by for a long while. And at the end of my tenure there, I was went from a salary employee to a full time commission employee because you know, we didn’t really have enough work to pay everybody a paycheck. So if I sold something I’d make money and I thought these people have taken care of me, I’m going to, you know, I’m going to invest myself into these guys getting back to where to where that they worked. And so we did that problem was in 2011. The bills came due and over the course of that time, even though we were making money again, and the business, the economy had increased, you know, the bills became due and the company went bankrupt and it was a real shocker. So I was one of the statistics along with everybody else that I worked with including Laura, who lost their job.

Sandra Palone (20:34):

And so I, like a lot of other people, were thinking, what am I going to do now? It was still not the best market. And I went out to several other precast companies and interviewed and had a couple of offers. And I waited and me and a couple of my other colleagues helped reopen the plant when it was bought by another company. And I’m really glad I did that. So I got the experience of knowing what that’s like to kind of reopen something that was shut down. It was difficult to gain the trust back of our initial customers, but we were able to do it. Something had happened to me though in that timeframe. And I didn’t quite understand what it was is this little boy saying, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be here.

Sandra Palone (21:33):

Even though we had hired back many of the same old people I just didn’t feel I was part of the culture of the larger company. And I decided to take another opportunity with a small civil engineering firm not too far away that also did land surveying. And I got to learn what it is to be on the front end of projects that are being designed from the site, whether it be a PennDOT type project or whether it be a commercial project. So it was great experience, but again, I felt, I don’t know what I’m doing if I’m going to be here full time. I just and what I mean by that is, I don’t know if I’m going to stick around. I just had this little thing in the back of my mind. And so in 2015 you know, like I applied for my EIN and basically packed up my stuff without a whole lot of commitment from companies to rep and said, I’m going to give this a shot. And that’s what I did. I took a plunge from a perfectly good paying job and decided to go into poverty for a little while

Sandra Palone (22:54):

Just to try it out. And at first it was really exhilarating, but it got a little scary going, wow. Now I did that. I left a paying job in order to work on my own. So it really instilled in me, I’ve got to do it now, now’s the time. And I was 50 and at the time, I was 50 and I figured if I’m going to do it, now’s the time. So that’s what I did. And so with the manufacturing representation, I figured I could rep for a few of these companies. And I mean, I don’t have the money to build my own precast plants, very expensive. So it would be kind of a nice way for me to get back into the industry. And I know I could make an impact.

Jon O’Brien (23:41):

A few years later and look at you,

Sandra Palone (23:50):

Go ahead.

Jon O’Brien (23:51):

I was getting ready to say that that it has, have kind of turned them. So are you mentoring instead of seeking for advice? Are you helping out other people?

Sandra Palone (24:01):

I do help out a few people and I do still have mentors. Laura has been a great mentor over the years but I do have other people in my life that mentor me and other entrepreneurs that sort of took the splash around the same time when we get together. When we talk about Hey, this is happening for me. Is this happening for you? So it’s really, really great to be able to do that. I, you know, and certainly I take a course here and there in order to do a combination of networking and also learning. And what I mean is places like UPMC University of Pittsburgh Medical Center will have construction management seminars that they offer. So it’s an opportunity to network, but it’s also an opportunity to learn how they expect a company like mine to work with them.

Chris Martin (25:16):

Well, it sounds like you’re just continuously learning and moving forward, so kudos to you for that. That’s fantastic. And obviously, you know, in a predominantly male dominated industry, it sounds like you’re making headway and moving things along. So congratulations.

Sandra Palone (25:35):

Thank you. I appreciate that.

Chris Martin (25:37):

And I know how much fun it is to start off on your own. I started my own business about 11 years ago and then a lot of sleepless nights. I know that feeling.

Sandra Palone (25:51):

Times I joke and I say, gosh, you know who’s the boss around here. And then I have to point the finger back at me. Good. If there’s any problems they’re mind to solve there, can’t deflect. So there are times though that I’d really like to deflect, but I don’t have that luxury right now. So yeah.

