Tags Posts tagged with "Union"

Union

by -
0 514
Union workers stand in front of Bristal facility in Mount Sinai in protest. Photo by Kyle Barr

As workers in bright orange crawled over the skeleton of two upcoming senior living facilities in Mount Sinai, several members of a local union stood in front of a large, blowup rat, saying the developer has refused to use unionized labor.

Local Union 66, which represents over 1,000 people in the building construction sector, stood outside the development March 25 as they criticized the developers The Engel Burman Group, of Garden City, for using Concrete Structures, a Ronkonkoma-based contractor. 

“They just poured all the concrete the last two weeks. A lot of work here has been done so far that we should have been doing,” said union member Darren Smith in front of the construction site. “Do you think I want to be out here? I could be in there, working.”

A representative of Concrete Structures could not be reached by press time.

Joe Cavalieri, the recording secretary of Local 66, said the union has had talks with Concrete Structures in the past about unionizing, but could not come to an agreement. 

“They’re not paying area standard wages,” Cavalieri said. “They do get IDA money, which is public money, and they charge exorbitant amounts of money for the housing, but they don’t want to pay the area standard of construction workers.”

Units in the complex will range from studio up to two bedrooms, but a spokesperson from Engel Burman has said they have not determined the prices of rent yet.

A scene of construction of the new Bristal facilities in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kyle Barr

Prevailing wage is the standard set by the New York State comptroller, which determines the wage and benefit rate paid to construction employees if they are working on public works projects or government-funded work sites. While the developer is the recipient of the Brookhaven town Industrial Development Agency payment in lieu of taxes agreement, the amount was not enough to conform to mandate prevailing wage, according to Cavalieri. 

The recording secretary said construction workers’ average wages on Long Island were closer to $70 an hour, including both wages and benefits. Based on conversations he’s had with the company, Concrete Structures workers make less than that.

“We live in a high-priced area, and we continually combat these contractors — not only local, but also out of state,” he said. “They take advantage of our economy out here, while not contributing anything to it.”

Construction is ongoing for two projects, a 120-unit Bristal Assisted Living community and a 225-unit senior rental complex for individuals 55 and over on a 24-acre parcel of land around the corner of Route 25A and Echo Avenue in Mount Sinai. The developers, The Engel Burman Group of Garden City, started construction around the beginning of the year. 

The development was also a recipient of a 13-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the Town of Brookhaven IDA, which would see the developer continue to pay $46,000 in property taxes for the first three years while the two projects are under construction. Then in the fourth year, the tax payments would increase to around $190,000 and would continue to rise to about $2.2 million at the end of the PILOT. From there, the developer would pay the full assessed value of the properties, which is expected to be more than the PILOT payments.  

A spokesperson for Engel Burman said that the problem was between construction subcontractors, and that it did not involve the developer. 

Though protesters outside the facility had signs with Engel Burman and an X through the name, some protesters complained that the developer had hired the nonunion labor in the first place.

“The contractor is paying peanuts,” said union member George Leone. “That’s a big job, a lot of our guys could be doing it.”

The Mount Sinai Civic Association, which gave initial support to the project, criticized the decision by the IDA, saying it would mean a loss in tax revenue to the area.

According to the civic association, the development is a part of a 1999 legal stipulation which resulted from a lawsuit filed against the town by them on the 24-acre parcel of land, and the land has always been designated for that purpose of creating these senior facilities.

A crowd packed the auditorium of the William H. Rogers building to speak on legalized marijuana Photo by David Luces

By David Luces

When it comes to legalizing recreational marijuana, the debate continues in Suffolk County.

More than 100 people filled the Suffolk County Legislature chambers Feb. 25 for a public hearing on the legalization of recreational marijuana and its potential impact. The over two-hour meeting fueled a contentious debate between attendees, with supporters pointing to the tax revenue the county could gain from possible legalization and the health benefits attributed to marijuana. Opponents argued that it is a quality of life issue and their view of the plant as a gateway drug, supporting the idea of the county opting out. 

