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Blue Light Report - September / October 2019

I want to thank everyone for their calls and letters of condolences concerning my father, Doyle Hendrix, on his passing. I was truly blessed to have him for 82 years and to have him as a mentor my whole life. His face and voice will be with me for as long as I live. I am grateful for that and grateful for the outpouring of sympathy from the membership.

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Blue Light Report Dispatch - July / August 2019

The pipeline hours are slower than in 2017 and 2018, but we are still ahead of 2015 and 2016, so work is not quite as slow as it may seem. We are not having a record year as we have had previously (that goal is unreasonable), but work is picking up.  We have already needed to PPC-11 a nonbook to an Intermediate job in the Dakotas.

It paid over $20 an hour and spanned about four weeks of work. No matter how low the wage or short the job, we must be willing to man the work. Having to refer to PPC-11 is another Helper added to the ranks of our membership. If we do not step up and man all the work, the ranks grow, and it will keep growing until it is harder and harder to get a job.

Another thing, we have people say they want something longer than what we have available. The years when we have six-month assignments in abundance are not the norm. Jobs in the 8 to the 12-week range is typical for great jobs. We have members who have stepped up and taken these 8 to 10-week jobs and will be moving on to other jobs when they complete the ones they are already on. By the time they complete the job, there will not be as many members on the wheel, and they will get back out quickly.

Here in the Dispatch Office, we have placed a much higher priority on seeking Building Trades work for the entire membership. Building Trades jobs may not be as prosperous as pipeline work; however, our Brother and Sister locals consider it just as honorable to provide skilled labor that competes with the non-union element. We are working for a fair wage and receiving benefits that help to increase our health care and pension. Building Trades do not deal with per diem as we do. Their work assumes they are coming from their homes in the area. As nomadic travelers, we are fully aware of the cost of travel. When our Brother and Sister locals can, they do negotiate per diem, but not often. I would say roughly 10% of Building Trade jobs pay per diem. That is just the way it is for now. If you choose to work Building Trades, you need to remember we are guests in their field. If you do not like the money or any part of the conditions, DO NOT GO! No one is begging or forcing you. If you cannot maintain a respectful silence at attempting to compare their conditions or pay package to ours, DO NOT GO!  It is like comparing apples to oranges, not to mention being very rude. These men and women are no different than us. They are doing the best they can to provide for their families in a fashion that is honorable.

From late December to present, we have gotten members out on Building Trades work in the following states: Montana, South Dakota, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, and several locals in Texas. Also, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, New York, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, as well as Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Maine. The scale ranges from $29 in the South to $53 in the North in a few areas. Right now, the majority is between $35 and $40, not just for Welders but Pipefitters and Helpers as well. It is harder to get Helpers out. When other locals have apprentices that are working at a scale lower than Journeymen, they cannot bring our Helpers in and pay them more unless our Helper has UA Welding Certs. However, they sometimes make exceptions and take Helpers when they have an outstanding manpower shortage for a shutdown. Then we are ready to send our Helper members out to work.

We have hundreds of members working on Building Trades jobs that are at the bottom of the wheel waiting to come up. I am sure that we will begin to fall off as our work continues to pick up. But when it goes the other way, do not wait until you are broke to start seeking employment through another local. If you have UA Certifications, keep them caught up. Get your hand in early. Anyone that can uphill stick heli-arc weld and run stainless steel is not unemployed for very long unless they want to be home.

Let me close this portion by letting everyone know that we have launched a section on our web page that gives you information on obtaining Building Trades work. You can find it in the menu under the Dispatch tab. Several times I have written about Building Trades and what you need to do. Everyone should obtain an OSHA 10 card or better. If you call Dispatch and have your OSHA card, be ready to go to work. If you take a Building Trades job from this office and do not show up, charges could be filed for breaking the oath. If you say that you want the job, keep your word. There is someone who wants and needs that job. You are directly insulting another Local by not showing up. If you don’t show up, that Local can assume that most 798 members don’t keep their word, and as a result, they do not offer us anymore work. Also, we cannot show up and work a week or two and then drag up. Five to six weeks is acceptable. If you have enough honor to say you want the job, have enough to let them know when you leave and thank them for the opportunity.

