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Trades&Unions APRIL 2017

Women in the labor movement Apprenticeships for a SKILLED WORKFORCE

Sweeney for Senate rally

UNIONS SUPPORT St. Patrick’s parades


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Table of Contents • April 2017

Trades&Unions From the publisher: Republicans take aim at labor, p. 4 Experience of women in the trades, p. 8 Female foreman urges women: Join the trades, p. 12 Woman welder finds a home with Iron Workers Local 399, p. 14 Maria Greenwald’s legacy lives on, p. 17 Technology at the core of IBEW Local 351 apprenticeship program, p. 18 Small class size delivers huge benefits for apprentices in Local 89, p. 22 Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 apprenticeship program, p. 25 Apprenticeships for Local 322 Plumbers & Pipefitters in high demand, p. 29 Hundreds take part in “Steve Sweeney for Senate” rally, p. 33 Local 19 Sheet Metal Workers support cage fighter Joe Lowry, p. 37 To Roth or not to Roth: That is the question, p. 41 Unions support St. Patrick’s parade, p. 44 Low Back Pain and Sciatica, p. 47 Union Partners, p. 54 Bricklayers Training Center, p. 56 Bits & Pieces, p. 58

Volume 1 Issue 5 April 2017 Copyright 2017 Trade Media LLC

President & Publisher Chris Ferrari Chief Strategic Advisor Bart Mueller Executive Editor Jane C. Yepez Sales Manager Bret Mueller

Writers Don Benevento Kevin Callahan Samantha Costa Lynda Hinkle, Esq. Gus Ostrum Ken Shuttleworth David Spector Joe Tansey Cover Photo Curt Hudson

Photography Curt Hudson Mike Plunkett Mike Tribulas Joe Warner Design Maria Grzech Projects By Design Corporation

Marketing Consultant Jane C. Yepez Cutler Parrish LLC Government Affairs David Spector Contact Chris@trademediallc


Trades&Unions From the publisher

Republicans take aim at labor When Donald Trump ran for President in 2016, unions -- especially the building trades -- worked hard to stop him from winning. Despite the message they sent to their memberships that a Trump administration, putting Republican lawmakers in control, would be bad for labor, many union members broke ranks and voted for Trump. Some union officials estimate that 20 percent of their members supported Trump. Union leaders tried to convince union workers that nothing is more important than the paychecks and benefits that the American labor movement has worked so long to secure and protect. The message fell on deaf ears, and we are now in the first 100 days of the Trump administration with Republicans holding both houses. After being invited to the White House for a meeting with the President in what was believed to be a good first step, there has been a steady and consistent attack on unions. It is one thing to introduce legislation that is anti-labor, but what the


new administration is doing is exercising its rights under an not-so-well-known law called the Congressional Review Act (CRA). What CRA does in part is to allow Congress to review, by means of expedited legislative process, any new Federal regulations and overrule those regulations. Congress must act within 60 legislative days of the regulation to review and recall it to be able to exercise CRA. Otherwise, it becomes law. This has emerged now because President Obama’s administration passed legislation in its final days that would protect workers and labor in general. Republicans now are able to review and repeal those regulations without any opposition. The first thing they have targeted is pro-labor legislation. In the first use of the CRA, the House voted to repeal the Obama “Blacklisting” rule. The House voted 236-187 for a resolution under the CRA that would block a rule that requires companies to report any labor law violation or alleged violation they’ve had in the last three years when bidding on federal contracts over $500,000.

As a result of this action, non-union contractors with poor safety performance records are now free to bid on publicly financed jobs. Unions that have a very long history of training for safety are now at a disadvantage with companies who do not put equal emphasis on this area. In the second anti-union use of CRA, two Republican congressmen have introduced resolutions to block an Obama administration regulation that allowed state-administered IRA plans to avoid coverage under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Under the state-run safe harbor, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act was ammended to allow states to mandate the automatic enrollment of qualified employees in a state-administered IRA, so long as the workers are able to opt-out after being automatically enrolled. With this being repealed, employers are no longer held to a standard that enables employees to have a better avenue to save for retirement.