“When it comes to the young developing brain there are no such things as safe drugs.”

— Kym Laube

County legislators on the health committee held the hearing to gather input from the community as New York State inches closer to legalization. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) expressed his support for legal recreational cannabis in his inaugural address in early January. 

John Durso, president of Local 338, a union that represents close to 300 workers in the NYS medical cannabis industry, said he supports legalization and views it as a potential source of economic development in the county — if done right. 

“As we got to know more patients, caregivers and medical professionals, we learned even more about the benefits of medical cannabis,” Durso said. “In easing symptoms for those who are ill or those who suffer from chronic pain, [it gives them] the ability to live more fulfilled lives.” 

Durso added the legalization of cannabis is an opportunity to expand beyond the 5 percent of the New York population who are currently enrolled in the state program and allow more to benefit from its effects. 

Kym Laube, executive director of the nonprofit social services organization Human Understanding and Growth Services, said instead of focusing on just one drug we as a county need to address all drug use for the sake of children.

“When it comes to the young developing brain there are no such things as safe drugs,” Laube said. “Schools across Long Island are fighting this — I just don’t think we are ready today to allow this to come [into the county].” 

At first, her stance was a strong no for recreational marijuana, but now with legalization potentially on the horizon she hopes it can be delayed as long as possible. 

“Let’s think of how we can build our drug prevention infrastructure,” she said. “Let’s ensure before we roll this out that every youth has access to prevention as much as they have access to drugs.” 

Troy Smith, deputy director of the Empire State NORML, an advocacy group for the regulation and safe sale of marijuana, said he is not advocating for legalization, rather regulation to an existing industry and safe access to the plant. 

“I would like to urge you all to just say ‘no’ — don’t opt out,” he said. 

Smith said many law-abiding citizens partake in the consumption of marijuana, and legalization would lead to the existing business being regulated better so customers are protected. He also added by opting out the county would forfeit tax revenue and benefit drug dealers and criminals. 

David Falkowski, owner of Open Minded Organics in Bridgehampton, which grows industrial hemp and sells CBD oil, echoed Smith’s sentiments of not opting out. 

“I would like to urge you all to just say ‘no’ — don’t opt out.”

— Troy Smith

“If by chance the county feels like it needs to opt out, I just ask them that this decision is not left up to a small board of temporarily appointed representatives and that it goes to a referendum vote,” he said. His sentiments were followed by loud applause from pro-legalization supporters. 

Some residents expressed concerns about quality of life and potential second-hand smoke hazards. If the county chose not to opt out, one resident asked representatives to outlaw and prohibit smoking in multiple unit-dwelling buildings to avoid the issue of people getting a contact high. 

For Kimberly Miller of Deer Park, marijuana isn’t all about getting high — it is more personal. 

As a recovering alcoholic and sexual assault survivor who suffers from depression, anxiety and PTSD, Miller said, for her and others like her, microdosing marijuana fills the gap traditional medicine doesn’t provide.

“Today I’m here asking you to fill one last gap for me,” she said. “Legalize and regulate marijuana, like you do with alcohol and tobacco. Let me buy it from a reputable business and let me pay taxes on it. Build some commerce. It’s a win-win for both of us.” 

by -
0 812
Nurses and their supporters picket outside St. Charles Hospital on April 8, calling for higher staffing levels and encouraging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Members of the New York State Nurses Association had drivers honking their horns near St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson on Friday, as picketers called for increased staffing of nurses.

Between 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 8, nurses and supporters marched and chanted outside the hospital to spread awareness of their cause. According to the nurses’ association members, some nurses tend to 10 or more patients and those working in St. Charles’ Intensive Care Unit are exceeding what they call a safe limit of one to two patients per nurse.

Increased staffing would help nurses devote more time to their patients, according to group members, which is better for the patient.

Nurses and their supporters picket outside St. Charles Hospital on April 8, calling for higher staffing levels and encouraging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Nurses and their supporters picket outside St. Charles Hospital on April 8, calling for higher staffing levels and encouraging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Nancy Joly, the New York State Nurses Association’s deputy director, said the organization has data showing that when ICU nurses have more than two patients “the chances of death are skyrocketed.”

