Jersey City is in the middle of a construction boom. Several billion dollars worth of projects are expected to get built in the next few years, most with some type of public support. Jersey City is also a city looking to create good paying jobs for its residents.
Enter NJ LECET and the NJ Construction Craft Laborers Apprenticeship Program. The two LIUNA labor-management funds worked with Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop as well as its employment and training office run by former New Jersey Governor James E. McGreeevy, on crafting a project labor agreement that would ensure a construction workforce was hired from local union halls. The agreement also established a pre-apprenticeship program with the Laborers that would train and bring into the union up to 25 - new members, all Jersey City residents looking for good employment.
“It really is a triple win,” explained NJ LECET Community Affairs Director Gerry Balmir. “Contractors and developers benefit by using a highly-skilled union workforce and those union members hired for these jobs benefit from the work. The City develops a program that creates good paying, career-track employment for Jersey City residents, and those residents receive free training and employment on Jersey City construction sites. Lastly, Jersey City helps recruit and pre-screen potential members and LIUNA benefits by bringing in to the union dependable and capable new apprentices.”
The prospect for work in Jersey City is enormous. With 253 stories of development expected in four buildings alone—nearly two and half as many floors as World Trade Center One—the construction staffing needs will be in the thousands. NJ LECET and Laborers Local 3 were quick to point out that such complex and large scale project can benefit greatly from the skilled and productive workforce unions provide. The City was quick to pick up on the value of working with a group like LIUNA which puts workers first but also has a solid reputation for working collaboratively with its employers.
“We have done a similar program with the City of Newark,” said LIUNA Vice President and Eastern Regional Manager Raymond M. Pocino, but because of the expected construction activity in Jersey City, this partnership will be larger than any we have ever done in New Jersey.”
Apprentices exceed expectations, all employed
Twenty-two apprentices recently completed NJCCLAP’s 80-hour General Construction Course, the introductory training for new apprentices. Apprentice coordinator Mike Cackowski was deeply impressed with the class citing their positive attitude and strong work ethic. “They came to class on time, ready to work and eager to learn,” said Cackowski. Construction is hard work and you can tell pretty quickly who will make it and who won’t. These men and women have what it takes to contribute—on worksites, at the union hall and in our communities.”
For new apprentice and Local 3 member Nina M. Green, joining the Union put her on the solid footing she didn’t find in earlier jobs doing things like temp work and street cleaning. The lifelong Jersey City resident is currently working a renovation job at the City’s main public library and relishes the opportunities she has gotten to breakout the jackhammer or chipping gun. “I appreciate every chance to learn on the job and stay busy,” said Green.
While new to the Laborers, Green has some background with unions through her grandfather, a union ironworker. “He was a role model to me,” she explained. “He knew how to work hard and take care of himself and his family. When I was a girl, I would always say I want to be like pop-pop and know that I am like him, a Union worker, I never want to let it go.”