St. Louis-area building trades weather coronavirus pandemic storm

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Labor/management collaboration played key role

WEATHERING THE STORM: Despite the crippling effect the COVID-19 pandemic had on many St. Louis-area businesses and employees, the building trades have weathered the storm, thanks in large part to collaboration between Labor and management. Here is a shot of the progress at one of the area’s largest union construction projects – the St. Louis MLS Stadium. – Photo courtesy of St. Louis City Soccer Club

By SHERI GASSAWAY
Correspondent

The year-long (and counting) COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 547,000 Americans and infected 30 million – more than in any other country in the world – and resulted in the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression.

The entertainment, restaurant and travel industries have been among those hardest hit due to social distancing guidelines and restrictions on gatherings. Thousands of workers in those sectors are still struggling.

Despite the crippling effect the pandemic had on many St. Louis-area businesses and employees, the building trades have weathered the storm, thanks in large part to collaboration between Labor and management.

And that success is evident in the more than 400,000 hours worked in 2020 alone by building trades union members on three of the area’s top union construction projects: the new St. Louis Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium; the new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) headquarters and the Interstate 270 North redesign.

‘NOTHING THAT WE CAN’T ACCOMPLISH’
“We’ve had no real work stoppages,” said John Stiffler, executive secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building & Construction Trades Council. “When Labor and management work together, there’s nothing that we can’t accomplish.”

Stiffler noted that the building trades and the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of Missouri set up a “Protect Yourself. Protect Others” hotline in the early days of the pandemic.

The hotline, which is still in place, allows building trades workers to call in COVID-related safety concerns and have them addressed transparently and anonymously by Labor and management.

‘KEPT WORKERS SAFE, JOBS PROGRESSING’
“The hotline has proven to be successful in several instances of making Labor and management aware of specific jobsite issues,” said AGC of Missouri President Len Toenjes. “It enabled the issues to be resolved and kept workers safe and jobs progressing.”

Stiffler agreed, saying the hotline led to a win-win situation because Labor and management both bought into the concept, with each call followed up on a daily basis and promptly addressed by the contractors.

“Their concerns didn’t fall on deaf ears, and the contractors played a big part in keeping the jobsites going,” Stiffler said. “It worked out well, and there seems to be a lot of work on the books and more to come moving forward.”

Here is a look at the area’s three largest projects, which are providing hundreds of building trades workers with jobs and steady incomes.

MLS STADIUM
The new 22,500-seat St. Louis Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium, which includes an adjacent training facility, club headquarters, team store and fan pavilion, is being built in the Downtown West district next to Union Station. It’s the future home for the St. Louis City Soccer Club.

St. Louis-based Alberici Constructors, Inc., L. Keeley Construction and Minneapolis-based Mortenson are the general contractors on the roughly $400 million project. Ground was broken in February 2020, leading to 241,000 hours worked by building trades members last year. Work is slated to wrap up in time for the 2023 soccer season.

NGA WEST HEADQUARTERS
The new western headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is being built at a 97-acre site in the St. Louis Place neighborhood at the intersection of Jefferson and Cass avenues. The project, jointly managed by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Air Force, is the largest federal investment in St. Louis history.

The $711.7 project was awarded to union contractors McCarthy Building Companies and HITT Contracting, and includes a 712,000-square-foot office building, parking garages, visitor center, remote inspection facility and access control points. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in late 2019. Work began last year on the project last year, clocking 139,000 craft hours. Construction is expected to be completed in 2024.

270 NORTH IMPROVEMENT PLAN
The $246 million Interstate 270 North project, awarded to union contractor Millstone Weber, involves widening over eight miles along 270 North, just west of Lindbergh Boulevard to Bellefontaine Road. All bridges along the route will be replaced and retaining walls will be installed along the corridor. Construction began in April 2020 and building trades workers logged 56,700 hours last year. The number of hours is expected to double in 2021. The project is scheduled for completion in late 2023.

PROTECT YOURSELF, PROTECT OTHERS
The AGC of Missouri and its members are continuing to take a pro-active approach to the COVID-19 pandemic to keep workers safe and ensure construction work continues with as little disruption as possible. The “Protect Yourself, Protect Others” hotline remains open and staffed. The number is 314-781-2356, ext. 1050.


 

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