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Story - News

Dec 9, 2009 10:04 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Union protests construction of private hangar at Gabreski Airport

Dec 9, 2009 10:04 AM

By Hallie D. Martin

The hood of Sal D’Anna’s sweatshirt was pulled over the wool hat that he wore Monday as he stood with nearly a dozen other union ironworkers on a picket line near Gabreski Airport in Westhampton on a cold December morning.

“There’s a lot of non-union jobs going on around here,” said Mr. D’Anna, the picket line captain at the site. “There’s a lot of workers of our trade out of work because of the non-union.”

A private hangar is now being built at the Westhampton airport, which is owned by Suffolk County, according to Matthew Chartrand, president of Ironworkers Local 361, based in Ozone Park. The man building the hangar, Richard Mailland, has a hired a firm in Colorado to build the private structure, according to Mr. Chartrand.

Ten members of the Local Ironworkers 361 protested that move by picketing the site and setting up a giant inflatable rat on the corner of Old Riverhead Road and Stewart Avenue on Monday morning. The protesters returned on Tuesday to continue their picketing of the site.

“Why not use local workers instead of bringing in trucks from Colorado?” Mr. Chartrand said.

The hangar is being constructed by a private company on land that it is leasing from the county—a fact that prompted the union’s protest, according to Mr. Chartrand.

Mr. Mailland did not return a call seeking comment, and no additional details about the hangar were immediately available.

The hangar in question has nothing to do with the Medevac hangar that was supposed to be built at Gabreski Airport. Suffolk County and New York State both pledged to split the $1.5 million cost of that project, though construction was put on hold last year after the state could not find $750,000 in its budget.

Medevac choppers, which are used by the Suffolk County Police Department’s Aviation Section, fly locals with medical emergencies to hospitals in western Suffolk County in under half an hour.

Mike Keeler, a Ironworkers Local 361 member, stood in the cold with his fellow union members on Monday to protest the outsourcing.

“I’m out of work,” said the Port Jefferson resident.

Though Mr. D’Anna, who lives in Oceanside, notes that it is more expensive to hire union workers, he said those employees reinvest the money they make in their homes and by purchasing local goods and services. Those benefits are lost when a firm brings in outside companies to complete construction jobs, he said.

“That’s money spent to help the economy,” Mr. D’Anna said.

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The problem that the union members fail to state that the Ironworkers are asking for over $90 per hour for their work. Maybe that is why they are out of work!

What about the east end contractors that are also out of work. All the stimulus money coming out of the government goes to Union workers because of the prevailing wage laws. The local contractors will never get any of that money.

The union men should go back to the west end of the island (Oceanside isn't that Nassau County) ...more
By eastendman (1), southold on Dec 9, 09 1:48 PM
1 member liked this comment
Not only are the union workers over paid, they are not as productive as non-union guys. And do something a bit extra? Like move a pallet of blocks out of the way? Certainly not! Stand around and wait for a forklift - driven by a union worker from local 138. Who stands around all day - getting full pay, of course - waiting for the one hour of work he may be assigned.

Yeah. Go back to Nassau. Stop hassling us while we work.
By mariner (8), Southampton on Dec 11, 09 10:33 AM
1 member liked this comment
As a union member and local president, never feel sorry for the union workers. Unions have overpriced themselves. A free market system is the only way to ensure the public is getting the best quality at the lowest cost. When will the unions wake up and concede they are pricing their workers out of the markets?
By Walt (292), Southampton on Dec 11, 09 7:21 PM
1 member liked this comment
unions need to go away
By ridiculous (214), hampton bays on Dec 11, 09 7:34 PM
the age of the union is dead, unfornatally the unions didn't get the memo. just ask the union worker in Michigan they're the ones still unemployed while those who are non union are still employed or are able to get jobs. The unions have outpriced themselves and ordinary workers are now filling the gap.
By typical (63), southampton on Dec 12, 09 9:19 AM
1 member liked this comment