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FAA General Contractor Dispute

Updated on May 22, 2014

FAA General Contractor Dispute

FAA General Contractor Dispute is a continuation of Union Business Agent Solves Labor Disputes1&2. A True Story of THE CHICAGO-O’HARE FAA OFFICE EXPANSION built in 1978 at a cost on $900,000.The project consisted of adding new offices and radar controls, all built 22 feet under ground adjacent to the existing air traffic control tower and next to the Hilton hotel. Note that all of the workers on the project were members of local labor union trades.

The second phase of the construction schedule of the project was the completion of the building’s roof enclosure. The work included installation of a metal pan system ,concrete steel reinforcing ,the protective enclosing of the telephone lines and the pouring of the concrete roof utilizing a concrete pumping truck .It was decided to make the process a one day concrete pour operation due to a weather report that cold and snowy weather conditions were forecasted to arrive in a few days..

The steel reinforcing sub-contractor’s foreman told the superintendent ( super ) that his work would not be completed in time for the concrete pour on Thursday. After a short discussion, the sub-contractor was advised to increase his work crew a coordinately. The day prior to the scheduled pour, the steel foreman again said that he needed more time to finish his work .The super (superintendent ) advised him that the concrete work will start on Thursday morning as scheduled .The work will start on the north end of the building and proceed to south end. The super suggested that the iron worker foreman SHOULD PROCEED IN THE SAME DIRECTION and place the steel in the beams as directed.

Needless to say that the start of the day on Thursday was hectic. The concrete crew was pouring concrete, the iron workers were angry that they were forced to work more rapidly to keep ahead of the concrete operation. The pumping apparatus broke down in the middle of the pour, delaying the operation about 1 hour, somewhat to the benefit of the ironworkers. The pump was repaired and the concrete operation commenced and shortly thereafter broke down again giving the ironworkers about another 1 hour of time.

The ironworkers successfully completed their work before the concrete crew finished the concrete pour. The last concrete truck left the site about 4:30 PM, concrete was completed .5 hours afterward and the snow arrived at 5:30pm.The freshly poured concrete was unable to be blanketed during the 3” of snow that fell. The interior underside of the building was heated to protect the concrete from freezing. The following morning, the melted snow (2” of slush) was removed and the structure was covered with insulated blankets to satisfy the concerns of the FAA inspector.

A DISASTER WAS AVOIDED to having the open pan system to be filled with snow which would have created a massive cleanup operation. With the help of all the contractors contributing their best efforts in working together, the pour was completed. Tensions were high during the day but in the end all of the workers were happy to getting the job done. The bosses were also happy because the men did more than a days work that day. During the day the super bought coffee for the whole crew including sub-contractors in an attempt to settle things down and keep the crews from revolting and or committing a mutiny.

With the building now enclosed it was time to install the interior concrete floors. The only access to the structure was from 2 openings in the roof structure otherwise the interior of the building was pitch black until the temporary lighting was installed.. Prior to the finishing trades beginning, a waterproofing system was applied to the structure walls and roof.

The interior trades moved along without delays except for the need of special equipment that was required for the mechanical systems. Not to delay the job The FAA was not happy that they would need to pay extra money to receive the valve in order to start up the heating system. The mechanical systems were turned on and work to complete the permanent lighting was proceeding along as scheduled.

When connecting new work to the existing building started , the work had to be coordinated with the on site FAA Chief of Operations. I guess we could call this operation, the start of FAA Government Public Relations .


With the permanent lighting in place it was time to start removing the temporary lighting so that the finishing trades could complete the project. A problem arose with the area FAA chief of his decision not to allow the use of the permanent lighting system to complete the painting work. IT was a disappointment that the only lighting that he would allow was the emergency lighting systems to be on for the painting operation. The emergency lighting really was not adequate for the painting contractor. The painting contractor supplied his own light panel on wheels to furnish additional lighting needed to complete his work.

The superintendent voiced his objections to the FAA chief’s decision not to allow the use of the permanent lighting. It was pointed out to the chief that there were no windows in the building to allow natural light to light the building. The CHIEF’S DECISION was FINAL.

The project now having been completed, it was time for the FAA Chief, FAA Contracting officer, contractors Construction Manager and the Superintendent to inspect the work in order to develop a punch list of unacceptable and incomplete work items.

