Union protest
Union members protest outside Town Hall

SCN/Finnegan

Union protest

Story By: LIZ FINNEGAN
10/12/2017


ISLIP TOWN—Members of the Nassau-Suffolk Building Trades Council protested outside of Islip Town Hall recently saying that the town has yet to adopt a policy that includes apprenticeship language with a graduation rate in large-scale construction contracts within the town. They say they hope to see a change soon to ensure the safety of various construction worksites and that local skilled workers will have jobs.

The union represents 59,000 members. One of them protesting said he is concerned that without that adopted language, standards for safety would not be upheld, and that workers would be imported from other areas, taking away jobs from local residents.

In fact, he noted that at job sites around town one could readily observe license plates from all over the United States.

“You can pay someone from North Carolina a lot less,” said James Oliveira, a nine-year member who graduated from an apprenticeship program. “But we live here. They’re not putting anything back into the community.”

Union president Dick O’Kane said that apprenticeship programs are an investment in a vibrant local workforce. “They’re now bringing people in from all over the country and it’s disgraceful,” he said.

O’Kane said that the Islip Town Board has not had the best interests of labor in mind by refusing to support this measure, even though it would be for the benefit of local residents, many of them their constituents. And he said the safety issue is real, too.

“There were 39 fatalities over the last two years and 85 percent of them were non-union,” O’Kane said.

Having an apprenticeship policy with a graduation rate in place would mean that laborers would be properly trained and that at least one would graduate every year. O’Kane said 60 have graduated over the past two years.

The union bears the cost of training each apprentice at no cost to the member or to the public. It costs between $35,000 to $50,000 to train each apprentice.

A truck billboard parked across the street from Islip Town Hall lists local municipalities that have apprenticeship language in contract policy. They include: Huntington, Smithtown, Long Beach, Oyster Bay and North Hempstead, noting, “because it’s the right thing to do.”

O’Kane said he suspects the Islip Town Board has yielded to special interests in their reluctance to adopt this policy. And with big construction projects on the horizon such as Heartland, he said it is becoming more important to get this done as soon as possible.

Islip Town was contacted for a comment and referred to the Industrial Development Agency, where the town board members also serve on its board. The statement read: “An apprenticeship program, or a requirement to use union labor, would be better negotiated under any possible future town Industrial Development Agency deal.”

However, O’Kane said he is not backing down. He said, “This is a campaign to [get this done].”