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Published: Summer, 2003; Vol 5, Num 2


2003 Tri-Fund Conference Illuminates
Past and Future of Laborers' Health and Safety

Former President Bill Clinton, as well as Jesse Jackson and other union and political supporters of the Laborers, addressed LIUNA's 100th Anniversary Plenary Session. In his keynote address, LIUNA General President Terence M. O'Sullivan stressed five points: (1) implementation of the new apprenticeship program; (2) the need for mandatory, annual training for all Laborers; (3) the neeed to devote more resources to organizing; (4) the importance of political action by the union and its members; and (5) the vital need to expand union market share (Photo: Ray Crowell/Page One).

Coinciding with LIUNA's 100th Anniversary Celebration in Las Vegas, Nevada, the 2003 Tri-Fund Conference looked both back and forward at Laborers' efforts to address health and safety concerns on the job and at home with their families.

The conference devoted a day to each of the three funds, beginning with Laborers-AGC (the training fund) and concluding with LECET (the marketing fund). The Laborers' Health and Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA) was featured on day two.

In separate presentations, LHSFNA Executive Director Joe Fowler and Management Co-Chairman Noel Borck reviewed the work of the Fund and its importance to LIUNA business managers, signatory employers and health and welfare fund administrators. Both men stressed the critical role that labor-management cooperation plays in the Fund's highly successful endeavors.

Noted Stanford University health economist Victor Fuchs opened the substantive discussion by explaining the nature and underlying causes of the health care cost crisis in the United States (see page 8).

Labor Co-Chairman and LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer Armand E. Sabitoni followed Fuchs, addressing the LIUNA business managers and saying he knows from his own experience that "nothing moves unless the business managers move it." Then, speaking of new signatory employers, he said, "New guys love us because we have a lot to offer, but," he stressed, "you business managers must know all about the Tri-Funds so you can move the agenda."

"As Jack Barnett, Management Co-Chairman of LECET and an active member of my organization, the NEA - the Association of Union Constructors, said, 'If you're not using the services of the Laborers' Tri-Funds,' and he mentioned the Health and Safety Fund in particular, 'you ought to be. You better find out what you're missing."

Noel C. Borck

Finally, Fowler chaired a panel discussion on the future of health and safety for Laborers that included LHSFNA Research Director Dr. Jim Melius, former Health Promotion Division Director Kitty Conlan and Occupational Safety and Health Division Director Scott Schneider.

In addition, Local 310 Secretary Treasurer John Kilbane and Bob Verhoff, Executive Director of the Union Construction Industry Partnership (UCIP), explained how UCIP, with the LHSFNA's help, developed an innovative, multi-trade, drug-free workplace program in northern Ohio, now known as the Construction Industry Substance Abuse Program (CISAP). That program has been certified by the state so that any participating contractors in CISAP are eligible both to bid on state-administered projects and to receive a discount on workers' compensation insurance. Verhoff anticipates that the existence of CISAP will facilitate expansion of union market share in the area.

Fowler then closed the program by drawing the analogy to blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. "Imagine a hundred candles on LIUNA's cake," he suggested. "Before blowing them out, I wish that every Laborer return home every night to his or her family, with no injuries and illnesses."

[Steve Clark]