Jon O’Brien (26:18):

I too, just want to echo Chris, you know, she’s doing a great job and to be commended and, you know, just glad to know you and thank you. Yeah. Any other like major lessons learned you’d like to share with our audience, anyone that they’re thinking of taking the plunge and starting their own company, any, anything major you’d like to talk about?

Sandra Palone (26:40):

I would just like to say that don’t have the regret of not doing it. I am so grateful that I finally took the plunge and it’s a self-employment. And just to get out there and put my name out there, sometimes it’s a little scary at first, you put your own name on the company and you do that because you want people to know that the buck stops with you. When you first start out, sometimes there’s a sense of imposter syndrome, like, Oh, who am I to be telling, you know, these people, how I can help them. And then you get over it because you get hungry and you realize that you have to take all these steps in order to prove this. And I would say do it because not doing it is you’d regret it. I know that I would regret this.

Sandra Palone (27:35):

If I didn’t do it, what’s the worst thing that could happen. I could fail. Okay. But at least I had tried it and somebody liked me. I would regret not trying it. So I say do it. And I also say that if there’s an opportunity to work on a bigger project than what you’re used to working on talk to your mentors and basically work up the confidence and pursue it, just do it. I went from working on my very first project was a $6,500 project. And I had to beg that person to give me that work just so that I could get it. And my largest contract to date is $1.2 million. So we’ve gone from $6,500 to $1.2 million. So I say, go for it.

Jon O’Brien (28:28):

Bravo. Yeah, that’s awesome. And you know, I’m a supporter, a fan of yours and if you ever need anything, you know, think of, think of KCA. We’re always here to help when DGS reaches out, like I said, from time to time for feedback during the bidding process. And if you ever have any input you want me to pass on, you know, just, just let me know. And we’re here to help.

Sandra Palone (28:54):

Thank you. And Jon, I want to say this about the KCA. You guys have been great to me, and I appreciate that very much. And I want to say that those safety talks that you send I use those as an onsite representative for UPMC with the contract, a company I worked with every morning as a safety meeting. I want you to know that those went to good use.

Jon O’Brien (29:21):

Awesome. That’s always great to hear. I always wonder if people actually opened them on Monday morning. It’s always good to hear that. So thank you, Sandra. Oh, no. It’s like, yeah, thanks. I’ll make sure to pass that good word on to the staff.

Sandra Palone (29:43):

They’re worth it.

Chris Martin (29:45):

That’s good. Well, Sandra, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your insight. It was great to hear from you and most importantly as a listener download more episodes, more coming reach out to Sandra. And in fact, Sandra, how can that happen? Somebody to get a hold of you?

Sandra Palone (30:11):

So you can call me, you can call Sandra Palone and Associates. You can call me at (412) 965-0069, or you can email at slp@sandrapalone.net. And if you would like to see what I do feel free to look at www.sandrapalone.net.

Chris Martin (30:37):

Perfect. Perfect. Well, thank you. Thanks for joining us on the Building PA podcast. And as I mentioned before, there’s going to be a lot more episodes coming. So make sure you download and share with your colleagues in the office and thank you for joining us today. Thank you. And all the best to you this year and beyond. So keep it up.

Sandra Palone (31:04):

Thank you. Take care.

Jon O’Brien (31:06):

Alright. See ya.

