• News Archive

  • Bertolone & Wirt Discuss the School Modernization Project

    For more than a year and half, organized labor, particularly building trades unions, have worked with our state Legislature delegation to bring important dollars to the City School District. Now, under plans in the works, those funds not only will finance school buildings but also help students learn a trade, enabling them to build better lives. The Facilities Modernization bill, sponsored by Assemblyman David Gantt, D-Rochester, and passed earlier this year in Albany, brings the first installment of more than $1 billion for construction and modernization of our school buildings.

    The money and improvements it will buy are only the tip of the iceberg. It is an important boost for an often overlooked construction industry that has experienced unemployment rates of more than 30 percent in recent years. However, not only does it mean hundreds of real jobs, it has been written to guarantee local jobs for local people.

    And, here's where students come in. 

    The Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, has been working with members of the Rochester Board of Education and Mayor Robert Duffy on a very exciting proposal to couple the Facilities Modernization dollars with a School of Construction Arts to prepare young people for entry into an exciting career in construction. And, by pursuing a policy that requires contractors to have state-approved apprentice programs in place, the CSD will ensure that aspiring construction workers will get the training they need.

    Unions that belong to the council already collectively spend millions of dollars in education and training each year. Now the apprentice requirement coupled with the School of Construction Arts initiative will mean that young people who participate in the program will get on-the-job training in the very schools they attend — all funded by the Facilities Modernization bill. This is a model that can be expanded to focus growth on the urban core. Rehabbing in the city, rather than building new housing that contributes to sprawl, makes use of existing infrastructure, builds up a weakened tax base and increases city property values.

    Our state delegation, led by Assemblyman Gantt, has found that union labor is less than one-third the cost of public works projects and has certified apprenticeship programs that lead to real skills and family-sustaining wages. Good jobs, in turn, create demand for more jobs. Union construction workers have health benefits, whereas other construction workers often fall into the costly Medicaid safety net when work is seasonal.

    This unique partnering of the Trades Council, Assemblyman Gantt, Mayor Robert Duffy, the City School District and other unions can play a significant part in restoring our city and in providing real jobs, education and opportunity for this city's young people.

    Bertolone is president, Rochester Labor Council, AFL-CIO; Wirt is president, Rochester Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO.

  • Heat and Frost Insulators Local 26 Proudly Announces 100th Anniversary

    We can take pride in ur accomplishments both past and present in the 100 years Local 26 has been a chartered uniuon.  This organization began December 9, 1912 by seven insulators better known at that time as, Salamanders or Laggers.

    These seven men forged a union to advance their interests as working men and to develope opportunities for employment at their trade. A spirit of unity was born that still exists today.  The Union has preserved through good times and bad times with each new generation of workers doing their part in improving upon the goals set forth so long ago.

    Those seven men are: George Abel, F.M. Baetzel, Peter Coakley, B. Harry Coon, Roy Davis, James O'Hara and John Reese.

  • Local 26 Mourns the Loss of William Urquhart

    Brothers, 

    It is with a heavy heart that I report to you of the passing of William R Urquhart today March 9, 2010. William held most every office a local union member could for our local including Business Manager for 21 years NY/NE States Conference Secretary 17 years and Funds Manager 22 years.   

    Calling hours Will be at Paul W Harris Funeral Home, 570 Kings Hwy South, Rochester, NY 14617 from 4-7pm  Friday March 12, 2010 Friends and family are welcome to attend a reception immediately after. Service will be Saturday March 13, 2010 at, Spiritus Christi Church 121 N Fitzhugh Street, Rochester, NY 14614 10:00 AM


  • We Must Restore the American Dream for Every American Worker

    The surest way to accomplish that mission is to bring back the force that created the American middle class -- good union jobs that protect workers. 

    That's why we need the Employee Free Choice Act -- critical legislation that would give more workers a way to form unions and negotiate for better wages, health care, and working conditions.

    Click the following link to sign the petition for the Employee Free Choice Act:
    Sign the petition: http://www.freechoiceact.org/page/s/insulators

    We're teaming up with hundreds of unions and progressive groups to launch a massive campaign: One Million Strong for the Employee Free Choice Act.