Continued p. 6

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Republicans take aim at labor In addition to the CRA initiatives, two lawmakers have introduced additional anti-union laws that are expected to pass the Republican controlled House and Senate. Representative Steve King (R) IA4th and Jeff Flake R-AZ are leading the charge with the following bills: H.R. 785 is a National Right To Work Act that was introduced on 2-1-17 and currently has 22 co-sponsors. Currently, it has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. H.R. 743 is a Davis-Bacon Repeal Act introduced on 1-30-17 and has nine co-sponsors. It currently is also sitting with the House Education and Workforce Committee. S. 195 is the TIRE Act and calls for a Davis-Bacon repeal on infrastructure projects. There are no current co-sponsors on this bill, and on 1-24-17, it was referred to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. S. 622 is the Fair and Open Competition Act which, in essence, calls for the abolishment of Project Labor Agreements (PLA) on Federally funded projects. The bill was referred on 3-14-17 to the


Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. With this assault on protective labor legislation, Representative Donald Norcross (D) NJ-1st., the only member of Congress who is an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW-351) member, has vowed to fight against these unsafe legislative actions that are harmful to unions, and ultimately to the general public. Norcross, who leads the bi-partisan Building Trades Caucus, is working across party lines to keep the Trump administration focused on rebuilding our infrastructure and growing jobs for America’s families. While some extremists in Congress are trying to roll back workers’ rights, hide labor violations, and keep wages down, Norcross is standing up for workers by leading the Building Trades Caucus. Norcross led a group of Republicans and Democrats petitioning President Trump to develop a plan to strengthen America’s infrastructure, and have highlighted specific best practices with full bipartisan support. Chris Ferrari President & Publisher Trades & Union LLC

“ Non-union contractors with poor safety performance records are now free to bid on publicly financed jobs. Unions that have a very long history of training for safety are now at a disadvantage.”

“ With this assault on protective labor legislation, Rep. Donald Norcross ... has vowed to fight against these unsafe legislative actions that are harmful to unions.”

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Women in the labor movement 2017

Recruitment and experience of women in the trades by Lynda L. Hinkle, Esq. Pay equity is a hot subject in political circles and it affects women daily across the United States who, as a whole, earn an average of 77 cents on every dollar that men make. In unions generally, that gap is only 88.7 cents on the dollar, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. However, in the building trades, women are still heavily underrepresented. For example, in 2014, the National Women’s Law Center reported that only 2.6 percent of construction and extraction workers were female. Similar numbers exist across the trades. Many unions are actively recruiting women with groundbreaking programs like the Sisters in The Brotherhood Program of the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters which provides a pre-apprenticeship that enables

We need “to get women to realize that this is a viable opportunity.” Sue Schultz, Program Director, Sisters in the Brotherhood

Maria Elena Foster: From painter to Director of Government Affairs for Painters District Council 711. women to be mentored to see if a five-year carpentry apprenticeship is the right career. The goal is to increase women apprentice enrollment to 10 percent. Currently, Program Director Sue Schultz says they have increased enrollment to about six percent and will need another year and a half to reach their target. The program, if successful, is a pilot that

will hopefully be rolled out by the International Brotherhood across the United States and Canada. “One important thing Is to get women to realize that this is a viable opportunity for them,” says Schultz. To help with that, they’ve created marketing materials to show women as carpenters. “We have done a huge amount of outreach all over New Jersey to community organizations, schools,

Timeline of Women in Labor


Women stage first factory strike in the U.S. in Pawtucket, RI 8


United Tailoresses form the first womenonly union in NY.


