Strength In Numbers
A can of paint, a stepladder, and desire — at the turn of the century, painters needed little more to start a business. Today that paint, considered hazardous material, is tightly regulated; that ladder must be built to OSHA standards; and the desire? Well, it must be strong enough to chart a course through dozens of regulations and to adapt to the many changes taking place in the industry
Six far-sighted contractors detected this transformation more than 30 years ago. Despite being business competitors, they decided to band together for their common good. The date was July 30, 1974; their legacy is the Painting and Decorating Foundation. Since then, PDF has represented all of the St. Louis area union painting, wallcovering and drywall taping contractors that are signatory to the collective bargaining agreement with Painters District Council #2. As an industry advancement fund, PDF serves the contractors and their employees through educational programs, advertising, lobbying and social functions. PDF also provides resources to the local construction industry, architects and the general public.
“What has happened over the years”, explained Edward C. Smith, President of Hartman-Walsh Painting Company, “is that PDF has evolved as the industry has evolved”. And what an evolution it has been. “Today painting is scrutinized as much and maybe even more than other professions by OSHA, EPA, DNR and other regulatory” said Smith. “Over the years,” he added, “it became apparent to the PDF that we needed to educate ourselves.”
Establishing an Identity
Before PDF could assume a leadership role it had to establish its identity and prove its usefulness to more than the original six contractors who founded it. The founders, and the companies they worked at that time, included John Hinrichs of John H. Hinrichs & Son, Ivan Knopf of Knopf Brothers Painting, Richard Koslow of Shield Painting Co., Bob Latta of Busch and Latta Painting, Bernie Slattery of Slattery Painting, and Marty Walsh of Hartman-Walsh Painting Co. Under the leadership of its first three directors, Irv Below, Bill Knopf and Rick Moran, PDF waged a public awareness campaign. In the 1970’s many contractors were unfamiliar with industry funds, which operate from a small levy placed on union hourly wages. Early on, PDF published a contractor directory and used print and television ads to make the construction industry and the general public aware of its existence.
“There is no work force like our contractors”, said PDF Executive Director, Dan Wienstroer. “We believe that our workers have the highest training, the best quality and the most time efficiency in the painting and decorating industry.”
Partners with the Union
As a group of contractors, PDF has made significant efforts to build closer ties with Painters District Council #58.
“We are partners with the union”, explained Wienstroer.
This fact became apparent in the subject of one of PDF first public relations campaigns: sundown shift. Print ads, television commercials, and even match books proclaimed the willingness of union contractors to work the evening hours more convenient for many businesses without demanding high overtime rates. The sundown shift existed as a testament to greater labor-management cooperation.
“In their wisdom, [the industry leaders] decided we were losing a lot of work for people who were willing to do it after hours for a lot less”, said Wienstroer. The message was we will be flexible and willing to work with you the owner. That flexibility only existed because of the common ground between union employees and contractors recognized in the collective bargaining agreement.
Taking a Leadership Role
As PDF entered its teenage years, it reached a new level of maturity under the leadership of Charles Wallace.
“He took PDF to another plateau”, said Wienstroer.
Joining PDF in 1987, Wallace focused and developed the organization during the next decade. Wallace recalled that when he began at PDF, it didn’t have a lot of direction.
“We were not involved with other groups in the construction industry in St. Louis. Over the next year’s,” Wienstroer noted, “we became known as one of the industry leaders in St. Louis and across the country.”
With its many educational programs, lobbying efforts and connections with the local construction industry, Wallace extended the reach of PDF before he left in 1997. During Wallace’s tenure PDF purchased its own building in Overland and continued its public relations campaign in newspapers and billboards. More significantly, PDF began educational and lobbying efforts.
Education and Training
“As government regulation increased and the construction market changed, we realized that we needed to educate and promote professionalism,” said Joseph Ward, Jr., President of Joseph Ward Painting Co. “We started a lot of management training. PDF conducts five or six seminars each year, on topics such as estimating, foreman productivity, estate planning and blue print reading.”
PDF also provides its members and their employees with access to computer training and with safety instruction throughout the year. Employees of PDF contractors are educated in the Apprenticeship/ Journeyman Training School.
“Contractors have a lot of input on what is taught,” explained Tim Klotz, former Apprenticeship Coordinator.
This input allows for more efficient and better training of employees. PDF awards a cash prize, known as the James Barron award, to the best apprentice in each class. A scholarship program funded by PDF also encourages apprentices to supplement their trade skills with business training at local colleges.
