John Balik has been named the 2013 TAUC James J. Willis Craftsperson of the Year. The award, which recognizes outstanding labor-management cooperation and quality craftsmanship in the construction industry, was presented at a special ceremony on May 9 at TAUC's annual Leadership Conference at the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro, Georgia. The James J. Willis Craftsperson of the Year Award recognizes five categories of achievement: Safety and Health, Schedule and Budget, Productivity, Cost Savings Innovation and Outstanding Craftsman.
John is a member of Iron Workers Local No. 3 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was nominated by TAUC member Graycor Industrial Constructors for his work on the construction and installation of a massive new coke battery at U.S. Steel's facility in Clairton, Pennsylvania. John was responsible for managing skilled workers from several different crafts, making sure everything worked flawlessly and keeping the entire project on schedule - a formidable task to say the least. The battery was comprised of 30,000 tons of bricks, more than six thousand tons of structural steel and 30,000 yards of concrete - not to mention six major machines that weighed a total of 1750 tons. And to make things even more interesting, all of the work had to be completed in an area less than 200 feet wide and 500 feet long! At one point, crews were working within four feet of an active gas line. Safety, cooperation and attention to detail were paramount.
"It was a tight situation," John recalled. "We ran into issues here where we physically had to have crafts working beside each other and it became really difficult. You physically can't get two people in the same place at the same time. I know there were times that the union guys managed to put aside their differences, their own pride and say, 'Okay, let's work together and get it done timely, safely, no lost time."
"John has a very diverse background," said Tom Muchesko, Senior Vice President for Graycor. "He has the eyes of an ironworker, but he also has the technical training of an engineer. So really it was a very good combination of knowing technically how to do it
and yet also having firsthand knowledge with the trades. John has great leadership skills. His directions were concise, and he was certainly well ahead of the curve when it came to the planning of this job and in making sure that the job got done on time. Those leadership skills proved even more valuable when the decision was made to finish the project two months earlier than originally planned. He helped analyze the schedule. He decided what shifts needed to be worked, and he determined which trades, which crafts had to work he really minimized the cost impact of accelerating the schedule."
When the project was finally completed two months early, the entire tripartite team of craft workers, Graycor and U.S. Steel had another reason to celebrate: two and a half million man hours were worked without a lost time incident.
Click here to watch a video about John Balik and his involvement at the US Steel Clairton project.