1,500 women from Factory Girls Association strike to protest increase in room and board.

state agencies and most One Stops, teaching them how to identify good candidates. A good candidate is someone who wants to do it, has the drive to build something, and who gets satisfaction from seeing what they’ve built, from their own hard work.” Some women have come to union membership on their own, however. Maria Elena Foster, a member of Painters District Council 711 who now is their Director of Government Affairs, got into the union to be able to better support her family. “In August of 2005,” says Foster, “I joined the IUPAT DC 711 as an apprentice painter in the commercial painting trade. I am a first-generation painter, and no one in my family belonged to a union. I decided to join when my son was three years old. I became a single mother a year earlier and was not receiving any child support or health benefits and had to rely on the state to provide health benefits for my me and my son. Although I held a certification in medical assisting, it was not enough money to support us. I was forced to stay home and take care of my mother when she became ill with a rare illness.


800 women march with 4,000 men during a shoemakers’ strike in Lynn, MA

“When my son was 2 years old, I was painting his bedroom and a friend came over to help,” says Foster. “He used to be a house painter and he mentioned that a relative of his was in the union, and it clicked. I hadn’t heard anything about the union in years. When I was in high school, acquaintances would tell me of their plans to follow in their fathers’ footsteps upon graduation. So, it hit me that I should join the union. I knew that if I had the opportunity to join and work hard, I would be able to rely on myself and take care of my responsibilities without relying on any assistance from the state or others. I found the contact information for the Painters Union, made the call and the rest is history.”

Amber Ray, an IBEW Local 269 Journeyman Electrician, reports that getting into the union was life changing for her, saying she can’t imagine doing anything else despite the challenges she has faced on the job as a woman. Ray enumerated them as “using a gross portable toilet (although now women have their own); the glares every time you meet a new crew of men; and their hesitation to talk to you until they feel you out because they’re afraid of getting charged with harassment. “Some will flat out refuse to work with you,” says Ray, “but that’s their loss. Usually once you know a crew and they see you are skilled and a good worker, there is no issue. I do feel that there is a need


Increasingly women are entering into non-traditional jobs.


Laundresses in Jackson, MS start first African American women’s labor organization to protest low wages.


The National Union for Cigar Makers is the first union to accept women and African Americans. 9

a woman in labor,” says McCann, “is having to constantly prove yourself when you get a new work partner. Unfortunately, when they see a woman walk on the job, men tend to think they are going to have to pick up the woman’s slack or that the woman doesn’t know what she’s doing. After a few years of proving myself and being aggressive, this went away, but only because I continued to work hard. Another challenge is getting the guys to accept that if you work hard and advance in a company, it is because you earned it, not because you are a girl and getting special treatment.”

Darlene McCann, a member of Sheet Metal Workers Local 27.

educating women everywhere about the trades and showing them that there is real opportunity to join and be successful. I would say that if you are interested in joining a trade, don’t let your gender hold you back. Learn everything you can about the specific trade that interests you, and go for it!” Ray adds: “Have a thick skin. Use humor to break the ice. Most of all, be present. Be willing to learn and ask questions. Be willing to jump in the dirt and help, that is what you’re there for. If you don’t feel it’s for you, then quit. Don’t do it just for the paycheck. You will certainly experience some sexism, but try to educate men. Sometimes they don’t realize what they’re saying is wrong; it’s all they know. But if you are being harassed, handle it. It is a raw place, tell them to get off. “Always stand up for yourself. There are plenty of opportunities and many different directions

for women to outwork men just to prove themselves, to prove we can do this work too. It’s a ‘macho’ industry with long hours, dirty conditions and no one wants to show any weakness. Let me be clear that not everyone has the same experience, so do not let someone else dissuade you from trying. It is fulfilling and rewarding at the end of a project to drive by with your children and say, ‘Mommy helped build that.’”

All three encourage other women to get involved in the trades and offer advice for women considering it. “I think the biggest challenges women face,” says Foster, “is the fear of stereotypes of women in the trades and the thought that women cannot do construction. I have news for you. Women can do construction! My union alone has 75 women members and there are plenty of women doing this work in other trades as well. I think it is about

Darlene McCann, a sheet metal worker who worked her way through her apprenticeship with Sheet Metal Local 27, agrees. “Some of the challenges of being

“Once you know a crew and they see you are skilled and a good worker, there is no issue.” Amber Ray

Timeline of Women in Labor


United Garment Workers of America is formed when Knights of Labor agrees to admit women. 10


The International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) is formed.


