I just returned from Chicago where W&C and USG hosted our second annual contractor roundtable, this year with commercial ceiling contractors (a feature on the roundtable will appear next month). There was a universal unspoken acceptance among these very successful contractors that shook some of the observers: that subcontractors are somewhat helpless to control their own destinies.

Increasingly, subcontractors are at the mercy of the general contractor in such a way that one contractor was provoked to concede, "I guess we must really love this work or else we wouldn't do it." There was consensus that the GCs do have a disproportionate amount of power over the sub's destiny.

Many W&C readers, no doubt, live this reality every day and are also familiar with the seriousness of the topic thanks to Pete Battisti's column, "All in Agreement." While Pete tends to focus on contracts and payment, what I further discerned at the roundtable is that a GC's power also compromises the quality of a subcontractor's work at the sub's expense.

When owners and GCs conspire to maximize profitability, the expense is quality. When owners and GCs schedule various trades at the same time, causing installation chaos and incorrect order of component installation, the result might end up in the courtroom. For instance, mold might grow in those walls if the wallboard is installed at the wrong point in the construction process. This could be partially the fault of the GC who set an unrealistic schedule and deadlines. However, who is blamed for the mold? The drywall installer. In other words, not only do subs have to compromise quality to meet a GC's unrealistic scheduling, they have to answer for any repercussion that was not necessarily of their making! And the law of entropy suggests that things will only get worse as this practice seems to be accepted, however reluctantly, as the norm. Not one contractor at the roundtable disputed the reality of the GC thumb that they all work under.

Subcontractors should continue to organize and unite themselves and, as Pete writes, support only those that actually work on their behalf. Not only is it wrong for an independent and successful businessman to have no control over his income and the quality of his work, it's downright un-American. Look for the full story on the roundtable in next month's W&C.

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In the October issue of W&C we presented an article on the 50th anniversary of the Minnesota Lath & Plaster Bureau. Since publication, several readers have brought to our attention that Bruce Pottle was not mentioned in the story. Bruce was named director of the MNLPB in December 1989, succeeding Clint Fladland. While Bruce had virtually no experience in the industry, he quickly won great affection and respect with his enthusiasm and passion. Bruce passed away in January 1999, and was eulogized by Greg Campbell in our March 1999 "Off the Wall" column. It was not our intention to omit Bruce from the MNLPB article and we'd like to acknowldege his outstanding contributions now.

Campbell wrote that he was a "warm and affectionate fellow who wouldn't hesitate to offer assistance wherever it was needed. He was active in a number of organizations, helped write EIMA's Class PB specifications for EIFS and participated in the peer review of the International Code Council's section on gypsum plaster construction.

"More importantly," Campbell wrote, "he served as a highly respected ambassador for our industry, lending his integrity and good name to the promotion of the plastering trades."

On that note, let us remember during this holiday season, the example of men like Bruce Pottle so that their decency lives on in our actions.

On behalf of the entire staff of W&C, we wish a healthy and happy holiday season to all readers and their families.