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Sun., Nov. 23
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Labor leaders complain about outside workers at state projects

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POTSDAM — Area labor leaders are complaining projects sponsored by the North Country Regional Economic Development Council are not being done with local labor.

Several union leaders expressed their concerns during the public comment period of the council’s Friday meeting on the SUNY Potsdam campus to fine-tune its strategic plan.

“I would like to see some components in this plan for local laborers and local people,” said Ronald Haney, secretary-treasurer for Central and Northern New York Building and Construction Trades Council. “When I go around to the work sites, I see a lot of out-of-state license plates.”

Richard L. Daddario, business manager for Laborers International Union Local 322, said when local laborers are used, their wages are cycled back through the region’s economy.

“When we spend money on health care, it is spent in Northern New York, when we spend money on pensions, it is spent in Northern New York, when we spend money on education, it is spent in Northern New York,” he said. “All we are asking for is a level playing field.”

Gregory Lancette, president of the Centeral and Nortern New York Building and Trades Council, pointed toward local economic conditions.

“Part of your vision is to develop the workforce and to employ New York state residents,” he said. “This is an area with higher than average unemployment rate... it is a lost opportunity for local employers to bid and compete for ongoing work in the area.”

Anthony G. Collins, co-chair of the regional economic development council and Clarkson University president, said that the governor’s office was working with the regional councils to make sure more jobs went to local workers.

“It’s a classic conflict, I think many in the room believe state funds should be invested locally,” he said. “We were assured steps would be taken to see the steps that could be implemented locally, were.”

The three labor leaders had started their day on the picket line with members of Ironworkers Local 440 outside the front gate at Alcoa’s West plant.

Ironworkers Local 440 is picketing Alcoa for letting a Texas firm, which is bringing in its own workers, repair the roof at the Massena West plant that was damaged in a March fire. CCC Group of San Antonio brought 24 of its own workers here and hired four local employees, Alcoa spokeswoman Laurie A. Marr said previously.

That drew the ire of Local 440, which had hoped to put 32 of its own staff to work there. Two inflatable again rats rose above the picketers as they continued their protest on Friday.

Mr. Lancette said union officials have not had an opportunity for much dialogue with Alcoa representatives since a meeting in Massena a week ago.

Mr. Lancette said union officials did have a “candid meeting” with Alcoa management officials John D. Martin, Alcoa primary metals plant manager in Massena, and Sue Flynn over a week ago to discuss the mechanism of a project labor agreement.

“We’re not looking to disrupt the steelworkers or Alcoa’s business. We want it to be a symbiotic partnership,” he said.

“We’d even be willing to go to Park Avenue (Alcoa headquarters in New York City) or Pittsburgh to reach a solution,” the union leader stressed.

“We don’t want to be here. We want to be inside. I don’t know what their mind-set is. Maybe they thought we were sleeping,” he said.

Ironworkers were joined on the picket line Friday by several other members of organized labor, including Teamster’s, leaders of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Council and Massena Mayor James Hidy.

Massena-based state police and St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department deputies were called to Alcoa during the noon hour Friday following an incident involving a picketer and a truck driver leaving the plant.

Massena-based state police said no arrests were made following a confrontation between a truck driver and members of Ironworkers Local 440 who are picketing outside Alcoa’s gate. Troopers said the incident was reported as an assault but, when they arrived on the scene they learned there had been a verbal altercation with a truck driver who was leaving the property.

Bob Beckstead and Ryne R. Martin contributed to this story.

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