Our Politicians “Cheaper is Better No Matter What!”


, On Sunday June 26, 2011, 1:26 am EDT
     Talk about outsourcing.
At a sprawling manufacturing complex here, hundreds of Chinese laborers are now completing work on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Next month, the last four of more than two dozen giant steel modules — each with a roadbed segment about half the size of a football field — will be loaded onto a huge ship and transported 6,500 miles to Oakland. There, they will be assembled to fit into the eastern span of the new Bay Bridge.
The project is part of China’s continual move up the global economic value chain — from cheap toys to Apple iPads to commercial jetliners — as it aims to become the world’s civil engineer.
The assembly work in California, and the pouring of the concrete road surface, will be done by Americans. But construction of the bridge decks and the materials that went into them are a Made in China affair. California officials say the state saved hundreds of millions of dollars by turning to China.
“They’ve produced a pretty impressive bridge for us,” Tony Anziano, a program manager at the California Department of Transportation, said a few weeks ago. He was touring the 1.2-square-mile manufacturing site that the Chinese company created to do the bridge work. “Four years ago, there were just steel plates here and lots of orange groves.”
On the reputation of showcase projects like Beijing’s Olympic-size airport terminal and the mammoth hydroelectric Three Gorges Dam, Chinese companies have been hired to build copper mines in the Congo, high-speed rail lines in Brazil and huge apartment complexes in Saudi Arabia.
In New York City alone, Chinese companies have won contracts to help renovate the subway system, refurbish the Alexander Hamilton Bridge over the Harlem River and build a new Metro-North train platform near Yankee Stadium. As with the Bay Bridge, American union labor would carry out most of the work done on United States soil.
American steelworker unions have disparaged the Bay Bridge contract by accusing the state of California of sending good jobs overseas and settling for what they deride as poor-quality Chinese steel. Industry groups in the United States and other countries have raised questions about the safety and quality of Chinese workmanship on such projects. Indeed, China has had quality control problems ranging from tainted milk to poorly built schools.
But executives and officials who have awarded the various Chinese contracts say their audits have convinced them of the projects’ engineering integrity. And they note that with the full financial force of the Chinese government behind its infrastructure companies, the monumental scale of the work, and the prices bid, are hard for private industry elsewhere to beat.
The new Bay Bridge, expected to open to traffic in 2013, will replace a structure that has never been quite the same since the 1989 Bay Area earthquake. At $7.2 billion, it will be one of the most expensive structures ever built. But California officials estimate that they will save at least $400 million by having so much of the work done in China. (California issued bonds to finance the project, and will look to recoup the cost through tolls.)
California authorities say they had little choice but to rebuild major sections of the bridge, despite repairs made after the earthquake caused a section of the eastern span to collapse onto the lower deck. Seismic safety testing persuaded the state that much of the bridge needed to be overhauled and made more quake-resistant.
Eventually, the California Department of Transportation decided to revamp the western span of the bridge (which connects San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island) and replace the 2.2-mile eastern span (which links Yerba Buena to Oakland).
On the eastern span, officials decided to build a suspension bridge with a complex design. The span will have a single, 525-foot tower, anchored to bedrock and supported by a single, enormous steel-wire cable that threads through the suspension bridge.
“We wanted something strong and secure, but we also wanted something iconic,” said Bart Ney, a transportation department spokesman.
A joint venture between two American companies, American Bridge and Fluor Enterprises, won the prime contract for the project in early 2006. Their bid specified getting much of the fabricated steel from overseas, to save money.
California decided not to apply for federal funding for the project because the “Buy America” provisos would probably have required purchasing more expensive steel and fabrication from United States manufacturers.
China, the world’s biggest steel maker, was the front-runner, particularly because it has dominated bridge building for the last decade. Several years ago, Shanghai opened a 20-mile sea bridge; the country is now planning a much longer one near Hong Kong.
The selection of the state-owned Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Company was a surprise, though, because the company made port cranes and had no bridge building experience.
But California officials and executives at American Bridge said Zhenhua’s advantages included its huge steel fabrication facilities, its large low-cost work force and its solid finances. (The company even had its own port and ships.)
“I don’t think the U.S. fabrication industry could put a project like this together,” Brian A. Petersen, project director for the American Bridge/Fluor Enterprises joint venture, said in a telephone interview. “Most U.S. companies don’t have these types of warehouses, equipment or the cash flow. The Chinese load the ships, and it’s their ships that deliver to our piers.”
Despite the American union complaints, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, strongly backed the project and even visited Zhenhua’s plant last September, praising “the workers that are building our Bay Bridge.”
Zhenhua put 3,000 employees to work on the project: steel-cutters, welders, polishers and engineers. The company built the main bridge tower, which was shipped in mid-2009, and a total of 28 bridge decks — the massive triangular steel structures that will serve as the roadway platform.
Pan Zhongwang, a 55-year-old steel polisher, is a typical Zhenhua worker. He arrives at 7 a.m. and leaves at 11 p.m., often working seven days a week. He lives in a company dorm and earns about $12 a day.
“It used to be $9 a day, now it’s $12,” he said Wednesday morning, while polishing one of the decks for the new Bay Bridge. “Everything is getting more expensive. They should raise our pay.”
To ensure the bridge meets safety standards, 250 employees and consultants working for the state of California and American Bridge/Fluor also took up residence in Shanghai.
Asked about reports that some American labor groups had blocked bridge shipments from arriving in Oakland, Mr. Anziano dismissed those as confused.
“That was not about China,” he said. “It was a disagreement between unions about which had jurisdiction and who had the right to unload a shipment. That was resolved.”

