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I Forge Iron

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First off, the title is from an excellent book by John Kennedy Toole.  Anyone who's read it will quickly pick up on why the title fits my story.

So we have a project where we're finishing out two floors of a high end office building.  Several of the other floors are completely finished, however the tenant is not occupying them.  This building has an attached parking garage which is completely empty.

Building management provided some parking passes to the contractors so the workers don't have to walk blocks from the nearest parking lot.  Our passes only apply to parking stalls in the sub-basement

People who aren't in the construction industry may not realize this, but most projects include landlord regulations which stipulate that construction workers must use back entrances to the project.  This means that even if we're building the front lobby, we're not allowed to come in the front door.

As part of the required safety protocols, we are expected to sign in at a desk outside the ground level back door before entering the building.

Three of our workers parked in the approved stalls in the sub-basement and entered the stairwell to get to the ground level, where they signed in before going back in and up to our site several floors up.

They barely got their tools on before the project superintendent kicked them off the job.  Said superintendent called our Project Manager and demanded that these three individuals be barred from returning for three days, before going on to demand that they should not be permitted to work anywhere else for those three days.  Apparently building management felt it was important that these people be punished severely so as to "send a message" to everyone else on the site.  So what did the guys do wrong?  Simple, they didn't use the designated construction entrance to the building.

At this point, I should point out that there are no pedestrian pathways out of the sub-basement level aside from the interior staircase they took.  The only way to use the assigned parking spots, and get to the designated ground level entry, would be to walk back up the vehicular ramp which would put them in the path of vehicles entering and leaving the garage.

After a lot of negotiating, the superintendent "settled" for the three workers to be sent to a different site for one day, provided we profusely apologized to the building engineer, surrendered our parking passes, and supplied the superintendent with a cold can of Red Bull.

Much like many of you, these three workers are providing for their families.  It's difficult for me to understand the sort of detachment necessary to imagine that over half a weeks earnings should be lost to a family whose father was taking the safest path to work.

Now, we're expected to count ourselves lucky that our workers must park half a mile away, when the temperatures are seldom above freezing, and building management can't be bothered to clear snow off the sidewalks.  After all, none of the building tenants are coming in.

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I experienced something like that a few years back.  We had office space in a 75 story building in a large city.  It was about 50% finished and occupied; the construction company was continuing to finish out the remaining floors.  Our floor was a couple of floors below the lowest construction floor.  Our secretary, seated in a cubicle outside my office, had plugged in a space heater to an outlet strip built into the cubicle walls, as many are.  For whatever reason, one of the construction guys happened to be on our floor and walked by her cubicle.  He noticed the heater plugged into the cubicle outlet.  Didn't say a word to anyone.  A short time later a union steward, I guess he was, tromped into the boss's office and said he was going to shut down construction on the ENTIRE 75 story building for some violation related to the space heater.  No one knew what the flip he was talking about.  Next thing you know we had a swarm of folks buzzing around, building superintendent, union guys, construction, guys, fire dept, and who knows who else.  The claim put forward was that the heater WAS NOT INSTALLED BY A UNION CONTRACTOR and AND VIOLATED THE TERMS OF THE GENERAL CONTRACT FOR THE ENTIRE BUILDING CONSTRUCTION.  Unplugged the heater and everyone left.  The union steward said that if she wanted to use the heater, to call him and he would have a union electrician come and plug it in for her........

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Arkie:  An elegant solution to someone being a jerk.  However, having a bit of a contrarian in my soul and being able to argue legal minutia with anyone I would have demanded to see the exact chapter and verse in the contract and make sure it is the final, signed contract including all change orders, then I would have said that the language was ambiguous and must be read with the entire contract to understand the context, then, I would have argued that because the floor was occupied and had been accepted by the owner for occupancy that the construction contract did not apply.  Finally, I would have said that it was a consumer device plugged into a union installed and inspection approved outlet and is therefore a fair occupant use not covered by the construction contract.  And, any unreasonable interference with the use of the occupant of the building by the union is a violation of National Labor Relations Board regulations and can result in a penalty imposed on the union not to mention the time and cost involved in answering an NLRB complaint.  But that is just me.  Just unplugging the heater was the simplest solution.  (And probably replug it in later.)

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."   

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Oh George I'm about to swoon just wanting to be a fly on that wall. <sigh> 

Often whipping out a note pad and asking for full names and spelling is enough to make people leave you alone. I know it's gotten decent service on the phone when encountering unpleasant types. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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Well, George, the follow up to the heater problems was that the next day, when the lady wanted to use the heater, we played their game...we called the building superintendent who had to call the union steward who had to get a union electrician on site and had them come plug in her heater for her...really embarrassing to the the union electrician who had to crawl on his knees under the desk to simply plug in a heater.  Needless to say, we never heard from or saw another union person on our floor, for any reason.  Not knocking unions here, but just pointing out how ridiculous some things can come to be.

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Frosty, a note pad and pen wielded with an attitude can be a powerful weapon.  Years ago (in my 20s) I was on a train from Chicago to Toronto and had a very nice older lady as a seatmate.  When we arrived in Toronto everyone got up to exit the train through an exit several cars forward.  We were near the end of the line.  The sleeper cars behind us had already exited.  I told my seat mate to come with me and we went through the rear door of the car to get off where the sleeper passengers had already exited.  Some porter or trainman stopped us and told us we couldn't exit there.  I pulled out a notepad and pen, looked straight at him, and said "What's your name!"  He slapped his hand over his name tag and scuttled off while we carefully and safely exited the train.  I wasn't long back from Vietnam and probably didn't have a high BS tolerance and knew how to assume a commanding attitude. 