Building PA Podcast Season 1, Episode 11: The Benefits of Joining the Building Trades

Introduction: In the Fall of 2016, I became the executive director of the Keystone Contractors Association. In this position I was introduced to the world of the trustee. I became a trustee on medical plans, pension funds, apprenticeship committees, etc. It was a lot to soak in as it was completely new to me. It’s been my experience that no one wants anyone to drown in the construction industry and lifelines can be thrown when needed. As was the case in becoming a trustee on so many plans, I was overwhelmed by the support I received from the industry as many were ready to help me. One person who I got to know during this time was Irwin Aronson. As legal counsel on many funds, with lots of experience, he knows what he’s talking about in this area. Over the years, talking to him about medical, retirement and training funds, a light bulb went off that our industry offers such great reasons to join a building trades union – those reasons come in the form of awesome benefits like healthcare coverage, pension and education; but not everyone realizes what a selling point these benefits are. I contacted Irwin with this idea to have a podcast episode to talk about these benefits and he said: “that could be good but let me think about it and I’ll let you know who I think would be the best person for you to interview.” That’s when I told Irwin that he’s the best person to interview. Check out this episode and let me know if you agree with me: The Benefits of Joining the Building Trades.  

Chris Martin (00:00):

Hello and welcome to the next episode, if you will, of the Building Pennsylvania podcast, a podcast that is specific to the construction industry in Pennsylvania. My name is Chris Martin and I’m with Atlas Marketing, where we tell stories for people who build things. And with me is my partner. Hello, Jon O’Brien.

Jon O’Brien:

Hey, I’m checking in.  Jon from the Keystone Contractors Association and ready to rock and roll for another episode.

Chris Martin:

Yeah. Yeah. We have a real exciting, very energetic interviewer with us today. Irwin Aronson with the law firm of Willig Williams and Davidson. He’s a partner in residence in Irwin. Thank you for joining us. Welcome. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the firm?

Irwin Aronson (00:49):

Sure. Be happy to thanks for having us. First of all, I appreciate being here and particularly being with my old friend, Jon, who does things that are so admirable that I am touched by them every day are from, is just the way you paid me to say it, right?

Jon O’Brien:

Absolutely. You nailed it.

Irwin Aronson:

Our firm concentrates its practice in labor employment and employee benefit law. And I concentrate my practice within the firm precisely in that space. I typically for ethical reasons, I don’t discuss who my clients are, but a few of them are pretty well known. And my clients have identified me or pointed me out as their lawyers. So I can name those I’m general counsel of the Pennsylvania AFL CIO, and I’m general counsel to the Pennsylvania State Building and Construction Trades Council of Unions. As well as a number of both of those organizations, local and regional affiliates throughout Pennsylvania, and the work that I do ranges from representing labor organizations in collective bargaining in grievance arbitration and in litigation and before both the National Labor Relations Board.

Irwin Aronson (02:08):

And in other instances, particularly in the public sector, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, but a very significant portion of my practice as well as in the representation of employee benefit funds, typically jointly trusteed labor management funds in the space of pension and retirement plans associated annuity plans, health and welfare plans that provide healthcare and other insurance benefits to workers and their families and jointly trusteed training and development programs, particularly in the building and construction trades where we train both apprentices and journey people in their various trades ranging from laborers to carpenters, to elevator constructors, to electricians, the plumbers, pipe fitters, welders, painters, paper hangers, other finishing trades, travel trades like tile setters and show on the entire gamut of building and construction trades training programs. And those typically just like the employee benefit plans are jointly sponsored labor management committees. And I’m blessed that I’m not only trusted by the union sides of those equations, but also typically by the employer and employer organization association sides of those as well. So that’s basically the areas in which I try to work and I’ve been doing it for a while. I’m at this for a little over 40 years now, so I’m beginning to learn it and that’s why I still call it practice, I guess.

Chris Martin (03:56):

Let me ask you this and then I’m going to back away and let Jon do it who I know has a lot of questions real quick. Why should young people enter our industry, why should they even care about a trust fund or their employment packages or let’s, how can we frame that for our young listeners that are out there thinking, well, why do I want to listen to Irwin today?

