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    DID YOU SEE THAT RAT? Union Protests Use of Untrained Carpenters at University Hospital

    Witha 30-foot rat as a backdrop, members of the Empire State Regional Council ofCarpenters, Local 7 manned two protest sites last week at the North and Southentrances to the East Campus. The protest, which Council Representative ThomasFerris said will go on for ‘as long as it takes’, began on Feb. 6 asa reaction to construction work being performed by non-union carpenters at whatwill be the new Heart Center.

    Theunion protesters distributed yellow flyers which chided the hospital for’…Undermining Long Island’s Area Standards For Carpenters ByHiring ACC, The General Contractor, Who Is Using ORBIS…’

    Unionmembers allege that ORBIS is a non-union shop that does not participate in anyorganized training program, such as the four-year apprenticeship programoffered by the carpenter’s union.

    ‘Thishurts everybody,’ Ferris said. ‘The quality of the [ORBIS] workcan’t compare to [that of] the people that we put out.’

    Theflyer went on to request the public to ask the Hospital to ‘…respecteducation and hire carpenter contractors with a state certified apprenticeshipprogram.’

    PatCalabria, spokesperson for SB University Hospital, described the constructionof the Heart Center as ‘?the first major renovation since [the hospital]opened in 1980’ and is the first stage of a $300 million renovation. Hesaid that the project is expected to be completed in early 2004.

    Regardingthe hiring of non-union contractors, he responded, ‘The University isbound by state law, and state law states very specifically that the onlyqualification is that they pay prevailing wage.’

    Bothunion and non-union contractors bid for construction projects like this one.The contractor with the ‘lowest reasonable bid’ is awarded theproject.

    Membersof other building-trade unions were present to support the protests of theircarpenter union brothers, which is a common occurrence in the New York-metropolitanarea. But those supporters were reluctant to acknowledge that they were notfrom the carpenter’s union, which has an approximate membership of 4,000on Long Island.

    Telephonecalls to ACC, the general contractor, and SB administrators affiliated with theHeart Center had not been returned as of press time.

    The30-foot rat, which is frequently used by building trade unions at picketlocations, signifies the location of a non-union workplace.

    ‘Weall know what the rat means,’ said one union tradesman who did not wishto be identified. ‘?If contractors don’t respect the high standardsand schooling which organized labor provides, everybody loses – the owners, thecontractor, the workers.’

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