July 2012

Recognizing the Need for Change

One thing is evident from this month's feature of our work in the reinforcing steel industry; it is changing and growing as we begin to emerge from the construction depression of the last three years. Engineers are finding new applications as technology increases the capabilities of pre-cast and poured in place construction with reinforcing steel and pre or post tensioned cables at the heart of its strength.

Just as methods of construction must advance and re-invent themselves to stay viable in today's marketplace, we must also stay abreast of the latest developments in order to remain competitive and at the forefront of the reinforcing steel industry. The input from our contractor and industry partners through IMPACT, the National Association of Reinforcing Steel Contractors (NARSC), the Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute (CRSI) with its Installers Interest Group (IIG), the Post Tensioning Institute (PTI), and our own Department of Reinforcing with the Local Union Reinforcing Advisory Board and our members are vital to the future of the Iron Workers Union. Our combined strength as stakeholders within the industry is evident as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently issued a Request for Information to begin the process for the first new regulations governing the safe installation of reinforcing steel and tensioned cables since 1974. (See Executive Director of Safety Steve Rank' article)

But we, also, cannot ignore changes that take place in our industry and how it affects our own business model as the supplier and representative of skilled ironworkers. Recognizing the changes and the need to address market conditions is never easy. Change is not easy, but as the old adage states; "If you don't like change, you are going to hate extinction."

To make gains in the marketplace, to double our market share, will require that we identify threats to existing markets and move quickly to counter, organize or eliminate our competition. History has aptly demonstrated the result if we do not respond. In many areas of the country we had all but abandoned our reinforcing steel work but have shown that it can be recovered. In the past seven years, the regional Local Unions 846 (Lakeland, Fla.) and 847 (Phoenix, Ariz.) have recouped over eight million man-hours, grown to 1,100 members and stands poised to make even greater gains as the economy improves. It took a drastic step to reestablish ourselves in those areas, but now we have a platform to show the value and competitiveness of the union model of safety, skill and productivity; to provide more opportunities for our members; and to continue the fight for a better standard of living.

The one constant is that to gain market share you must take market share from our competitors or convert them to signatory partners. We have the tools to do that through our members' commitment to safety and quality, the marketing of our value through IMPACT and our dedication to organizing the unorganized. We have proven it can be done and with your help it will be done.

Thank you for helping to build our great union.