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Unions Now Fear Hamister Deal Will Produce Few Jobs

Mark Hamister never promised.
Paul Brown came to a conclusion.
The Hamister hotel will not need too many workers. It will go up fast.

According to the minutes of their October 1 meeting, obtained by the Niagara Falls Reporter, Paul Brown, who is president of the Buffalo Building & Construction Trades Council, addressed the Niagara Building Trades Council and warned that the Hamister hotel project would probably not produce much work for unions.

“It looks like they are back tracking on an all-union job,” Brown reported. “They are claiming it is (not) under prevailing wage.”

Union leaders supported giving the Hamister Group downtown Niagara Falls land and millions in subsidies in order to get a hotel project started.

Union leaders knew at the time there would be no Project Labor Agreement which meant Hamister did not have to commit to hire a set percentage of union workers.

They pinned their hopes on Hamister agreeing to pay “prevailing wages” which would mean unions would be able to compete with non union and non-local businesses.

Under New York State Labor Law, contractors and subcontractors must pay prevailing wages to workers under a public work contract. The Hamister hotel however is not a public work contract, but a private development.

Expressing disappointment, IBEW Local #237 Business Manager Russell Quarantello said, “The unions were all there to support the Hamister deal. But we thought there was prevailing wage in it. That was what was brought up. We we're told at a building trades meeting that we needed to support it because it was going to have prevailing wage.

“When you don't have prevailing wage,” Quarentello said, “it is hard to compete with companies from other areas that hire people that don't pay insurance. It's hard to compete with a company who brings in foreign workers with seven people staying in a hotel room like they did at Norampac.”

Clyde Johnson, chairman of the Niagara County Building Trades, told the Reporter that he believes there will be a prevailing wage agreement in the Hamister deal.

Laborers local #91 Business Agent Dick Palladino disagrees.

“You will not see a prevailing wage agreement,” he said.

Palladino was the sole member of the Niagara Building Trades Council who did not support the Hamister deal.

He also said the number of construction jobs has been exaggerated.

Palladino said, “Altogether, you will get 40 guys a paycheck at different intervals. There isn't a lot of work there for the construction industry. You don't get a big crew and (Union leader) Mike (McNally, who told YNN that Hamister would bring 100-200 jobs) knows that. Even if the plumbers go union, he'd be lucky to see half a dozen or eight plumbers for a short period of time. The total hours that you get (for a hotel like this) are not that significant. You get work for one week or two or three, for the 14 to 15 months they build this, from start to finish.”

Last summer, Councilman Sam Fruscione tried to negotiate with Hamister to include a Project Labor Agreement. He was vigorously criticized in the press. Union leaders claimed Fruscione was sabotaging the deal.

When Councilman Robert Anderson gave the third vote to approve the Hamister deal, some thought Anderson conditioned his vote on union workers getting hired.

The word “union” was never mentioned. The word “local” was not put in writing. At no point has Hamister, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Paul Dyster, Empire State Regional Director Sam Hoyt, USA Niagara President Chris Schoepflin, Council members Anderson, Grandinetti and Charles Walker, or anyone else, said there was a promise to hire union workers.

Fruscione tried to tell the people this.

At the time, they cheered when he lost his primary election.

The only problem was he was right.

When the Hamister deal was presented in 2012, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster and USA Niagara announced the Hamister project “would create 219 construction jobs and 130 permanent jobs,” figures used until late July, 2103, and published in all local media.

By July 23, Mayor Paul Dyster told WGRZ, TV a downsized number - dropping permanent jobs from 130 to 70.

The next day, the business manager of Plumbers and Steam Fitters Local #22, and vice President of the Niagara County Building Trades, Michael McNally, told YNN News that the construction job estimate was (down from 219) “probably 100 to 200 construction jobs.”

By Aug. 2, Council Member Kristen Grandinetti, in an op-ed published in the Niagara Gazette, entitled, “The Hamister Deal by the Numbers,” wrote there would be 55 construction jobs and 23 permanent jobs.

From 219 construction jobs down to 55.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

OCT 08, 2013