Very often if you approach a situation with a demeanor that you expect a person to do or provide you with something and being nice about it you often get what you need rather than asking meekly with an mousy attitude that makes it easy for someone to refuse you. It also short circuits petty tyrants because you have an air of "apparent authority."  The petty tyrant doesn't want to get in trouble themselves and if you seem to be someone who can/will make trouble for them their line of least resistance is to accommodate you.

This doesn't mean you have to be a jerk but you have to be pleasant, firm, and assured.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."   

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Having worked for the state for so many years I had to learn how to get things done in an environment where the safest thing is to not do as much as possible. 

Always give the person who's job it is the chance to do it. Like you say being mousy invites the run around, playing phone tag is the best way to avoid responsibility. "That isn't my job you need to talk to X" must be part of the training. Asking for unresponsive person's supervisor often gets things done. If not don't climb the chain of command, the higher you go the better they are at the pass you off game. Go straight to the highest official and have a chat with the receptionist. Don't be bashful about mentioning how hard it is to get anything from so and so but passed off. Isn't it their job? Playing the poor soul who can't find help with the head secretary is often a good tactic.

NEVER yell, once you're marked as a hostile caller you'll never get anything but disconnected. It's even worse if you make ANY kind of threat, you might even see police involvement. Nobody has to talk to hostile people, the law is on their side. Be nice, be firm and remember poop rolls downhill so if you need to get something rolling start from the top of the hill. If the receptionist, secretary, etc. of the: Director, Mayor, corporate president, etc. asks the receptionist of the next head down the chain to check into the problem with X. The request gets more urgent and important with each level and by time it reaches the low level you were dealing with it's a command from on high and suddenly you're a top priority. 

The closest to a threat I'll get is, "Are you TRYING to make me angry?" That's walking the line but has worked okay the few times I've said it. 

Nothing always works but there are ways to apply serious amounts of pressure by being a pleasant person to chat with while you plead your case. Writing their name down is like rolling out the artillery. 

Unfortunately I'm not very good at it since the accident, my emotions are too close to the surface. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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I like the rule of three.

give them three reasons why it’s the nice thing to do.

give them three reasons why it’s there job and then if all else fails, three reasons why your lawyer will be contacting them...

very rare is the time I have to resort to more than two reasons why it’s nice and only once have I had to resort to the last step... 

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George's comments about the contract remind me of a few moments we've had on this project.  There's a semi-hostile design team on this project using submittal review to change the project scope.  Submittals are cut-sheets, shop drawings, and product samples that subcontractors are contractually required to submit to the design team for approval.  Back in the day, this process was intended to be a quality control measure.   The specifications are part of our contract, and the specs say you're not allowed to progress with any portion of the work requiring a submittal without receiving a "no exceptions taken", or "make corrections noted" response.  If they reject a submittal, you can't do anything other than send in a replacement.

The spec's don't appear to require the design team to actually approve submittals that comply with the specified standards.  

This allows the design team to reject my submittal on the grounds that it doesn't comply with what they now want.  I can't move forward with the work, so I send in a revised submittal for the new standard, and about ten percent of the time, they reject it because they've decided to change the standard again!  

The really devious thing about this is that the submittal review comments aren't technically "contract documents".  So the General Contractor has to follow up with a Request For Information, (RFI) trying to get the design team to admit on the record, that they've changed some aspect of the job.  This generates three documents, each of which has a ten day period for the design team to respond according to their contract.  So every time they do this, I'm stranded for a month.  The RFI response is no guarantee of clear direction either because the engineer might write one thing, and the architect might write another, all on the same response. 

Five years ago, design teams would have stamped my submittal "make corrections noted" then followed up with Architects Supplemental Instruction which formally changed the design (and allowed contract changes).  Now, every design team is abusing the submittal process to basically play "keep away" with permission to actually build anything.  I surmise that they're doing this to make last-minute changes to the project without broadcasting to the client that the resulting change orders came from their decision.  Contractually speaking, RFI responses can be valid grounds for a change order, most of which are due to field conflicts.

Another new angle for abuse is coming from design teams that exclude "coordination" from their contract.  Ostensibly, this transfers that responsibility to the General Contractor.  In practice, these design teams are free to reject virtually everything for lacking "proof" of coordination between trades.  See, they're not getting paid to review things for proper coordination, including any proof of coordination that might be sent to them.  However we're still not allowed to build anything without their approval.  When we do finally get permission, it's via "make corrections noted" comments which specifically deny any design team responsibility for the accuracy, veracity, utility, or suitability of the submittal comments.

 

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Sounds like a pretty one sided contract. Time for new lawyers? I've seen that in the design and construction section of highways, it's mostly mid management folk jealously guarding THEIR design. Anybody making a change must be resisted at all costs. In one glaring example a retaining wall was designed on the curb side of a sidewalk and the hill was designed to be cut back I don't recall but more than 10' from the sidewalk. The bench and light were in the clearly wrong design. 

It took almost 2 years to get it straightened out. 

Humans can be self destructively territorial at times. Control at all costs isn't uncommon. 

Frosty The Lucky.

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