The picketing comes as the St. Charles nurses’ union is negotiating with the hospital on a new contract, after the previous one expired in March 2015.

According to a statement from the hospital, the facility bases staffing guidelines on various factors, including when nurses call in sick, how much nursing care a patient needs, the number of patients who need care and guidelines set in previous union contracts.

Tracy Kosciuk, a St. Charles nurse of 27 years and president of the state nurses’ association’s executive committee for St. Charles nurses, said when they have too many patients, it’s difficult for nurses to give their “100 percent” and care for each patient, including teaching the patient and their family about their health.

“Unfortunately the mentality … nowadays in the industry is [that] all hospitals are short-staffed,” Kosciuk said. “That’s not acceptable to have that mindset.”

But St. Charles said the nurses and the hospital share the same goal of providing their patients with high-quality care. While the group has a right to picket, according to the hospital statement, it would prefer to discuss the nurses’ contract in a formal meeting.

“St. Charles remains committed to negotiating a fair contract … that supports our caregivers and the communities we serve,” the hospital said. “We will continue to negotiate in good faith with the union.”

Nurses and their supporters picket outside St. Charles Hospital on April 8, calling for higher staffing levels and encouraging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Nurses and their supporters picket outside St. Charles Hospital on April 8, calling for higher staffing levels and encouraging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Stony Brook resident Barbara Cea was among the nurses chanting outside St. Charles and celebrating when drivers honked their horns in solidarity. She has worked at the hospital for the past 32 years.

“They seem to be ignoring our pleas to increase the nurse-to-patient ratio so that we could provide adequate and safe care, which is more and more important,” Cea said. “We have to keep the nurses at the bedside.”

Cea supported the hospital’s statement that it’s trying to establish fair contracts with appropriate staffing guidelines, but said it’s been a slow process.

“Nobody knows when they’re going to end up in the hospital,” Joly said. “A lot of people are worried about their community hospitals being well-staffed. You really need to have good staffing everywhere.”

by -
0 906
President Dwight D. Eisenhower makes Veterans Day an official holiday. Photo in the public domain

By Rich Acritelli

Veterans Day is a time to remember all of our past, present and future members of the Armed Forces, but it was only about 60 years ago that President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially created the holiday we know today. Much happened on Nov. 11 even before it became a date of remembrance — there were significant losses and gains for our militaries during this month throughout history.

In the fall of 1776, Gen. George Washington was reeling from one loss after another that sent his army retreating from Long Island, Manhattan and across New Jersey toward Pennsylvania. It was a dark moment in the Revolutionary War for Washington to lose ground to the British, though he ultimately led the colonies to victory.

President George H.W. Bush rides in an armored jeep with Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. in Saudi Arabia, Nov. 22, 1990. Photo in the public domain
President George H.W. Bush rides in an armored jeep with Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. in Saudi Arabia, Nov. 22, 1990. Photo in the public domain

During the Civil War, in November 1863, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant was summoned to Chattanooga, Tenn., to prevent a total collapse of Union forces against the Confederacy. As Grant headed into the beleaguered city, he saw northern forces terribly hurt from the nearby Battle of Chickamauga. President Abraham Lincoln sent 20,000 soldiers from the Army of the Potomac to aid the defensive and later offensive efforts of Grant to defeat the South in that region, and while the Confederates had been on the verge of gaining a huge victory, Grant opened up the “Cracker Line” to Chattanooga, with additional men, supplies and horses to deter the enemy. Grant’s calm and cool presence helped secure a much-needed victory for a thankful Lincoln, who saw the battle as one of the greatest tests of survival for the Union.