Irwin Aronson (04:23):

Well, why I want to listen to Irwin today is a very different question from the one that you initially teed up. I’ve listened to me for decades and I would pass on that anytime. But that’s another story why young people should be looking at what we’re talking about today has literally a plethora of reasons and rationales. First of all people get an opportunity to be trained in a trade or a vocation that is highly skilled and in high demand in every single instance throughout the gambit of the trades that I mentioned and more and they get to get that training to have access to that training, not only tuition free, and it is completely tuition free, but without any debt on the other side. And they walk away after four or five years of training, depending upon the trade with a ticket as a journey person.

Irwin Aronson (05:26):

And that journey person ticket allows them to go anywhere in the world, literally and practice their craft. They have complete portability of their skillset because that’s something that once attained can never be taken away on top of all of that really wonderful reality contrasted for example, with the college experience that I had, where I got the opportunity to sit in a classroom and pay tuition. And at the other end of that pay off student loans for about decade. Are there other practical realities? These jobs are family sustaining from day one, typically an entering in a pre-apprentice in one of the recognized traditional building construction trades and crafts is earning while she or he is learning and starts out as an 18 year old or 17 year old new apprentice at about 50% of the journey person’s rate. And over the course of four to five years maximum achieve the full journey person rate.

Irwin Aronson (06:33):

But in addition to that from day one, these folks are eligible for health care benefits that not only cover the worker, but cover his or her family, spouse, children, et cetera, and are accumulating credits for pensions, and annuities that really taken together, put people in a position by the time they’re a roughly age, 50/ 55 to be able to retire with a combination of benefits that is very close to what their full time earnings are. And there are very few alternatives in the academic path, which traditionally known as the academic path that are the equal of what I’ve just described. And they, of course all carry tuition bills and loan repayment plans with them. So this is really something that my parents’ generation understood my generation didn’t understand, and this new generation that’s coming up now is beginning to get it. And it’s all enhanced rather tremendously by another practical reality, the recession of 2008, 2009 had several impacts.

Irwin Aronson (07:49):

And one of them was that it winnowed out a number of people that were coming close to the end of their careers in the building trades. And now we have a real need, a high demand for qualified applicants and qualified apprentices for whom there will be a lifetime career once they come, once they apply, get admitted to and complete an apprenticeship and training program. So to my way of thinking, this is not merely a meaningful alternative to an academic and college career. It is in many foundational way superior because you earn while you learn and you have security that no corollary brings because there’s a skillset, it being a carpenter or a millwright being an electrician or a plumber or a pipe fitter, or a sprinkler fitter or a welder that is just not the same as having a bachelor of arts in philosophy and liberal studies.

Jon O’Brien (08:46):

Agreed, agreed. And we’ve been fortunate during our early stages of this Building PA Podcast to have many training directors join us and talk about the various trades and the various trainings that happen within their own trade, in their own craft, I think, and maybe I’m wrong here, but I think the young apprentices and those individuals thinking of entering a trade, I think they understand that the training aspect and they know they’re going to get like an excellent hands on education, but it’s the unknown. The other benefits that I don’t think they grasp, especially at a younger age, like 18 you know, early twenties as far as pension medical. And I don’t know what your opinion is, but I think we need to do a better job of promoting that.

Irwin Aronson (09:38):

Well, I think that on one hand, we all need to do a better job in communicating it. But not really communicating it in the context of it’s out there. This is available, but communicating it in the context that people are, they’re a few years older than that newly admitted high school graduate identify with quite differently every 18 year old that I’ve ever met, including the four that I raised or had a hand in raising my wife, raised them. I just showed up. I think the practical reality is they’re all immortal until they’re not. And

Jon O’Brien (10:19):

Wait, you mean, that goes away.

Irwin Aronson (10:21):

I understand that it goes away, but you know Jon the ages of your kids. So I know I kind of hesitate to give you a prediction when that happens.

