February 6, 2001

Groups Push for Union Involvement

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As plans for a Cornell office building on the Commons move forward, the Building Trades Council (BTC) has hired a Buffalo-based lawyer to support the use of union labor in the construction.

The lawyer, Richard Furlong, seeks to create a coalition of several local groups who want to ensure that the Cornell/Ithaca construction partnership uses local union labor.

“It’s not a lawsuit,” Furlong said.

“We are going to be pressing Cornell and the city of Ithaca to build the facility with local workers and women and minority workers,” he said.

University President Hunter R. Rawlings III and Ithaca Mayor Alan Cohen ’81 announced plans for the multi-story office building at a press conference in September. The University and the City of Ithaca reached an agreement to construct a new $17 million structure that will house about 300 Cornell employees.

With the help of the coalition, Furlong hopes to convince the yet-to-be-chosen developer to abide by a project labor agreement.

“It’s a collective bargaining agreement signed by the Cornell developer and the [BTC],” Furlong said.

“This may end up being a very heated affair in the event that there is no project labor agreement signed by a developer,” he added.

Cornell will not own the new building. “It’s a building that will be on the tax rolls downtown,” said Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice-president for University relations.

Cornell will not have explicit jurisdiction over whether the labor used is union or non-union labor.

Although Cornell will not own the building, the University is solely responsible for choosing the developer who will direct the project.

“You can choose a developer who wants to use union labor or one who doesn’t,” Furlong said.

He speculated that the University will “select a developer in the next 30 to 45 days.”

Furlong has contacted several groups on campus and around Ithaca, among them the Cornell Organization for Labor Action (COLA), the Cornell Democrats and several trade unions in Ithaca who would benefit from a union labor contract.

Furlong is holding a meeting in Ithaca tomorrow at the Plumbers-Steamfitters Local 267, located at 701 W. State St., for any group or individual interested in joining the coalition.

“It’s an organizational meeting to get people to discuss strategies to make sure that the building is being built in accordance with Ithaca codes,” said Cornell Democrats President Mike Moschella ’02.

“They’re looking to build a broad-based coalition of … as many people who want to jump on board,” said COLA President Christina Ingoglia ’03.

“We’re all waiting to see what happens at the meeting,” she said.

Archived article by Maggie Frank