On April 6, 1934, constructors abandoned their traditional every-man-for-himself policy to join in cooperative action under the title of Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania. Ten leading representatives of the industry met together to consider for the first time the possibility of presenting a united front to the many perplexing problems which were arising in heavy construction. This meeting led to a larger gathering the following week to secure a general reaction from the industry. Forty-four representatives from thirty-three companies attended. The constructors voted to proceed with organization. The Association was granted its charter as a non-profit corporation on June 28, 1934, and launched a career whose effects on the heavy construction industry were to be more fundamental and far-reaching than even its organizers could foresee.
Today, CAWP Contractor Members continue the over 75-year tradition of building western Pennsylvania’s highways, bridges, tunnels, airport runways, waste treatment facilities, dams, site preparation and utilities installation projects.
First Labor Agreement
On April 15, 1939, representatives of the Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania, Carpenters, Operating Engineers, Laborers and Teamsters came to agreement on the first labor contract in the nation covering the heavy, highway and railroad construction industry. An article written several years later summarized this momentous achievement:
Another principle contribution to the Association, representing a pioneering accomplishment now widely copied thru-out the country, is its labor agreement.
This contract was not easily arrived at; indeed, its present form comprises the fruits of five years of long-drawn-out negotiations, in their early periods interrupted by some strife and confusion. But in contemplating the disastrous labor violence, losses due to stoppage of work, and uncertain working conditions prevailing on every side in the past several years, the Association members agree without reservation that the effort which went into these negotiations has been many times repaid, and that they enjoy a relationship of unusual harmony and profit to all parties.
Chief feature of this blanket agreement between all Association members and the unions of Laborers, Operating Engineers, Teamsters, and Carpenters, lies in its recognition of the special conditions of heavy construction work.
Space does not permit reviewing the entire agreement; but results tell the story. In nearly three years of operation, since formal signing of the contract in April, 1939, members have experienced no work stoppages due to labor disputes. Part or all of the provisions have been adopted in 90% of all heavy construction labor contracts subsequently negotiated. Finally, the associations formed in drawing and administering the agreement have created an entirely new spirit of co-operation between employer and employee…
The impetus for the agreement was to level the playing field among competitors. The first CAWP Executive Director remarked at the time:
“The heavy construction industry has had to gamble with weather, with economic conditions and with labor conditions. We can’t do anything with the weather or with economic conditions but this agreement will tend more to stabilize the construction industry in western Pennsylvania that any one thing in its history.”
H2AP Industry Fund
In 1963, the Association established the Western Pennsylvania Heavy and Highway Construction Industry Advancement Program Fund, known today as H2AP, which allowed the Association to expand its services to the industry to such areas as manpower training, education, apprenticeship, and market development. The fund also provided the capital necessary to obtain additional manpower to staff the program. In ensuing years, H2AP activities grew well beyond the scope its founders had visualized, and soon included the establishment of the first craft training centers in the area. In the early days, the Unions utilized the Association’s office on Banksville Road to train individuals for varying job classifications that were in demand by contractors.
Providing a voice for its members has been an important function of the Constructors Association since its founding. CAWP and H2AP have played major roles in influencing the adoption or rejection of various types of legislation affecting the industry at all levels of government. With the cooperation of the crafts with whom the Association has agreements, significant contributions have been made to efforts to obtain highway funding.
From its founding, job safety has been a matter of intense concern to the Association. Established in 1936, the Safety Committee immediately developed a close working relationship with the Western Pennsylvania Safety Council to promote greater safety consciousness and to install more effective safety practices, equipment, and accident prevention training. To this day, annual safety training for superintendents and foremen constitute one of the most productive training efforts of the Association. At these training sessions, experts in the various areas of construction safety advise field supervisors and safety professionals on the best methods of informing, educating and training their workforces in safe work practices.
Construction Industry Affiliations
Since shortly after its creation, the Association has maintained active relationships with industry-wide associations to improve and advance heavy and highway construction.
In 1939, CAWP was granted a full charter with the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), the largest and oldest national construction trade association in the United States. Established in 1918, AGC is the most respected voice of the construction industry in the U.S. Congress and has continued to enhance its reputation for being the respected voice of the construction industry in Washington, D.C.
From the beginning, the Association had consistently attempted to join with other heavy and highway contractors in Pennsylvania to foster statewide cooperation. In 1961, CAWP affiliated with the Associated Pennsylvania Constructors (APC), which from its headquarters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, represents state highway contractors in their relations with The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania legislature.
After over 75 years, the tradition of working together as an industry to work to tackle the important issues facing the heavy and highway industry in western Pennsylvania lives on among the CAWP membership. While many things have changed over the years, one thing has remained constant – the aim of the Association:
to encourage and assist the organization of employees in the Heavy, Highway and Utility Construction Industry to the end that fair competition may be maintained, conditions of labor may be improved, and that proper and friendly relations may be maintained between contractors, their employees and the general public.