“As an organization, the PDF tells [the training school] what we need to disseminate to our workers,” said Smith. “We are getting this information out in a much more efficient way than if each contractor had to do it themselves. This close cooperation between the union and the contractors creates time and money savings for all concerned. Best of all, this training comes at no additional cost to contractors.”
“There are not many organizations in which the contractors have everything given to them,” said Wienstroer. “PDF contractors are paid back for their investment in PDF, it makes no difference what size your company is all contractors are considered partners in PDF and are eligible for all benefits.”
Impact on Legislation
PDF members also gain strength in numbers through their efforts to influence local, state and federal laws affecting their industry. PDF cooperates with other trade associations in the St. Louis Area thru the Construction Employers Coalition (CEC). This group keeps a group of professional lobbyist in Jefferson City, a fact which makes PDF a force to be reckoned with. On a national level, PDF teams with the Finishing Contractors Association(FCA), and the Association of Wall and Ceiling International (AWCI) to lobby the federal government. The Executive Director and member contractors travel to Washington D.C. once a year to share the concerns of PDF contractors with area representatives. These efforts helped to pass the Miller Act in 1999, which increases protection for contractors working for the Federal Government. PDF connects its members with a variety of national organizations.
Community Service and Networking
Though the value of nationwide connections may not be readily apparent, all PDF members enjoy the chance to meet their fellow local contractors. PDF founders envisioned a social, as well as a business, role for the organization. Each May finds the contractors on the links for their annual golf tournament. Six months later they gather for a Fellowship Banquet, which features awards ceremonies, some official business, entertainment and a great steak. These events make it that much easier for contractors to share business concerns and advice. PDF also serves its members, by serving the needs of other local construction workers and architects. PDF Executive Director will answer any painting and drywall taping question, or find a contractor who can. Taking the initiative in reaching out to architects, PDF distributes copies of the Master Painting Institute Architectural Painting Specification Manual.
“We are here to service the architectural community,” said Wienstroer.
That outreach benefits all PDF contractors.
“PDF set up the area’s first recycling and waste disposal organization for hazardous material,” said Wienstroer. “We want our contractors to be environmentally friendly with the proper disposal of hazardous waste.”
PDF contractors regularly work with the union to help St. Louis area charities. Big Brothers/ Big Sisters, Catholic Charities, the Demetrious Johnson Foundation, and the Wellness Center have all benefited from their generosity. Regardless of its charity work, the most amazing part of PDF might just be its very existence. To a contractor of an earlier generation, PDF would be unthinkable; after 40 years of success, the next generation of contractors won’t know how to do business without PDF.
“Every major project in the St. Louis area has had one of our lead drywall or painters on the job,” Wienstroer pointed out.
There is, indeed, strength in numbers.
From quick access to a safety consultant and reimbursement for hazardous waste disposal to a chance to golf with your fellow contractors and an open line of communication with the union PDF exists to serve St. Louis area union painting, wallcovering and drywall taping contractors. The Painting and Decorating Foundation was founded as a nonprofit,& tax-exempt organization in 1974 to contribute to the advancement of the painting, drywall and wallcovering industry in the St. Louis area.
Through PDF members have access to
A conduit to Painter& District Council #58
Hazardous waste disposal reimbursement
Testing equipment available for loan
The latest industry news,
Membership in related local and national organizations
Fellowship with area contractors
Representation through lobbyists in all levels of Government
Reimbursement of some professional dues
Professional and computer seminars.
An architectural specification manual
Wage and contract interpretation
Representation at local and national conventions
Conference room reservations
Contractor and apprentice awards
PDF is managed by a salaried executive director reporting to the Board of Trustees comprised of PDF contractors. The PDF office is located at 1605 Fairview Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132. Normal office hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Phone number is 314/427-1114. Funding comes primarily from hourly contributions based on employee hours worked by PDF members. As provided in the trust agreement between the St. Louis Chapter #58 of the Finishing Contractors Association of St Louis (FCA-STL), and Painters District Council #58, contractors have signed agreements to contribute an hourly rate to the Foundation fund. The trust agreement provides for six contractor trustees. The function of the Board of Trustees is to establish and review major policy and plans of the PDF. Board members have specific legal and fiscal responsibilities to you the members of PDF. The Board of Trustees is the governing body of PDF, a responsibility recognized by Federal and State laws, which hold the Board responsible for financial integrity and employee conduct.