Irwin Aronson (10:34):

In my instance, there is a this shock that took place. And I describe it with respect to my daughter who is an adult now and has a couple of kids of her own who never really thought about the value of health insurance until she developed a very significant series of adult onset allergies, which kept her from being able to eat any number of foods ranging from citrus products, to products with eggs, to products with dairy, to products with wheat, and that testing that she went through until we got to a point of understanding what that was cost, literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. And this took place when she was a new, recent enter into the workforce. And she was fortunate that she had a job that had health insurance for which she was paying a significant out-of-pocket premium and had a big deductible.

Irwin Aronson (11:40):

And all of a sudden it grabbed her attention in a way that she had never contemplated before. And then only a couple of years later when she became pregnant with her first child. And again, was with the medical world and learning what the cost of a normal pregnancy is. She became quite grateful for that health insurance benefit that was there now in the building trades that we were just talking about a couple of minutes ago, everybody from the newest apprentice to the most senior journey person after an immediate or very short period of time is eligible for these benefits at no out of pocket costs, other than it, depending upon the trade and the particular plan, a handful of rather minimal deductibles or copays co-insurance kinds of things. And they tend to be very broad programs that cover not only medical, but prescription coverage, dental coverage, vision coverage, and often a number of other kinds of things, as well as life insurance.

Irwin Aronson (12:40):

And for somebody that’s a wage earner who has a misfortune and suffers or premature death families are really very dependent upon those life insurance proceeds as well. So this is really an amazing piece of this puzzle that young people tend not to consider either because their families have provided healthcare for them as they’ve grown up, or they have been covered by one of the areas, public sponsored programs like chip the children’s health insurance program sponsored by the state. The other piece of this puzzle is a retirement plan again, because we’re all immortal when we’re young. We don’t think about being able to support and sustain ourselves when going to work every day is no longer as easy and option either because of age or because of disability. And all of these trades sponsored programs, these jointly trusteed labor and management benefit programs have a feature of both age based retirement, typically 62 in a few cases, 65, 66, and in some cases as young as 55 with full retirement, but they also have a disability retirement feature that is not age based at all, but based upon when an unanticipated illness or an unanticipated event results in somebody not being able to work at their traditional trade or craft, and they become disabled and they become eligible under these programs for a pension, that’s the same as what it would have been had.

Irwin Aronson (14:21):

They reached normal retirement age. And again, this is an extraordinary benefit for individuals and also for families, particularly families with dependent children. So these features are there, and they’re baked into these trades and crafts along with the training that we’ve described. And along with the career, I mean I know any number of sheet metal workers, plumbers, fitters, electricians, who are easily earning eighty to a hundred thousand dollars a year, plus the benefits and the benefits that I’ve just described can be worth easily out of cost $25 to $35,000 a year. And then some, and that’s more than competitive with alternative careers. And as I say, there’s people get a skill set that no one can take away from it.

Jon O’Brien (15:15):

Yeah. That’s for sure. Yeah. Now with my role within the KCA and the industry, I’m more familiar with the general trades, you know, carpenters, laborers, carpenters, laborers, brickies. Yeah, absolutely. And it seems as though amongst those crafts and those trades, the average age of the apprentice entering the average age of entering apprentices is upper twenties.,

Irwin Aronson (15:41):

That’s my experience as well. More recently that the typical is someone who has been out of school. Often somebody who has gone to college and frequently someone who is not, but has had another career or another vocational based career and finds the laborers, for example, one that you and I get to work on together frequently finds the carpenters, finds the millwrights finds the travel trades and signs up. And those people who are in their late twenties into their early thirties are folks who typically already have a family and find that as an entering apprentice, they have an opportunity to have a family sustaining job right away more so than the jobs that they are leaving and they get a career. I have a story about this, and I don’t know, Jon, if I’ve ever told you this, how I ended up being, how I ended up being a lawyer.

