By Joe Tansey
Photos: Mike Tribulas
There’s no other way to put it. The skilled labor force in Hamilton is frustrated. They are tired of being overlooked by the town of Hamilton for construction projects.
The Mercer and Burlington County Building Trades Council organized a rally on Saturday morning, May 6 on Route 33 in front of the latest project, a commercial center containing an Aldi supermarket and Panera Bread, to protest the awarding of jobs to those from outside the area.
“Hamilton is a great middle class town,” said Fred Dumont, Business Manager for Insulators and Asbestos Workers Local 89, “and the elected officials have forgotten about the taxpayers and residents of this town. These developers bring in workers from four or five states away. They come in and pay hardly anything. They work 12 to14 hours a day and then they leave.
“The people who are rallying here today are Hamilton residents,” Dumont said. “They pay high taxes and they don’t complain about it. All they want to do is work. There’s no consideration for local workers when developing these projects.
“We want to let the community, Aldi and Panera Bread know that we want local tradespeople on local jobs,” said Wayne DeAngelo, President and Assistant Business Manager, IBEW Local 269. “If Aldi and Panera think this is something that is going away, wait until opening day. Enough is enough.”
With DeAngelo taking the lead, all the trades came together to protest. “In the Mercer-Burlington County Building Trades Council, we have 19 international unions and 18 different individual construction locals,” DeAngelo said. “We sat there and discussed the problems in the growth of the private sector and development in Mercer and Burlington County and that we’re not seeing people in local jobs. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“At our council meeting, we decided to do something and let local elected officials and residents know that we want local people on their jobs,” DeAngelo said. “We’ll have over 400 rank and file members from the greater Hamilton Township area, all the different individual locals and international unions here to say enough is enough.”
Construction of Aldi and Panera retail locations are the latest in a string of jobs that have been handed out to laborers from outside of Mercer and Burlington counties. “Here in Hamilton Township, we’ve seen the past seven jobs go to contractors from outside this area. Those projects would have employed hundreds of union members, albeit temporary, but these men and women have made a living off temporary jobs,” DeAngelo said. “We’re here to get community support and let them hear what is happening where they live.”
What made the peaceful demonstration work as well as it did was the cooperation of every trade that came out to show support. “That’s what’s great about the building trades,” said Chuddy Whalen, Business Agent, UA Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 9. “We march under many different banners and at the same time we march under one banner in solidarity as the building trades. There’s a lot of camaraderie. This is what the trades are all about. It’s like one big family. Although sometimes we have differences, when it’s time for solidarity, there’s nobody better than the building trades.”
“I’m proud of all the business managers that are here,” DeAngelo said. “I’m proud of all the officers in my Mercer-Burlington County Building Trades Council for helping organize this. We want everybody coming out, staying off the road, not obstructing anything, and being peaceful. We’re angry, but we are peaceful and want to gain support.”
With the display of support now evident to the community and local leaders, local skilled labor hope this is the final time they are passed over for a job.