Local 52 Illinois Dominates PCC Opportunities
Journal: Issue 3 - 2006
With over a century of experience, Local 52 Illinois has seen its share of change. Early on, members began as building cleaners responsible for removing soot and debris on buildings caused by coal burning furnaces. The Local’s entry into pointing and façade repair has allowed it to successfully corner the PCC market in the Chicago area.
Over the past decade, the PCC industry has seen another evolution focused on quality craftsmanship and safety in response to Chicago’s hard-line inspection and repair program. Demand for PCC workers shot up 75 percent. Initially, most workers in the industry did not have the necessary training requirements to carry out the work. As Local 52 President Bill Meyers recalls, “We had a number of applicants try to join our group who said they had experience, but when tested on the skills and knowledge needed to work on high-rise construction, they were lacking.”
In order for Chicago’s stringent repair program to be successful, the cooperative effort of all involved – the city, labor, and contractors – was required. Labor’s role was not simply to supply bodies, however. “Our effort was and still is to help everyone learn how to do the procedure properly so that the building owner receives a fair value for his investment,” says Meyers.
To meet this demand, Local 52 developed a thorough train-the-trainer program that brought together industry experts from IMI, local community colleges, and the Construction Safety Council of Chicago. Local 52 members also became apprentice and OSHA instructors. Today, apprentices are
Another “higher learning” program instituted by Local 52, in conjunction with IMI, is a one-day seminar for architects, engineers, and building inspectors at the Local’s training center. The day begins with members sharing their experiences with various types of building failures, failure mechanisms, and contributing factors on scaffolds. Engineers then offer advice on how to repair or intervene. These discussions are followed by a “do-it-yourself” session where seminar participants try their hand at terra cotta repair, patching, tuckpointing, flashing and lintel replacement, and stone repair all while under the watchful eye of IMI instructors. “It’s an opportunity to show that our workers are craft persons,” says Meyers.
When Meyers began his masonry career, he recalls driving home with journeymen and having them point out which buildings they had repaired and which they had not. “Now, most of the structures have been repaired and we haven’t had a significant accident involving public safety in recent years from falling masonry.”
Information for this article was taken from the April 2006 edition of Masonry Construction.