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Vol. 13, No. 48 Week of November 30, 2008
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

AK-WA Connection 2008: Tradesmen union goes after jobs online

Ironworkers, industry forge beneficial alliance with association Web site that serves five-state Pacific Northwest region

Rose Ragsdale

For Alaska-Washington Connection

A little over a year ago, the Pacific Northwest Council of Ironworkers joined forces with about 300 steel construction and manufacturing employers in an innovative program designed to advance a mutual goal — securing more contracts for steel-related construction projects in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

These companies provide services that include steel fabrication, rebar installation, steel erection and welding services.

“We provide solutions as you pull together the pieces of a major construction project,” said Chuck Bolland, marketing director for the Northwest Ironworkers Employers Association.

The association’s member companies and the union work force are the people who will build the basics of most any public or private project, from the girders of a bridge to the steely skeleton of a skyscraper.

“Because of this, we know the work has to be done right,” Bolland said. “We’re not flipping hamburgers. To keep good, skilled workers, you need jobs.”

The lure of job-creation is what brought the Pacific Northwest Ironworkers Union to the table in hopes of generating more employment for up to 1,800 members.

One-stop marketing tool

One of the Tacoma, Wash.-based association’s first projects was to develop a Web site,, as a way to help spread the word about the alliance and its capabilities. connects builders, engineering firms and design firms, with one location where they can get information, bids, and assistance from over 300 companies in the Northwest region.

“We decided this was the way to start marketing the industry’s services,” Bolland said.

“So anybody wanting to start a large project involving iron workers can go to the one Web site and find all of the big companies in the Pacific Northwest that can offer those services with the skilled ironworkers they will need.”

The Web site is now getting 300 hits a month, an impressive figure when you consider the simple, hard-core industry information one finds at the site, he said.

The union was motivated to take a leading role in marketing the industry and its capabilities because the days of sitting by the telephone and waiting for a call are over for union workers and for companies that specialize in construction trades.

“We’re marketing our industry to our public which is public and private construction projects,” Bolland said. “Our members don’t want to just wait by the phone. People are communicating in a different way.”

Network advances union’s goals

The Web site and the concept of labor-management marketing of the industry is sponsored by a jointly funded group called IMPACT (Ironworker Management Progressive Action Cooperative Trust).

Designed to provide a forum for Ironworker Local Unions and their signatory contractors to address mutual concerns and encourage reasonable balanced solutions, IMPACT is a labor-management partnership. The group’s regional and national programs extend the approach, creating a national labor-management network, which promotes discussion of issues affecting the industry as a whole and enables the creation of effective strategies for resolving concerns to create opportunities for the union ironworking industry.

The primary mission of IMPACT is to expand the job opportunities for union Ironworkers and their signatory contractors through progressive and innovative labor management cooperative programs.

Long track record in Alaska

In Alaska, ironworkers, construction companies and steel fabricators have been part of the building scene since before statehood. They participated in all the great building booms of the 20th Century and look forward to capturing a slice of the construction pie when construction of an Alaska gas pipeline gets under way later this century. Projects across the state range from something as small as a set of warehouse doors to steel fencing to a 10-story building.

The companies listed on are all union and are backed by a trained work force. To keep this quality work force ready to take on any project, the Ironworkers have one of the best apprenticeship programs in the building trades, according to Bolland.

Construction projects taken on by the ironworkers association in Alaska will benefit not only directly from having access to the labor union’s high-quality work force, but also indirectly by creating opportunities for Alaskans to be recruited and trained in the Ironworkers’ apprenticeship program and thereby secure great careers, he said.

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