Eisenhower had his own recollections of this date through his experience leading the Allied Forces during World War II. As a new commanding general, he planned the mid-November 1942 allied landings of Operation Torch against the Germans and the Vichy French in North Africa. From Morocco to Algeria, untested American military troops drove to destroy the war machine of Germany. The chainsmoking Eisenhower eagerly waited in Gibraltar for news that his men had achieved all of their objectives against the enemy. Two years later, in the fall of 1944, Eisenhower looked eastward as his forces operated on a broad front against the Nazis in France. By that time, his armies were nearing the German frontier with the belief that their bitter enemy was about to surrender. Little did he know that Hitler was planning a final December offensive, which would later be called the Battle of the Bulge, to drive a wedge against the Allies on the Western Front.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush led the American efforts to destroy the strength of Saddam Hussein. That dictator had invaded Kuwait and was poised to attack Saudi Arabia, but the U.S. aimed to protect the Saudis through Desert Shield. Two weeks after Veterans Day, Bush was eating Thanksgiving dinner in the desert with the American military forces that eventually led the fighting into Iraq and Kuwait to defeat Hussein’s Republican Guard army.

Over the last 15 years, the United States has been in a constant state of warfare against aggressor and terrorist forces. From the deserts of Iraq to the mountains of Afghanistan, American service members from across the country have tirelessly fought against an enemy bent on hurting our way of life. Currently, this mission has expanded over the skies of Northern Iraq and Syria to limit the growing expansion and influence of ISIS.

Americans should not neglect the “Forgotten War” veterans of the Korean conflict who bitterly fought against the communists during that Cold War battle, nor the Vietnam War veterans who honorably served for a decade in that Southeast Asian country.

May we always remember and honor our veterans from every American conflict, on Veterans Day and throughout the year.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College. He was a staff sergeant in the New York Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach.

Northport Historical Society’s latest exhibit gets personal

Eight of Northport’s Civil War veterans, from left, Roy Ackerly, Gus Gerard, Charlie Smith, Bill Mulfort, unidentified man, unidentified man, A.G. Tillotson and Barney Fox.

By Rita J. Egan

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War, and to commemorate the sesquicentennial, the Northport Historical Society is hosting the exhibit Northport and the Civil War: A Few Good Men. Visitors to the historical society’s museum can follow the lives of 12 Northport men from when they mustered in until the war ended for them.

The historical society joins other organizations in the township of Huntington hosting Civil War events. Both historical society Director Heather Johnson and Terry Reid, consultant to the collections and member of the exhibit’s committee, said when town representatives first approached the organization about hosting an exhibit they were a bit hesitant. They admitted they weren’t confident if they could pull together a full exhibit since they weren’t aware of many Civil War artifacts in their collection. However, Reid said once the committee started culling through items, they found muster rolls with very detailed information about young men from Northport who fought in the war.

The consultant said the muster rolls not only include information about what battles the young men fought in but also if they were injured, their eye color and hair color, names of their parents and occupations. With the discovery of the muster rolls, Reid said the exhibit became a possibility as the committee began writing the stories of each man.

“I thought that here are these men we can focus on, telling their specific stories. So we did it as more of a storybook as opposed to here’s a bullet,” Reid said.

Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Rita Egan
Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Rita Egan

The committee, which in addition to Reid includes Candy Hamilton, Christine Doll-Wagner, Rhoda Wright and Darcy Little, then set out to find the artifacts to complement the stories. An email was sent out to members of the historical society asking if anyone owned memorabilia. Chris Cierski and Ben Meyburg, Civil War enthusiasts, stepped forward to lend some of the pieces from their collections, including a uniform Meyburg has used in reenactments.

Reid said once the society had artifacts to illustrate the men’s stories the exhibit really came together. Visitors to the museum will not only find photos and letters but also equipment the soldiers would have received such as canteens, belt buckles and guns.

Once the artifacts were in place, knowing that the men belonged to the 48th and 127th infantries, the consultant said the committee members were able to create maps for each cabinet to show the troops’ movements.

“One of our main goals in this whole exhibit was to get people to really stop and think what these men, these boys, did at their young age of 18, 19. They all enlisted and ran off to war immediately to help the cause. Unfortunately it didn’t end well for most of them,” Reid said.   

The consultant said there are arrows on the floor to help visitors view the cases in order so that they can follow each soldiers’ journey in chronological order, and at the end, find out their fate.