Irwin Aronson (16:40):

Back when I was a youngster, 26 years of age, I had applied for an apprenticeship in the electrical workers union in Harrisburg and the business manager at the time who was somebody with whom I was acquainted because of other career activities in which I had engaged at that point called me in for an interview. And he sat me down and he said, Irwin, you’re among the best candidates for an apprenticeship that we’ve ever had during my time as a business agent. And I, at that point I had completed college. I had a bachelor’s degree from Penn State, and I still wanted to do this because I recognize that while I had a bachelor’s degree, I had absolutely no marketable skills. And at that time there was an interesting phenomenon that took place. This was long enough ago that we did not have age discrimination and employment statutes on the books.

Irwin Aronson (17:34):

So as this gentleman described how great I was and told me that he indeed assumed that if he admitted me into the program, it wouldn’t be too much longer before I’d be running for his job either to succeed him or to beat him. Which would not have been the case, but that’s a sidelight. He said, we can’t take you in, we can’t take you because you’re 26. And we have a rule in place that says, we won’t accept anybody. Who’s over 25 years of age because we want to get a career out of you. And so in those days, 25 was the cutoff for all of the highly skilled trades, but also for the for the basic trades, like carpenters and millwrights and floor layers, the soft floors, as well as wooden floor layers that has since changed because the law has changed and the organizations have changed.

Irwin Aronson (18:26):

And the relationship between the employer, contractors and the unions have changed. The result has been that people who are a bit older than I was at that time regularly apply for and regularly are admitted into apprenticeship and training programs that all of the trades, and they get a career and it may not be a 40 year career like I was looking at at that time. But I ended up going to law school because George Segall at the time out of the IBW denied me admission into the IBEW. Otherwise right now I’d be an electrician and try to figure out how to collect my pension because I’d be old enough, unlike a lawyer who never quit.

Jon O’Brien (19:03):

Okay. Interesting. I never knew that about the age. So what year are we talking about, like what timeframe

Irwin Aronson (19:09):

That would have been roughly 1980, 81, somewhere in that range. Okay. So I went to law school from 1980 to 1982, but from the fall of 80 through the spring of 82 and that was after I’d been out of college for 10 years. I spent that 10 years working at the Pennsylvania AFL CIO in various capacities. During that time, after my own union, the Service Employees in Pittsburgh had loaned me to the AFL CIO.

Jon O’Brien (19:41):

Yeah. Also amongst all the various trust funds and different funds that you sit on. Do you feel, or do you think some of them do it better as far as communicating the benefits to the general public?

Irwin Aronson (19:57):

I think that some learn from, yeah, I think that some do, and if there’s no pattern to it, we might have a bricklayers fund in Pittsburgh be very communicative or attractive. I know that there’s a pipe trades fund in Pittsburgh that is really on the cutting edge of training. They just built a new exceptional training facility. That’s been open for about a year. And they are advertising on TV attracting very high quality apprentices. But I also know in central and North central Pennsylvania, the laborers and the contractors association, like the KCA are attracting a significant number of apprentices to become construction, craft laborers, and go through that training. And that’s a relatively young apprenticeable trade. It’s only been about 24, 25 years that we had such a thing as an apprenticeship and training program for construction craft laborers.

Irwin Aronson (21:02):

I was party to the application and approval by the state of the Pennsylvania State Apprenticeship and Training Council for the very first laborers’ training program. And that is one that is sponsored jointly by KCA and the Laborers’ District Council of Eastern Pennsylvania. And they’re attracting people. Part of it is industry-based. So down in south central Pennsylvania in Chambersburg, right now, there is a very significant solar power plant being built. And there is a need for electrical workers, both journeymen and apprentices. And there has been some significant outreach there at a recognition that when somebody gets a chance to work on this job, it’s on the cutting edge of renewable power sources. And the training they get in working on that job will be training that will serve people, particularly younger people for an entire career in something that government agencies and environmental organizations, as well as typical large construction project owners, like Penn State University like major hospitals and like government agencies will be seeking out.

