He and his laborers have a busy day ahead of them. A concrete pour is scheduled for that afternoon and the wall panels and floor “tables” must be in place.
Sommerville’s a Local 894 union steward and laborer for the Welty/Boldt Co. on Akron Children’s Hospital’s $200 million “Building on the Promise” expansion campaign.
As he walks the job site to ensure it’s free from safety hazards, he notices one of his laborers could use a hand. He jumps right in and helps Briant carry a handrail and then hold it in place, while a carpenter screws it down.
Sommerville’s main role is to make sure each of his 16 laborers is being treated fairly, performing their jobs and working smoothly with the other crews on-site. If a problem arises, he’s there to help settle the issue with the construction foreman.
“Coming out of the Local 894, they expect a certain amount of responsibility out of their laborers and I’m here to make sure that the company that hired them gets it,” he said.
Normally, something arises right off the bat, he said. Sommerville’s even had to call in a union representative to settle issues in extreme circumstances — something he hasn’t had to do at Akron Children’s.
He credits the smooth process to the project’s Integrated Lean Delivery Method and team environment to the leaders at Welty/Boldt. They are on the site daily, talking to crews and assessing safety concerns to keep the project running as efficiently as possible.
“It’s like everyone’s on their best behavior,” said Sommerville. “It’s like they know we’re working at a children’s hospital, and they know [the kids] are watching out the window.”
With no issues to settle today, Sommerville begins his daily duties as a laborer. Today, he’ll be stock piling and transporting materials, helping to pour the concrete and cleaning up the job site.
His laborer, Hutch, calls him over for help. He helps him stack a pile of concrete panels, wrapping them in rope and hooking the load to the overhead crane.
The crane operator then lifts the stack and transports it to the other side of the job site, where they will be placed as a mold for the pour later that day.
“Just trying not to be nit-picking on every little thing,” said Sommerville on what it takes to succeed here. “You’ve got to give and take some. Most of all, treat people with respect. Talk to them instead of hollering and screaming at them.”
Sommerville got his start in the business 20 years ago after walking past a Ruhlin Construction project and walking onto the site to apply for a job. After much persistence and never giving up, he finally got the call to report to work there.
Since then, Sommerville has worked on several construction sites for Akron Children’s, the Hoover plant in Canton and Dirt Devil in Solon, to name a few. He has served as the Local 894’s union steward for eight years and its Sergeant of Arms for five.
“You just work around new people all the time, you get to meet new friends,” he said as the best part about this job. “If you get laid off, you can call them and [we support each other].”