“It was a very bloody, awful war, and the things they went through. . . . So, my heart was just breaking when I would read what happened to each one of them. I got emotionally attached to these boys. It was heartbreaking really to imagine what they must have gone through,” Reid said.

The exhibit also touches on the contributions the survivors made to Northport after their discharges such as Alfred C. Tillotson who owned a dry goods store on Main Street in the village.

The subject of whether a soldier will return from war is one that Johnson said she believes still strongly resonates with people.

“The idea of coming home, or unfortunately not coming home, it’s been going on since war began and continues to go on, unfortunately. I think because of that though it’s a universal theme. It’s something that  we can all relate to even if you haven’t anyone really close to you or in your family who has fought in a war, you probably know someone who has or at least feel for those who are currently fighting,” Johnson said.

The director said visitors will find many interesting items on display including a metal heel plate with a shamrock cutout that Irish soldiers would use on their boots. Johnson said when she saw it she was touched by the fact that despite the horrors they faced, the soldiers still enjoyed some whimsy.

Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Heather Johnson
Some of the Civil War items on display at the Northport Historical Society’s Civil War exhibit. Photo by Heather Johnson

Johnson said visitors will also find letters from Francis Sammis to a friend in Northport. The solider wrote about his memories of the girls in Northport and the get-togethers the young people would have.

“He’s still a young man. He may be a soldier and he may be fighting in a horrible, horrible war, but he’s still thinking about those good times. Similar to what a young man might do today,” the director said.   

Both Johnson and Reid hope visitors will take the time out to experience each of the soldiers’ stories and that it will have the same impact on guests as it did on them. Johnson said while everyone at the historical society learned a lot, she said she noticed the biggest impact on Reid.

“Terry in particular became very connected to those soldiers. She had read enough about them and it took on a different meaning for her,” Johnson said.

Reid said she found herself feeling protective in a motherly way of the young men as the committee discovered more about each of them.

“I hope that other people will come away the same way, will have the same sort of change as well. How could you not after you see these men’s faces,” she said.

Northport and the Civil War: A Few Good Men will be on view at the Northport Historical Society, 215 Main Street, until the end of the year. For more information, visit www.northporthistorical.org or call 631-757-9859.

The barracks of the 124th Illinois Infantry in Vicksburg, Miss. Photo in the public domain

By Rich Acritelli

Independence Day commemorates the birth of our nation as well as a day when the Union Army notched a huge victory during the Civil War. It was a July 4 more than 150 years ago that saw some of the most serious fighting ever to take place on U.S. soil.

President Abraham Lincoln wanted desperately to end the Civil War and preserve the Union. By mid-1863, the only way to accomplish that goal was to destroy the southern will to fight. Lincoln’s most important leader was Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, who in 1861 was a shop clerk in his family’s store in Illinois. Nobody, including Grant, could have foreseen his quick rise from obscurity to one of the best fighting figures the nation ever produced.

Gen. Ulysses S. Grant poses in Virginia in 1864. Photo in the public domain
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant poses in Virginia in 1864. Photo in the public domain

During the war, Lincoln grew increasingly bitter toward the officers tasked with attacking the South. He detested Gen. George B. McClellan and later fired him for his unwillingness to crush the rebellion in Northern Virginia. For two years, the Army of the Potomac became a revolving door for other officers who failed to defeat Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Lincoln had a limited military background, serving as a captain during the Black Hawk War between the U.S. and Native Americans three decades earlier, but took his job as commander-in-chief seriously. One of his most important decisions was keeping Grant as the head of the Army of the Tennessee after the 1862 Battle of Shiloh and in the face of rumors that Grant was an alcoholic and unable to carry out his duties.

Grant’s rise to commanding general began during the Battle of Vicksburg.

Vicksburg was known as the “Gibraltar of the Confederacy” and the “citadel” on the Mississippi River. Early in the Civil War, Grant understood taking that location would divide the Confederacy, open the river to Union naval and commerce shipping and prevent resources from reaching Lee in Northern Virginia. Grant was determined to destroy it.