Irwin Aronson (22:24):

And those skills will serve those young people for a career. And they will get the opportunity to learn those skill sets while being paid a very good wage and earning those benefits we talked about and helping to sustain the training program for a coming generation that’s yet to be identified all good stuff. So there’s just a lot going on out there. And I see it every day we have in Pennsylvania that the reality of a growing gas industry and the pipelines that go along with that. And while some people have expressed some understandable concerns about the pipeline construction for another generation of us, these are family sustaining jobs. Once again, with family sustaining wages, but much more significantly their jobs on which people learn skillsets that serve them for a career, not just for a job

Jon O’Brien (23:24):

So what’d you say, Chris, are you sold or is there a certain trade you’re looking to add?

Irwin Aronson (23:28):

I mean, the age, the age was lifted so

Chris Martin (23:30):

Well, unfortunately I’m 48, so I’m probably not going to be a good a good fit based on that, but

Irwin Aronson (23:38):

You’re in and I will sponsor you myself.

Chris Martin (23:41):

Well, thank you, Irwin, when I’m in, you know, I have a funny story as well. And that point I started my, my company 11 years ago. And at the time we had been working with a lot with the iron workers and we still do. And my wife, you know, start the company in 2008, which was great time to start the company. My wife says to me, well, what’s your plan B? And I said, well, worst case scenario I’ll become an iron worker. I don’t think she stopped laughing since she keeps reminds me of that. Every day I hear this…

Irwin Aronson (24:17):

Excuse me, I’m sorry for dropping. I have this wonderful sort of idiosyncratic story. A very dear friend of mine was the, for many years, the state director of the railroad unions here in Pennsylvania. And he was more than a client. And his son was born literally two days before my daughter was born and his son went to school in Harrisburg and graduated high school with honors, went to Duquesne University, got himself a bachelor’s degree in marketing. He went back to Duquesne and got a master’s degree in education and had planned on being a teacher. And he ended up getting a job as an instructor in the academic side of a welding program that the pipe trade unions out in the Pittsburgh area had sponsored along with a company called Maglev incorporated. And in the process, this young man became exposed to a number of folks who were in the boiler makers union and had been trained on precision welding techniques.

Irwin Aronson (25:36):

And he became so enamored of them that he applied for and was admitted to the boilermakers apprenticeship and training program out in the Pittsburgh area. This is a young man with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. He went through that apprenticeship training program became the number one boiler maker, welding apprentice in the country in his fourth year of a five year program. And has since had a career where he has literally traveled all over the world on welding jobs. He’s been of course, up in Alaska on that pipeline work, both working in training people. He’s been all over the middle East on pipeline work. He’s been throughout Asia. He’s been throughout most of Europe and he’s been in South America and even in Australia. And he is earning whatever he really feels like earning as much as he feels like earning. He has already been vested in a pension program at the ripe young age of 39. And he has an extraordinary healthcare program and can basically name his own tickets. He is among the highest workers that I’ve ever met, and he earns well into the six figures any year that he chooses to good for him.

Jon O’Brien:

We should have him on the show.

Chris Martin (26:57):

We’ve done a lot of work with the boilermakers and I can attest to that from their international work and their travelers fund and the way that they support that the opportunities that aren’t just here in the United States, but all over the world. I know there’s a lot of big local growing in Puerto Rico, actually with all the issues that have been facing there on, in Puerto Rico. So you’re absolutely right. And it’s not just the boilermakers. It’s, it’s every trade.

Irwin Aronson (27:28):

It’s every one of the trades. I mean, one of the fascinating and unique things I’ve alluded to this earlier in this conversation that people secure a skill set through our training programs that no one can take away from them. And part of the reality is in in two instances, one is when you’re living in the Northeastern United States or in the in the Northern part of the central United States, and the weather gets cold, you have those skills. And if you want to work in Florida or work in Arizona, you have to pick up the phone or you send out an email to the sister, local union in your trade in those areas and see if they need people. And more often than not, you get a referral and you can work as a traveler in those areas and avoid the cold weather if that’s your interest, or if you want to see some spot on the planet that is just intriguing as all get out to you.

