I read your article concerning alcohol and the concrete finishing industry. For the last 16 years I have worked as business manager for the local OPCMIA union here in Omaha, Neb. I have literally grown up in the concrete business and with the men who make up its ranks. This work can either bring out the best or worst in a man depending upon his vices. I can also tell you that the abuse of alcohol has hurt our industry. I can't count the number of men I have had to write letters for in an effort to keep them employed and out of jail as a result of their poor decisions. Yes times have changed. When my father was in the field many years ago there was a certain acceptance of drinking. I can promise you that in 2015 there is a zero tolerance for alcohol abuse in the industry. The contractors who employ our members view them as an investment that generate value that results in profit that enables the contractor to stay competitive and in business. When these same men begin to struggle with alcohol or drug-related issues their productivity falls off dramatically which affects the bottom line. It also affects my position as their representative.
I have been "dry" for 25 years as a result of my abuse of alcohol so know a little of what I am talking about. Please understand I do believe in helping these men and have done so numerous times. However we need to collectively change the culture of the construction industry where we are not viewed as a bunch of hard cases who work hard and drink hard. We need an image overhaul to being viewed as craftsmen who bring the project in on time and on budget.
With that, as I tell my men and women, it is all about "Good Decisions." It is time we make them.
Gregg D. Rhoades is BM/FST for the OP&CMIA Laborers Union #538 in Omaha, Neb.