Fight Hunger……Eat the Rich

Jesus was a Liberal   A Northern Sun catalog came in the mail today. Happy days are here again!! They sell great buttons and bumper stickers, or as they say, “Products for Progressives since 1979.” The pages are loaded with all the best liberal quotes and catch phrases. I always try to buy a button or two and show my support. Buy American. 
   Fight Hunger…Eat the Rich is the first one I would buy. I have to admit, that’s how I feel about the coming class war. Or how about When I Grow Up, I Want t be Too Big to Fail. Oh sorry, that’s only banks and health insurance companies.  We Already have Death Panels, they’re called Insurance Companies.
I like the ones that offend the people that offend me. Voting is Like Driving, “R” is for reverse, “D” is for Forward.
   I would love to run a company like this. It would make a great retirement job, doing something fun and making a statement.  I’d love to have this one on a bumper sticker, Where’s Robin Hood when you need him? Some of them explain the world in much simpler terms than all the talk shows ever could. Liberals treat dogs like people, conservatives treat people like dogs.
   Don’t worry that you might be offended if you check out the link,   Wikileaks says You can handle the truth.

UPS Management Style…..Self-Loathing??

   The UPS management  style must have been brought up from Below. I’ve never seen a company treat it’s employees as badly as UPS does and get away with it. At most companies, a whistleblower would have exposed UPS management as cruel and unusual. But UPS has elevated its own brand of micro-management to unbelievable heights. What other company, especially one with a Union contract, gets away with this level of harassment?
   UPS has always prodded and herded its workers like cattle on a drive to market. But it’s worsened in the last 10 years. And it continues to get more intense every year. Drivers who didn’t like how management treated them became supervisors and treated their group the same way. How does that happen?
   I think that UPS management attracts a certain type of person. And that person  is someone who hates themselves.
   For example, the new supe who now lords it over his drivers, demands perfection and threatens to fire anyone who makes a mistake, is a self-loather who hates himself for not being perfect and he’s taking it out on you.
   The manager who follows his drivers around and tries to catch them doing something wrong is the same guy who beats himself up for not achieving more. He’s going to make you achieve more because he feels like a failure.
   And on up the ladder it goes.
   We once had a division manager who could not show an ounce of compassion for anyone caught up in the disciplinary process. He acted like they deserved it. But behind the scenes, he was the one who deserved it. He had a penchant for going down on Colfax and picking up hookers. I’m sure he hated himself. Late in his career he came in looking bruised and battered.  He said he rolled his bike but word got out that he had gotten rolled alright, but not on his bike.
    Another time we had a preload manager who yelled and screamed at us like we were children. One day he came in with a black eye. Turned out he was molesting his childrens’ friends and one of the fathers found out. That was his last day. The way he yelled at us to be perfect only shows how much he must have hated himself.   
   So the next time you get chewed out or threatened, remember that it’s probably not you that has the problem. Hating your own inadequacies and projecting that onto those around you seems to be what defines UPS management. That’s my opinion based on 30 years in the meat grinder.

Don’t be Stupid

Speaking of scabs….it wasn’t long after the strike in ’97 that I was called in to steward for one of our scabs.  It seems he had gotten a little too friendly at one of his stops.
Many UPS drivers feel that they have a special relationship with some of their customers. Especially women customers. This guy had gone into one such stop and was chatting it up with the girl behind the desk. The wind was blowing like hell outside and soon the talk turned to the weather. The driver felt he could say almost anything to this lady and when he said “Did you order up this wind so you won’t have to blow your boyfriend tonight?”, she seemed to take in stride.
He was feeling pretty good about himself until the complaint came in and they called him into the office. That’s when I got involved. You know when you go in the office and the division manager is there that this is going to be a serious meeting. UPS always starts out with “Did anything happen yesterday that you want to tell us about?” I stopped the meeting right there and took the driver outside. I asked him the same question and he had no idea what the problem was. So we went back inside.
I told the manager that we weren’t going on his fishing trip and unless he had something substantial, we were done. That’s when he read the complaint. It seems the secretary had told her boyfriend about how clever the UPS guy was and the boyfriend called in the complaint. When UPS interviewed the lady, she claimed she was offended by the driver’s intimate comments and relelated several more incidents of raunchy statements the driver had made over the past several months.
The driver’s only defense seemed to be that he thought they were friends. That wasn’t enough to save his job. We took the termination to panels but when UPS read all the cute statements the driver had made to this lady, I gotta say it was down right embarrassing. That’s got to be one of the hardest parts of stewarding, trying to save a guy’s job when he’s done something really, really stupid.
You can’t always save people from themselves.

I’m Baaaaack

I’ve been away from the computer for awhile. 

I’ve been trying to capture that idyllic life of a retired UPS driver with nothing pressing to do and nowhere I have to be. A quieter world away from electronics and the internet and even the computer.
Well, it didn’t work. 
It seems that everywhere I went as a mellow, retired person, I ran into UPS drivers. Most of them I knew. Some of them I had represented as a Steward. Naturally, I had to stop and talk a minute.

It seems that while my life has changed dramatically since my retirement, not much change has occured at UPS. One guy told me that a driver in his center had to have both knees replaced and he claimed it as a comp injury. The division manager, with whom he was close, had supported his claim but comp denied it. When push came to shove, the division mgr told the driver ( a scab in the ’97 strike ) not to worry, he would be there for him. But on the day of the hearing, the DM was nowhere to be found and the driver’s claim was denied. So instead of receiving 2/3 of his salary and having all his medical expenses covered on comp, the driver went out on disability and received about 1/3 of his 40hr a week pay and paid 20% of the cost of the surgery and rehab.

Same old UPS.

It’s so good to be back.