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ABC Contractor at Center of Parking Garage Collapse
Posted Thursday, October 11, 2012

A section of a parking garage under construction at a community college collapsed Wednesday, killing two people and trapping two others in the rubble, officials said. One worker was rescued amid the debris, but authorities said it could be days before they are able to get the other one out. At least one other was unaccounted for.

Eight workers were hurt when the roof of the five-story concrete garage fell, creating a pancake-style collapse on the campus of Miami-Dade College, officials said.

"It was a floor upon floor, collapsing all the way down to the ground floor," Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue Capt. Louie Fernandez said. Some workers were taken or brought themselves to the hospital, while others were treated on the scene and sent home.

The trapped worker was pinned inside a vehicle. He was receiving oxygen, had an IV inserted into him and was being treated by a physician and a paramedic. Workers were using a crane to try to free him and had the Jaws of Life and hydraulic equipment on site.

"The way he's pinned, we are unable to determine the full extent of his injuries," Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue Lt. Arnold Piedrahita Jr. said late Wednesday, without elaborating. Piedrahita said workers would remain on site all night if necessary. Earlier in the day, authorities said it could be days before they could free the worker.

"It's an inch-by-inch type of thing. Very slow," Piedrahita said. "There is a big slab of concrete that is crushing where he is. They may have to move that slightly because you don't want to hurt him."
Asked if the worker was expected to survive, Piedrahita responded: "He's not in a good predicament. But he's talking."

Dogs, firefighters and other people in hard hats walked over piles of concrete, plywood and metal to look for other possible victims. Authorities said at least one worker was still unaccounted for, and a man at the scene who declined to identify himself said he believed his brother, who was working at the garage at the time of the collapse, was still inside somewhere.

Victoria Buczynski of Miami said she saw the collapse while she was working at Gurkha Cigars across the street from the construction site at the Miami-Dade College.

"It fell to the ground like a house of cards," Buczynski said. "The construction workers started running out, screaming. It was loud. Our entire building shook."

No students were in the area at the time. The campus was evacuated and closed for the rest of the week. Investigators planned to pick through the rubble to see what caused the garage to crumble.

"We just know that the roof collapsed," Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue spokeswoman Griselle Marino said.

William P. Byrne, president and chief executive officer of the garage contractor, Ajax Building Corp. (which is a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors), said an internal review was being launched to determine the cause. Byrne said the company would embrace "any additional protocols, policies and procedures that will enhance and ensure the continued priority of safety."

Marino said three people were initially trapped in the rubble, including the man who died. Seven of the injured went to the hospital and an eighth was treated at the scene.

One of the rescued workers was pulled out from under a steal beam by four firefighters. His face and hands were bloody and he was put on a stretcher and carried away, according to a video shot by Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue and provided to The Associated Press.

Ground was broken on the $22.5 million project in February, and the 1,855-space garage was to be finished in December, according to Ajax's website.

The first floor was to have classroom and office space. The structure is next to the college's main office building and nestled among other campus buildings.

The college serves about 8,000 students and is one of several campuses in the Miami-Dade College system. This campus opened in 2006.

The identity of the worker who died was not immediately released.





Who Is The Real Associated Builders and Contractors?

During any number of dark periods in human history, the forces who set their designs upon absolute power and oppression subscribed to the theory that an endless stream of lies and distortions was central to achieving their aims.  It was, and still is, known as propaganda, and its primary objective is to persuade people of what those seeking power and control think is right - regardless of the facts.  To those seeking power, propaganda does not have to be popular, nor does is have to be intellectually pleasing, because, according to the theory, it is not the goal of propaganda to discover intellectual truths.

In our modern system of political debate and discourse, those tenets have, unfortunately, been embraced and put into practice by various ideologues and extreme organizations.  And nowhere are the dark arts of political propaganda being deployed with such outsized exactitude than inside the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).  The distortions, falsehoods and outright lies being consistently perpetrated by the ABC when it comes to issues such as prevailing wage laws and project labor agreements (PLAs), are prime examples of the ABC's aggressive and disciplined devotion to the propaganda playbook.

What the ABC specifically seeks to do with their propaganda efforts is to divert attention away from their fierce defense of a "race to the bottom" business model that, for the most part, defines the non-union construction industry in America today and extracts tremendous social and economic tolls from communities across the nation.

When any entity is seeking to invest dollars in the U.S. construction industry today, it has essentially two business models from which to choose.  The first is a "high road" business model epitomized by the substantive investments in the world's most admired skilled craft training infrastructure.  These programs, in turn, produce highly skilled and productive craft professionals that command a pay and benefits package reflective of their skill and productivity levels (which numerous and rigorous academic studies have shown actually reduces costs for public agencies). 

Furthermore, the "high road" model promotes the development of career training opportunities in the skilled trades for local residents – particularly women, minorities and military veterans (through a program called "Helmets to Hardhats").

But what the ABC advocates on behalf of is a "low road" or “race to the bottom” business that is predicated upon the belief that contracts in the construction industry ought to be awarded solely upon a contractor’s ability to assemble a low-wage, low-skill, and oftentimes highly vulnerable and exploitable, workforce.  The ABC's propaganda characterizes this approach as "fair and open competition."  But, that begs the question as to whether the use of undocumented workers (estimated at 25% of the U.S. construction industry in 2007), or the systematic abuse of the H2(b) visa program to import skilled workers from other countries, or the misclassification of workers as “independent contractors” constitutes “fair and open competition.”

For sure, the ABC does not care that the claims they make about PLAs or prevailing wage laws are erroneous and not true, as long as the media and the citizenry are focused on those issues and not on the ABC itself.

Fortunately, Dr. Tom Kirger PhD. has provided a factually-based foundation upon which a harsh spotlight of scrutiny will now be directed towards the ABC; its operations; and its business practices.

Dr. Kirger, a Professor of Political Science at the National Labor College, recently concluded an in-depth research project that uncovers many of the fallacies that permeate the ABC's image and operations.  His research analyzed ABC from a number of different perspectives, including its origins, its membership and density among contractors in the American construction industry, its finances, its formal apprenticeship and craft training programs (along with its affiliate, the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER), and ABC’s more recent electronic, ideological issue advocacy.

In his conclusion, Dr. Kriger has this to say, in part, about the ABC:

ABC’s low road labor and employment advocacy may have produced short term gains for open shop contractors and construction users over the years (although this point is worthy of debate because many have excluded efficient unionized contractors from bidding jobs), but this strategy also produced negative consequences for the industry and our society.  Low wages and minimal training have had a detrimental effect on individuals and communities.  As a result, many industry leaders decry what they perceive as a tendency of young people to reject construction as a career choice.  ABC’s low road advocacy devalued construction as an occupation.  Where construction jobs once existed as an entry point to the middle class and as the backbone of local economies, it has been observed that today “Construction workers – union and non-union alike – now tend to work harder, for less money, and under harsher conditions.”

 For the industry as a whole, the second negative consequence has been chronic regional shortages of skilled workers in those areas of the country where anti-union campaigns and low road strategies have damaged the industry’s training capacity.