Team Holds Solution to Alarming Financial Trend

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<p><strong>Chicagoland</strong><br />The average Illinois household earns less now than it did in 1999-2000, according to a recent report, and adjusting for inflation, the state&#39;s median household income in 2005-06 was $49,328, a decline of about 10 percent from $54,900 in 1999-2000. </p><p><br />The report, &ldquo;The State of Working Illinois 2007,&rdquo; was released December 2007 by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA) and two research units of Northern Illinois University (NIU). It goes on to state that education and union membership can help working families achieve greater earnings. </p><p><br />&ldquo;In the globalized labor market of the 21st century, education is strongly associated with upward mobility and higher earnings,&rdquo; notes the CTBA/NIU report. Regarding union membership as a factor in career success, the report says, &ldquo;Overall, the average weekly earnings of union members (in Illinois are) 14.2 percent higher than nonunion members.&rdquo; Female union members receive weekly wages that are 21.5 percent higher than their nonunion counterparts.</p><p><br />MCA Chicago and Pipefitters Local Union (LU) 597 use workplace education to improve their trade, and their members&rsquo; earning potential. &ldquo;Ongoing education is imperative in today&rsquo;s marketplace,&rdquo; said Stephen Lamb, Executive Director at MCA Chicago. &ldquo;It keeps our industry on the cutting edge and our labor and management workers in the top percentile of earning capacity in this country. Our common goal, to educate our workers and our contractors, has formed a bond between labor and management that has paid off in many ways.&rdquo; These two union giants have not had a strike in more than 90 years.<br />This peaceful relationship has been a boon to Chicagoland, considering the average length of a work stoppage beginning in 2006 was 26.5 days, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A LU 597 work stoppage of that duration would create widespread hardships for Chicagoland, since their pipefitters are pivotal to the operations of the area&rsquo;s energy and construction industries.</p><p><br />Instead of electing new business managers every three years as some unions do, LU 597 has had only three in that 90-year period. All three have been dedicated to working constructively with their management counterparts. MCA Chicago has had only four executive directors with the same dedication to working with their union &mdash; not against it.</p><p><br /><strong>State-of-the-Art Training</strong><br />To advance the education of union workers, Jim Buchanan, Business Manager at LU 597, initiated and oversaw the construction of the two-story, 198,000-square-foot Pipefitters Local 597 training center in Mokena, Ill., that opened in 2005. The center&#39;s interior space features replications of potentially dangerous construction procedures, such as scaffolding and aerial lifts. Under close supervision, apprentices perform work tasks using these replications and gain valuable safety expertise. <br />In addition to enhanced safety training, the LU 597 training center also offers accelerated training options, including a hybrid welding program, to help meet the construction workforce needs of the Chicagoland area. High-quality welding skills are in high demand, but if that demand should decline with time, workers trained through the hybrid welding program also receive training in other skills, so they would not experience difficulty in finding work.</p><p><br />Stephen Lamb of MCA Chicago has developed an unprecedented education program for the association&#39;s member contractors, their office staff members and their union foremen &mdash; a curriculum of more than 100 continuing education courses for every level. </p><p><br />For more information, visit LU 597 online at www.pf597.org and MCA Chicago at www.mca.org. </p>

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