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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Union protesters take on SBU construction project

    Like many colleges around the country, Stony Brook University is often the stage of protests and rallies of many kinds. Usually, the demonstrations feature big signs, banners, fliers, yelling, masks and even costumes.
    But last week, drivers passing by the university’s south entrance on Nicolls Road came across a group of demonstrators who brought with them two giant inflatable rats.
    The men were protesting against Framan Mechanical, the construction company in charge of a renovation project at the university’s Life Sciences building, for not employing enough union workers.
    “They don’t want to pay the prevailing wage, so they sneak [non-union workers] in,” said Joe Cavalieri, an executive board member and business agent for the General Building Laborers Local 66 union.
    Prevailing wages – hourly rates set forth by the state – apply to all public construction contracts. Local 66 said that Framan Mechanical hired non-union workers so it could pay substandard wages.
    At least half a dozen demonstrators participated in the protest, which took place every morning between Tuesday and Friday. An agreement was reached through the weekend, however, and Local 66 will not protest at SBU this week, Cavalieri said.
    Framan Mechanical is running a yearlong project that will replace four major air handles, the internal piping and a cooling tower at the Life Sciences building, according to the university’s Facilities and Services website.
    The scary-looking rat balloons – which were about 15-feet tall and featured bizarre red eyes, long teeth and long claws – represent the “sneaky” non-union contractors and have been a symbol of union protests for years, according to Cavalieri. The other protestors refused to comment or be identified.
    Christopher Hollister, Framan Mechanical’s project manager and superintendent, said he doesn’t have any control on the company’s subcontractors and that they are responsible for their own labor. But Hollister offered the union “some small labor” just so it can be represented, he said.
    “We actually told them that next week we have some stuff coming up, which is why I don’t even understand why this happened,” Hollister said. “They have no standing … Calm down people.”
    Laborers’ unions like Local 66 represent workers involved in, among other things, cleaning-up, loading and unloading materials, removal of debris, demolition, digging and backfilling.
    Hollister said those types of work would not be available during much of the project.
    “To sign with them would mean that I’m guaranteeing them five days a week worth of work,” said Hollister on Tuesday, before the agreement was reached. “I don’t have any type of work like that. The project is confined to only four rooms.”
    He also said that the plumber who is working in the renovation is a member of Local 66.
    SUNY Construction Fund, which is managing the project, has not returned a request for a comment.

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