Moving on, I need to touch on DOT Drug Testing. We are experiencing fewer problems with the contractor with these rules than we have in the past. I want to let the membership know that the staff doing the collection have Federal guidelines for every part of the process. They have defined boundaries, and once those boundaries are crossed, they must follow the steps laid out in the DOT guidelines.

When you report to the designated collection area, you may be asked for a sample immediately. Showing up hydrated on test day is advised. If you do not believe you will be able to produce the amount needed (1.52 fluid ounces), you may be asked to drink up to 40 ounces of water or any other liquid you may choose. You are now on the clock and must produce the amount needed in less than three hours. Be prepared if your temperature is out of range 90-100 °F or 32-38 °C. They will then ask for an observed sample. Once you place the sample in the cup, get it to the collector as soon as possible. It must be read in less than four minutes. If you attempt and do not produce enough on the first try, they can now insist on an observed test. Also, if they think it has been tampered with, they can ask for it to be observed. If the lab says it is inconclusive, they can demand an observed test. If you are still doing your follow-up drug testing for return to duty from previous failure to comply, it must be observed. If you are confrontational, they can demand an observed.

What is observed? Someone of the same sex as the employee will go with you to a private area where there are toilet facilities that comply with DOT collection. The observer does not have to be a collector. They will ask you to drop your pants to your knees and raise your shirt or skirt above your waist, then turn in a circle so the observer can tell you have nothing hidden. Then you must urinate into the cup while the observer is in a position where they can see the urine travel from your body to the cup. Once you have captured the adequate amount, place the lid on the sample and get it to the collector. They must check the temperature in less than four minutes. The observer will never touch the cup or handle it.

If you think something is wrong, you may call your Job Steward, Business Agent or Dispatch, but DO NOT LEAVE THE TEST AREA! Do not get angry and leave, calm yourself, and do what you need to do to keep your job. Once you leave that area, it is a failure to comply, and there is nearly nothing we can do at that point. Since this is sensitive and private information, we will ask you to sign a document giving us authority to see your records and represent you.

Well, this is the most extensive report I have written. I hope what I have said here will help you find good union work and help you keep your job. Be safe out there going and coming. If you need us, call us at (918) 610-2761. If you call for a job, be ready to go.

MORE 798 STORIES

  • Blue Light Report - September / October 2019
    I want to thank everyone for their calls and letters of condolences concerning my father, Doyle Hendrix, on his passing. I was truly blessed to have him for 82 years and to have him as a mentor my whole life. His face and voice will be with me for as long as I live. I am grateful for that and grateful for the outpouring of sympathy from the membership.
  • Blue Light Report 2 - September / October 2019
    I want to start by thanking every member that is doing their part to make the Action Network a success. We’ve had several opportunities lately to take action with the Cheyenne Connector Project, the Northeast Supply Enhancement, Jordan Cove Project, the Line 5 Project, and the Line 3 Project.
  • Blue Light Report Dispatch - September / October 2019
    The current number of members on the out-of-work list is as follows: Welders – 1,287; Journeyman – 207; and Helpers – 1,655. The out-of-work numbers do not reflect the members who are working building trades and still on the out-of-work list.
  • Blue Light Report Benefits Update - September / October 2019
    401(k) Plan  We frequently are asked about taking a loan against a member’s 401(k) balance.  The Pipeline Industry 401(k) Plan does not allow participant loans.  401(k) loan repayment must be set up as a deduction from payroll.  Due to the nature of the construction industry, working for different contractors for various time frames doesn’t allow for consistent repayment of the loan, which would cause the loan to be in default.