Irwin Aronson (28:24):

And, and that’s the way that is. You make the appropriate contact, you make the appropriate phone call. And these folks refer to one another as brother for a reason, and they treat one another like brothers and they make space and they make time for this to happen. And typically all of these healthcare and pension and annuity and training funds have what they refer to in the industry as reciprocity agreements. So you earn the access to your benefits in one location, but it is the funds are sent to your home area so that you don’t have any lapse in benefit eligibility or investing for a pension. And the benefits themselves are completely portable in this respect. So that’s another aspect when one works for an individual company with an individual employer sponsoring your healthcare plan. If you lose your job, you lose your benefits in these trades.

Irwin Aronson (29:23):

If you get laid off because of a short term, lack of work, your benefits continue. Typically when you’re working actively, you are in benefit credits, show that during a period of unemployment, whether it’s unemployment because of some structural issue or unemployment, because you just feel like working for a period of time, you want to knock off for a week or two for hunting season, for example, your benefits, don’t lapse, your benefits don’t get canceled. They travel with you and they’re completely portable both for traveling and work in both and in terms of periods of layoff or downturn. So it’s another feature that people just don’t realize.

Jon O’Brien (30:02):

Yeah. Another great benefit. So I know KCA will continue to beat the drum and really promote these hidden benefits and make sure it’s well communicated to the masses.

Irwin Aronson (30:14):

Well, you know, one of the realities is that the unions that KCA members have relationships with and KCA members have a truly symbiotic relationship that they’ll get into a wrestling match here and there over what these rates should be. But the rates ultimately are collectively bargained and nobody is getting forced to pay more than the than the economy locally can bear. And the unions and the employers work together jointly to assure that admission to crafts is based upon what they anticipate will be the actual industry needs. So there aren’t too many extra apprentices and too many extra journeymen that are competing for work. The work is there based on the estimates and they work in tandem. Just earlier today, I was working on a piece of legislation known as house bill 1100, that would provide some specialized tax benefits for building another petrochemical plant up in the North Eastern part of Pennsylvania. And I was working with a group of contractors as well as a group of union folks, standing shoulder to shoulder and working arm and arm to get the General Assembly of Pennsylvania to attend and pass the legislation that will enable this to happen. And it’s a ton of jobs in Pennsylvania, but it’s also a ton of tax income. And it’s also a ton of real and meaningful profits for contractors who successfully bid and get that work.

Jon O’Brien (31:53):

Well, thank you for your efforts there. I’m hearing leadership is slowly coming around.

Irwin Aronson (31:59):

Nope. Nobody ever explained it so well before.

Jon O’Brien (32:02):

Yes. On behalf of the industry. Thank you. Yes.

Irwin Aronson (32:06):

Thank you for giving me the opportunity. It really is a pleasure to work jointly that’s yeah, so many times in my world, it’s an antagonistic relationship, but in this piece of my world, it really never is antagonistic. It’s really a joint effort. And that’s why I emphasize these jointly trusteed training programs and jointly trusteed healthcare programs and jointly trusteed apprenticeship and training programs, because that’s the deal.

Jon O’Brien (32:34):

Absolutely. It’s teamwork. It’s all about teamwork and yeah on behalf of management in KCA, I’d like to just thank you for all your hard work over the years, and we’d like to keep picking your brain and bring you back on the show from time to time.

Irwin Aronson:

Well, I’m happy to come back. I have an intimate understanding of what’s in that brain and there isn’t much, but it’s all yours.

Chris Martin (32:56):

Okay. Irwin we thank you so much for your time today and thank you for everyone listening. Be prepard because we have a lot more coming from the Building PA Podcast, more episodes about interesting and useful information such as this. So thank you, Irwin and thank you Jon. Have a great day, everybody.

Jon O’Brien (33:23):

Alright. We’ll see ya.

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.