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Finishing Industries Forum provides tools for the trade


The theme of the sixth annual FIF, “It’s Now or Never,” was repeated to the record-setting crowd of nearly 500 IUPAT contractors and union leaders throughout the event.

On December 1-3, the Painters and Allied Trades Labor Management Cooperation Initiative, LMCI, held its 6th Annual Finishing Industries Forum (FIF) in Las Vegas.

The event brought together leaders in the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) with their signatory contractors for workshops and presentations to help build more effective labor and management relationships.

Through the down economic years, the LMCI adapted the agenda of FIF to meet the current needs of its member contractors and union leaders. This flexibility has made FIF a signature event for the LMCI, the IUPAT and the Finishing Contractors Association (FCA).

As the market shows signs of recovery in 2011, the LMCI has again shifted its focus from purely market survival to initiating market recovery. The union and management leadership of LMCI believe that now is the time to make certain that both labor and management are ready to man the jobs that will return.

The theme of the sixth annual FIF, “It’s Now or Never,” was repeated to the record-setting crowd of nearly 500 IUPAT contractors and union leaders throughout the event.

“Frankly, my feeling is that we are at a serious juncture within our industry, said Kevin LaRue, LMCI administrator. “It is simple now or never that progress must be made. My question to you today is; will we continue to bicker over ways to preserve the 10-20 percent market share we have, or can we find a way to go after the 80-90 percent of the market we don’t have? I strongly urge all of us to utilize this week to maximize the benefit for our industries, your company and your district council.”

Attendees also had the opportunity to meet with the LMCI Co-Chairs, James A. Williams, IUPAT general president and Ed C. Smith, National FCA Finishing Contractors Association chairman. The discussions focused on the most pressing issues facing the industry.

“When we took that oath of office, as a labor leader, it was to be responsible for our actions,” said Williams. “Every single day when I get up I look forward to going to work. We all should have that attitude and if we don’t, we should remove those people from their position. I know that might sound a little hard coming from a labor leader, but I think it is necessary; leaders lead.”

“Our mission is to gain market share for our contractors,” said Smith. “We do that with a good partnership with our labor partners. That is the only way it will work in my opinion.”

Sean McGarvey, secretary treasurer of the AFL-CIO building and construction trades department, also spoke to attendees on the first day. His presentation focused on the future of the industry and provided a road map for continued success.

“Believe it or not, we will get back to the point where there is a manpower shortage, and we’re going to get our opportunities to work in places where we haven’t worked in the last 30 or 40 years,” said McGarvey. “When we get that work, we’ll need to perform. You’ll need to perform as a contractor, and we’ll need to perform as crafts people. And if we do, we’ll get the next project and the next project after that. As long as we perform, we’ll grow.”

This year’s FIF also focused on current issues by providing craft specific workshops paneled by industry leaders in both labor and management.

“In 2009, we held a workshop that specifically addressed our market share in the floor covering installation industry, and it was enormously popular,” said LaRue. “Since that workshop, we’ve put together a marketing plan, trained our members in new marketing techniques and have made plans to build our workforce, membership, when the tide of the economy takes a positive turn.

“Based on that substantial success, we’ve put together craft-specific workshops for this year that cover industrial painting, commercial painting, drywall finishing, glazing and sign/display and tradeshows,” said LaRue. “The plan of the union and the FCA is to put the same kind of marketing initiatives that we used for floor covering to work for the rest of our core trades.”

Another new component to FIF was a faux finishing, or decorative painting workshop. IUPAT contractors see great potential for this craft; however, some companies are finding it difficult to estimate a bid. In response, the LMCI worked with expert Sheri Zeman to develop a new web site to solve the problem.

“An issue with decorative painting has always been that contractors say that they know how to do it, but they don’t know how much to charge,” said Zeman. “What we’ve done is develop a site to take guesswork out of it.”

FIF attendees were also treated to a presentation by guest speaker, Mike Abrashoff, former U.S. Navy commander and author of It’s Your Ship.

Abrashoff shared how, when he took command of a U.S. Navy destroyer, it went from one of the worst ships in the Navy to one of the best.

“In order to maximize your team’s potential, you have to make sure everyone knows what leadership looks like,” he said. “By including them in the process, they became owners and take greater accountability in the process.”

Other guest speakers included L. Douglas Mault, president of the Executive Advisory Institute and Mark Breslin of Breslin Strategies.
In his session, Mault provided answers to questions about developing a marketing program, as well as why it is important to properly train your personnel, and how it reflects on your company performance.

Breslin discussed how the economic challenges of the industry and increased competition have created a perfect storm that could affect labor and management. He focused on operational solutions to these challenges and offered new motivation techniques aimed at increasing an organizations growth.

The forum also included a detailed report on the pension fund and a workshop that discussed the recent healthcare reforms.
For more information about FIF, visit www.lmcionline.org.


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