Union protests against state treaty at Stony Brook University

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Posted by Jennifer Corra

Union builders from Long Island protest a New Jersey-based company winning a $ 37 million contract to renovate and upgrade the main auditorium at Stony Brook University.

The pickets lined up with giant inflatable rats and open coffins outside the south entrance of the university with a sign that read, “Stony Brook University, stop using irresponsible contractors and start paying current wages.” But the university is sticking to it that the contract to repair the Jacob K. Javits Lecture Center was fairly awarded to Niram Construction and that wage laws are being complied with.

“Basically, they use New Jersey government contractors for taxpayers’ money,” said Anthony Speziale, an organizer for Laborers Local 66, a Melville-based union that represents approximately 1,000 skilled builders in Nassau and Suffolk counties. “It really should be … local contractors doing this work.”

The union is the local branch of the Laborers International Union of North America. It wasn’t the first time the State University Building Fund has hired the same company that specializes in green building processes. Since 2009, the fund has awarded Niram five further projects at state universities.

According to the university’s website, the State University Building Fund has awarded Niram the work to carry out a “major refurbishment of the 1968 lecture hall”. Existing lecture halls are being refurbished, the technology modernized and mechanical, electrical and safety systems replaced.

“Our ultimate goal is to get Stony Brook and make us one [project labor agreement] for the job, ”said John Keenan of New Hyde Park, a LiUNA business agent! Local 78, a Queens-based union that represents approximately 3,500 asbestos, lead, and hazardous waste handlers in New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey. “If we the [project labor agreement], we will get good contractors for the right wages, medical benefits and everything else for the workers. Our ultimate goal is to get SUNY, the state university, to bring in good contractors, safe contractors, and New York contractors. ”

In a statement, university officials confirmed that the contract was publicly tendered and awarded to the lowest qualified bidder by the State University Construction Fund under the New York State Finance Law.

“Stony Brook University does not manage the contract,” the statement said. “While Niram is a non-union general contractor who does some of the work with its own staff, Niram has also hired union workers to supplement its workforce.”

The statement also confirmed that the state will require the company to pay Suffolk County’s applicable wages to anyone they hire for the project, unionized or non-union, and that it has verified that all workers on the Javits Lecture Center project have the applicable wages.

“We’re the ones who pay taxes in Long Island and upstate New York, and if we give them to these New Jersey workers, it’s not going to benefit our community and our people are unemployed because of it,” Speziale said.

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