    In 2009, we will have a new President and a new Congress. Our goal is to show them that that there are one million people across the country who want to give hardworking families a chance to get ahead.

    Why is the Employee Free Choice Act so important? Record numbers of workers feel that the American Dream has slipped out of reach.

    Today's workplaces are tilted in favor of lavishly-paid CEOs, who get golden parachutes while middle-class families struggle to get by. The Employee Free Choice Act can restore the balance, giving more workers a chance to join together in unions and get better health care, job security, and benefits -- and an opportunity to pursue their American Dream.

    Big Business knows what the Employee Free Choice Act would mean. That's why they are fighting against it with everything they've got. They're pulling out all the stops to protect the status quo -- a rigged system which allows employers to intimidate, harass, and even fire workers who try to form a union. We're not talking about isolated incidents: 30 percent of employers fire pro-union workers during union organizing drives.1

    It's time our economy worked for everyone again. It's time for Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

    Sign your name to the petition and add your voice to this growing movement. Help us meet our goal of one million signatures!

    Sign the petition:http://www.freechoiceact.org/page/s/insulators Together, we can win a chance for every American worker to reach their own American Dream.


    1 Chirag Mehta and Nik Theodore, Undermining the Right to Organize: Employer Behavior During Union Representation Campaigns, Center for Urban Economic Development, University of Illinois at Chicago, Dec. 2005.

  • What is John McCain's Economic Agenda?

    Next time you catch a John McCain interview, watch for what, at least to my ears and eyes, is a fascinating, albeit subtle, shift. When he's talking about almost anything other than the economy - foreign policy, the war, Congress, immigration - he exudes the typical confidence of a veteran Washington player. He deftly shifts the question to his turf, he ardently hits his message points ... just about what you'd expect, actually.

    But when the topic turns to the economy, his whole demeanor changes. His body language becomes uncomfortable; he almost seems to shrink a little. His edgy smile becomes forced, his words a bit - sometimes more than a bit - hesitant. Putting aside your views on his positions and evaluating his performance on form only, when he's on the other topics, he's a basketball player driving the lane.

    On the economy, he's looking to pass ASAP.

    In his heart, I think candidate McCain wants to fundamentally alter the economic landscape of goverment's role in the economy by deeply cutting non-defense spending, from discretionary programs to entitlements. He gets there not because he's heartless but because that's the unforgiving combination of his arithmetic and his ideology.

    Perhaps one shouldn't expect candidates' numbers to add up. Tally up Clinton and Obama's expenditures on health care and tax cuts and you will find that they both spend more than they raise. But McCain's numbers are out of whack by orders of magnitude beyond those of either Democratic candidate.

    Here's the gist of it: Despite his earlier opposition, he now wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent. Price tag: more than $2 trillion over 10 years, He wants to repeal the alternative minimum tax. Price tag: "up to $2 trillion" according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). He wants to keep the war going adinfinitum, at a cost of between $100 billion and $150 billion per year, according to CBO estimates.

    Then there is his health-care plan, which ends the employer tax exemption for the cost of covering employess, and uses the proceeds to subsidize the purchase of health coverage in the private market. The costly part has to do with the poor, the old, and the sick. As health econimist Jon Gruber noted, "his plan will require huge subsidies he's not talking about."

    Oh, and did I mention he wants to cut the corporate tax rate too, from 35 percent to 25 percent, and allow businesses to fully write off capital investments as soon as they make them?

    According to Len Burman of the Brooking Institution's Tax Policy Center, McCain's tax cuts would shrink federal revenues by 25 percent over ten years, at which point they would account for about 15 percent of GDP, compared to 19 percent last year.

    So, let's review. McCain is shaky on economic policy, has quite massive plans to cut taxes while kicking up spending on health care and the war, is loathe to raise taxes, and is articulating only tiny spending cuts. Or is He?

