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Tue., Oct. 6
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Ironworkers picket Alcoa


MASSENA - Out-of-state contractors completing work on Alcoa’s cast house roof are a “hard pill to swallow” for the local laborers who protested outside the plant Thursday.

Ironworkers Local 440 is picketing Alcoa for allowing a Texas firm to work on repairs to the cast house roof at the Massena West Plant.

Dozens of ironworkers had surrounded all four entrances to the Massena West Plant on Thursday morning - two on County Route 42, one on state Route 131 and one on Pontoon Bridge Road. They held up signs with messages like “support local labor” as passing motorists honked their horns and waved.

Alcoa retained a project management firm, Fluor, which is awarding construction contracts. Fluor recently selected CCC Group Inc., San Antonio, to complete a portion of the roof repairs for the cast house damaged in a March blaze. CCC brought 24 of its own workers here and hired four local employees, Alcoa spokeswoman Laurie A. Marr previously said.

The ironworkers are losing out because of CCC’s selection, according to Business Manager Robert J. Cole.

He said he plans on continuing the picket until Alcoa reaches an agreement with the union providing more work for local labor. Mr. Cole had hoped to employ 32 ironworkers on that project for the next six months.

Mr. Cole said he had been in discussions with Alcoa and Fluor officials into this week, but didn’t see a resolution approaching.

“Let’s draw a line,” he said. “This is getting nowhere.

“Hopefully we can try to resolve this issue and get my local members back to work so they can start providing for their families,” he added.

Ms. Marr previously said CCC’s bid was lower than the competition by a “significant margin.”

“Our goal remains to keep the plant as competitive as possible,” she said Thursday. “We do that by selecting the most qualified and cost effective contractors.”

St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council Chief Paul Thompson, an ironworker himself for decades, offered support at the picket. Ironworking provides a living for families both on and off the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation, he said.

“This whole facility was built on union hands. These guys coming from Texas are just taking the bread off our table,” he said. “That’s a hard pill to swallow, to have someone from Texas working on the project.”

Other local unions have been contacted and may join the picket in coming days.

“The union is a brotherhood. It doesn’t matter what trade,” Mr. Thompson said. “They stick together.”

Six crane operators of the Operating Engineers Local 158 opted not to cross the picket line Thursday in support of the ironworkers, according to Business Representative Bill Shelly. Mr. Shelly suspected their absence meant the cranes wern’t operational Thursday.

“As far as I know, there weren’t any other certified people on premises,” Mr. Shelly said. “That’s their personal decision. As far as I know, they’re supporting the ironworkers.”

But work continued on the cast house roof project on Thursday, Ms. Marr said. Fluor awarded the contract several weeks ago, and CCC staff will proceed with the project as they have been, she said.

“It’s a big project, and there are many aspects to it,” she said in an email. “Everyone who is on site is working.”

Mr. Cole said next year’s potential modernization of the Massena facilities was also weighing on the minds of the ironworkers, who want to make sure they are selected for that project.

“That’s in the back of our minds,” he said. “If it’s starting here today, then what about next year?”

Ironworkers and their supporters may distribute fliers titled “Does Alcoa Really Care About Our Community?” at Monday’s Solidarity Day Parade in Massena.

Ronald P. McDougall, president of the Central Trades and Labor Council, said he understood a meeting between union and plant officials would take place soon.

“It’s troubling to everybody. We’re not talking union or non-union,” he said. “Hopefully we can have a favorable resolution to this dispute by Labor Day.”

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