In April 1863, he saw he would only gain a victory by moving his army south and attacking Vicksburg on the same side of the Mississippi held by the enemy. This was a risky decision — one that could win or lose the war in the West. The campaign involved Grant cutting off his own supply and communication lines, with he and his men living off the land using the lessons he learned while fighting in the Mexican-American War. If he and his fellow soldiers could survive in the deserts and heat of Mexico, the Civil War fighters could do the same with the hearty agriculture, cattle and poultry resources in Mississippi.

On April 16, with his wife and youngest son Frederick next to him, Grant ordered a naval flotilla of gunboats and barges to make the perilous journey south. The Confederacy opened up its vast armaments but failed to destroy the ships, and Grant turned his gamble into a string of victories that led to the demise of Vicksburg.

Through July 4, Lincoln watched in amazement as the general decisively drove against the enemy. When one politician suggested the operation was a failure and that Grant was again drinking too much, Lincoln retorted that Grant was engaged in some of the most serious and successful fighting the world had ever known.

It was a cunning campaign to operate within the Confederacy. Southern Gens. Joseph E. Johnston and John C. Pemberton both commanded larger forces but under the attack of Grant’s Union Army were unable to combine their forces in battle. In Washington, D.C., Lincoln watched Grant take Jackson, Miss., the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, thereby cutting off the supply, communication and transportation links that supported Vicksburg.

In late May 1863, Grant began a 48-day siege that trapped Pemberton, a native of Pennsylvania, and his forces on the Mississippi River. By July 4, Pemberton’s men were starving and had lost their morale; they surrendered. On our nation’s birthday, Grant took 31,000 Confederate soldiers as prisoners of war, and seized 172 cannons and 60,000 rifles.

Church bells rang out in northern cities to celebrate the Army of the Tennessee’s efforts to finally take Vicksburg in one of the most vital campaigns of the war, on the road to reuniting America.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College. He was a staff sergeant in the New York Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach.

Northport-East Northport teachers picket over contract negotiations earlier this year. Photo by Rohma Abbas

By Susan Risoli

The United Teachers of Northport union has reached a tentative employment contract settlement with the Northport-East Northport school district.

School board counsel John Gross, of the Hauppauge firm Ingerman Smith LLP, said in a phone interview Monday that a memorandum of agreement containing details of the settlement had been delivered to Sean Callahan, the NYSUT labor relations specialist, that day.

Callahan will have the opportunity to make changes or comments on the agreement, he said. After that, Smith said, he expects it will take “another week or so before it’s signed.”

After signature by the negotiating team, Smith said, the agreement will go to UTN members for ratification, then to the Northport-East Northport school board for approval “and then it becomes public.”

The union’s previous contract expired June 30, 2014.

Union President Antoinette Blanck said in a phone interview Tuesday night that the union had received a draft of the memorandum of agreement and “we’re in the middle of reviewing it.”

She sent an email to union members Tuesday to update them on the contract’s progress, she said. A meeting was set for Wednesday with Callahan, she said, to review the agreement. Callahan’s office is in the same building as Ingerman Smith, she added, which she hoped would hasten the process if there are further discussions about the agreement.

After the memorandum is signed, each of the union’s 720 members will get a hard copy to read. There will be a ratification meeting, Blanck said, at which the settlement agreement will be explained. Then there will be a ratification vote “by secret ballot, in each building” no less than five days and no more than 10 days after the meeting, she said.

Although she said she couldn’t yet speak publicly about details of the new contract, Blanck said she felt positively about the settlement.

“We would have been still at the [negotiating] table if we felt this wasn’t an appropriate settlement to bring back to our members,” she said. “We’re hopeful that the rank-and-file members agree that this is an agreement that is respectful of the membership and respectful of the community of taxpayers.”

Blanck said the settlement was a long time coming “but certainly we’ve been very happy with the process” of negotiations.

The union represents the district’s teachers, teaching assistants, nurses, librarians, psychologists and counselors.