September 18, 2009 Volume 110 Number 18

Group wants to revitalize construction partnership

A group representing labor, management and owner/developers has taken steps to revitalize Partners in Construction Cooperation (PICC) in Oregon and Southwest Washington. A luncheon Sept. 10 drew nearly 50 participants.

As its title suggests, PICC is a “cooperation committee” open to all in the industry who finance, design, build, and use union construction projects. Cooperation among the craft unions is a key element of PICC. Regular “toolbox meetings” are held at which workers can openly share their thoughts and concerns. Owners and contractors draw on the experience of the workers to solve any problems.

The bottom line is to increase productivity, boost morale, reduce accidents, and eliminate grievances.

PICC was launched in 1987. Its showcase project in February 1988 was a 105-unit Powell Valley Retirement Center in Gresham. Other projects followed, including the ARCO Sealifts in 1989 and 1990, four James River mill projects, and Intel’s research and development plant in Hillsboro.

“Powell Valley was the best project I ever did in my 35 years in the business,” Brandt said at the luncheon. “It came in under budget and ahead of schedule.”

Bob Alton, a retired project management engineer for James River Corp., incorporated PICC on all of his large projects. He said the process motivated workers, resulting in “increased productivity and very little rework. That makes a difference.”

For all its success, PICC faded away in the mid-1990s as construction work increased and portions of the program were incorporated into project labor agreements. But PICC’s non-profit status was maintained over the years by executive director Burton White. Taxes were filed each year on a small cash account that has sat untouched over the years.

“It’s all still legal. We could start tomorrow if we want to,” said Paul Stuckenschneider, a retired federal mediator who is helping in the effort to revitalize the program.

Stuckenschneider and White met with Ed Charles, executive director of Associated Wall and Ceiling Contractors, Scott Gardner of Gardner Financial Group, and Wally Mehrens, retired executive secretary-treasurer of the Columbia Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council. They are co-chairs of the new PICC, representing management, owners/operators, and labor.

The group decided to invite union leaders, contractor association officials, and signatory contractors to a luncheon to see if there was interest in PICC.

“This is the first step,” Charles said. “Of course, it will require owners and developers getting on board to make it happen.”

For more information about PICC, contact White at 503 590-3535.

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