Most of the items on the list were minable except for miner defects ( light scratches ) on a few doors and some of the walls in the small offices. One of the first offices we entered, the lights were turned on, the emergency light was the only light permitted when the painter painted. Now with all the lights on imperfections in the painters work showed up. To solve the problem, the super walked over to the light switch and turned the lights off with only the emergency light being left on and said ‘’ how do they( the walls) look now that all of the lights are off‘? It wasn’t amusing to the FAA inspectors especially after reminding them of our previous discussions regarding the use of all the lighting .

The super requested them to mark the areas that were not acceptable so that the painter would only need to touch up the work only ONCE. It was explained to them that the more touch up that there is to a wall, the walls will appear to be all spotted up. It was apparent that they ignored the statement. They did a real good job of marking up the walls, for what they did, it would have been better to repaint the walls using all of the lights on in the room .

The scratches on the doors would required some minor touchup. The super explained to the FAA Chief that the painter suggested touching up the doors after the FAA moved into the building. From the painters experience, he stated that the movers will damage the doors. The FAA Chief insisted that the doors be touched up as per the punch list. The painting contractor proceeded as directed to complete the punch list items.

Try to visualize a wall with pencil markings, big circles and irregular circles throughout a small office. The painter touched up all the walls within the penciled markings as instructed and all the doors that required touch up. The painter, superintendent and the FAA Chief inspected the re- work. After which the FAA Chief asked the contractor when will the pencil marks be removed? The super asked the chief why should the painter remove the marks since the painter did not put them on the walls. Needless to say, we had another angry person when he found out that removing the marks were not the responsibility of the contractor but that of the owner. Sorry, the story is not over yet. Please read on to the final phase.


The new addition attached to the existing building was approximately 5 feet lower than the older existing building. The moving crew were government workers who were moving desks and other equipment down a ramp thru a 5 foot wide corridor into the new addition. The FAA damage report was interesting. Walls were scratched, doors were scratched and a corner of a wall was destroyed. The painter was right about the doors and walls. End of story, no. The painter received a LARGE change order from the FAA, portion of which could have been avoided. Justice was served.

In the City of Chicago NO work can be started without building permits. The FAA representative and the general contractor spend weeks in Chicago attempting to get a permit for the project, apparently without success. The general contractor started work as directed by the FAA and proceeded as per an agreed schedule. The standard procedure to occupy any permitted building in the City of Chicago requires a final city inspection. Only to make a short story short, the building permit was issued on the same day of the final inspection accompanied with the certificate of occupancy.

Who said ‘’ you can’t get anything done in the City of Chicago ‘’, yes you can, if you know the right people’’.

Hoping you enjoyed the story, a true story. Really it did happen!

Your author Jon Ewall

Jon's website

Your author is a online marketing consultant of products offered on the internet. Jon’s website blog contains a variety of interesting subjects and articles that he has written


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    • profile image 6 years ago from upstate, NY

      You're right jon, its all factored into the price and if the general did something to outrageously wreck our work we would try to renegotiate the job to get paid for add on's.-WBA

    • profile image

      jon ewall 6 years ago


      ''has us redu most of the walls.-''


      WALLS USUALLY aren't a problem, it's the doors that take a beating. Architects and owners on public jobs are the worst. Punch out before occupancy and/ or get a release and an agreement as to who pays after the fact. Most contractors will try to keep owners happy ( up to an amount ).

      I always punched my buildings out before asking for a final. Contractors sometimes complained but in the end they were happy because my guys could do minor touch up, they didn't have to come back . In many cases they got a extra for owners damages= happy contractor and somewhat happy owner.

      Always had a little leverage with the architect because I bailed his buns out on many occasions.

      Could tell you a lot of painting stories, as well as you could, I bet.

      Wish you the best. Thanks for the visit, sort of brings back old memories.

    • profile image 6 years ago from upstate, NY

      Hi Jon- I'm a painting contracter myself and have been in similar situations. We paint a new area with the expectation that everything will be all scratched up when the furniture is moved in and the carpets are installed. We are pretty proficient at touch up but often its never good enough and the customer has us redu most of the walls.-Regards-WBA

    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 6 years ago from usa


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