    John McCain, along with his top economic advisor, economist Doug Holtz-Eakin, talk a lot about "entitlement reform." What does this mean? Holtz-Eakin has integrity, and he likes his numbers to add up. He knows that they can't do what they say they're planning to do without going after entitlements big time.

    When it comes to economic stewardship, this election is truly a fork in the road. There are surely those who want to travel McCain's route, deeply cutting the size and obligations of the federal goverment in order to pay for tax cuts and war. But I think there are more of us who recognize that this path is a dangerous one.

    We've seen the outcome of Bushonomics. Its inattention to good goverment and its deregulatory zeal are evident from Katrina to Iraq to the current recession.

    Its reverse Robin Hood tax policies have exacerbated market-driven inequalities. Yet, much to some conservatives chargin, Bush was never willing or able to pursue a true slash and burn approach to fiscal policy. His privatization plans failed, he laid nary a finger on the entitlements (other than to expand Medicare), and his tax cuts will not be made permanent by the time he leaves D.C. As I see it, McCain wants to change that.

    He may come across as fumbling in interviews, but to see where he is headed, you have to blend an understanding of his campaign platform, his advisers, and his ideology.

    What you're left with is a plan to considerably shrink that part of goverment that functions to enhance economic security at a time when we arguably need a lot more of it.


    By Jared Bernstien, Senior Economist, Economic Policy Institute.

  • Working Families Can Make America Right, Again

    Steve Skara, a disabled, retired steel worker who can't afford his wife's health care, shook the AFL-CIO's Presidential Candidates Forum (last month) by asking tearfully, "What's wrong with America?" We should all be asking that question today.

    We've got six coal miners trapped beneath more than 1,500 feet of Utah coal and rock, three brave men who struggled to rescue them are dead and six more are injured. And it's not because of an act of god. It's because the acts of man.

    The disaster still unfolding at the Crandall Canyon mine did not have to happen. It was preventable-as were the deaths of 12 coal miners last year is the Sago Mine in West Virginia. As have been many, many more deaths of workers in America's coal mines and factories, fishing vessels, offices and construction sites.

    Saftey concerns about the Crandall Canyon mine surfaced months ago, and saftey experts warned of particular dangers in the "retreat mining" technique used there after it was approved by the federal Mine Saftey and Health Administration.

    In retreat mining, coalminers essentialy pull out roof-supporting pillars of coal as they work their way out of the mine. The retreat mining plan at Crandall Canyon, says United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts, "appears to have been flawed, to say the least. In our opinion, that plan should never have been approved."

    No one should be surprised it was approved, though. The Bush administration has been systematically dismantling and cutting funding for workplace saftey rules and oversight since it came into office.

    Every day in 2005 (the most recent data available), 16 workers died on the job and 12,000 were made sick-and that doesn't include the occupational diseases that kill 50,000 to 60,000 more workers each year. In many of these cases, one of two things occured: An employer disregarded the law, or the law wasn't strong enough to protect the workers.

    Something is deeply wrong with America today.
    Working men and women have lost their value to the people who have been running this country for too long. Ruthless CEOs wring working people dry and the neocon ideologues in the WHite House help them.
    Our wages are stagnant, our benefits are disappearing, the middle class is shrinking and, for the first time, our children will not be better off than our generation.

    We're the most productive workers in the world but we have to work more hours, more jobs and send more family members into the workforce just to keep up.

    The heros who rushed to Ground Zero to save lives and who dug and sweated and struggled for months after Sept. 11, 2001, are suffering today from neglect and indiffernce. Neglect and indifference left thousands stranded on rooftops and in a dark convention center after Hurricane Katrina. Neglect and indifference meant deplorable conditions for veterans recovering at Walter Reed. Neglect and indifference kill far too many of us on the job.

    There's a reason so many people who never will step foot in a coal mine are riveted by the story of the trapped, dead and injured miners.

    There's a reason Steve Skvara's comment at our presidental forum moved so many people.

    There's a reason candidates commited to improving the wellbeing of working men and women took back Congress last year and will take back the White House next year.

    Working men and women-the great majority in this country-want to fix what's wrong with America.