The National Women’s Trade Union League is established at the AFL convention.

Women are helping build the new Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, a 59-story glass and steel skyscraper.

Eirka Noell IUEC Local 5

Leanne Greenling IUEC Local 5

Kendra Battler Glaziers Local 252

Natasha Scott Sheet Metal Local 19

Madison Downing LIUNA Local 332

Kelly Maldonado Plumbers Local 690

Cindy Ortman Glaziers Local 252

you could go such as estimating, project management, utility, or safety. Many contractors want people with field experience, it’s better than anything a book can teach you.”

Sue Schultz from the Carpenter’s Sisters program worked in the field for many years before spearheading the mentoring initiative, and she offers the following for women considering a career in the trades.

McCann also cautions: “You have to work harder than most men and learn as much as you can about the trade you are in. You will find that some people don’t want to teach you, so you have to be aggressive and learn on your own if necessary. Be prepared to be thick skinned because most tradesmen like to tease and joke around with everyone, not just women. Labor takes its toll on a person so you must be physically fit.”

“You are entering into a field that is non-traditional for women. Don’t let the fear stop you. There are many more allies out there than you realize. Become allies with your brothers and sisters. The atmosphere is changing and the union provides representation, so if there is an issue, there is recourse. There are mentors. You aren’t going at this alone so reach out.“


More than 20,000 women, children and men stage the “Bread and Roses” strike in Lawrence, MA.


The IBEW accepts telephone operators who are mostly women.


McCann has advice for men in the trades as well. “Give the woman a chance. Don’t automatically assume she will be a burden because she is probably smarter than you think. One of the well-meaning things men tend to do is rush over to help a woman carry something. It does have its advantage, but most of the time, it’s not needed. Let her come ask for help if she needs it. I found that as a sheet metal worker, the number one thing a man would tell me is, ‘watch the metal, it’s sharp.’ I must have heard that a thousand times. Just because I’m a girl, doesn’t mean I don’t know that.”

The War Labor Administration seeks rapid introduction of women into industry.


Frances Perkins is first woman appointed as Secretary of Labor 11

Women in the labor movement 2017

Female foreman urges women: Join the trades Wagenhoffer had just gotten laid off by UPS, when her dad – a sheet metal worker – called about an advertisement he saw in the local newspaper. “Make the calls, do what you have to do,” she recalled his words, with a laugh. “My response to him was, you know, I don’t live with you anymore, but I’m going to do it anyway.” With her independent nature and starved for a desire to do more, she got the job and never looked back. As years have gone by, she’s worked with other women in different trades, but most were electricians, she said.

Geraldine Wagenhoffer, Allied Workers Local 89. By Samantha Costa Photos: Mike Plunkett

Millville, NJ, who plans to retire in a little over a year.

Every Monday, Geraldine Wagenhoffer, a foreman at Heat and Frost Insulators and a member of Allied Workers Local 89, wakes up at 3:30 a.m. and drives two-and-ahalf hours to work in Trenton. She doesn’t return home until Saturday morning. During the work week, she stays with her best friend to cut down on her commute.

At 53, she’s been the only woman on the job for the last 18 of her 21 years working as a member of Local 89. But that never bothered her.

“I love my job. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” says Wagenhoffer of

Before she stepped into the trade industry, Wagenhoffer served in the National Guard for 11 years, and excelled in jobs driving for UPS, a limo service and a school bus company. Still, something was missing. She wanted something more substantial.

Wagenhoffer has shown she’s serious about the work she performs both locally and nationwide. Through her connections in the field, she’s had the opportunity to travel for jobs in Massachusetts, Texas, Pennsylvania and Nevada.

“I love my job. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.” Geraldine Wagenhoffer

Timeline of Women in Labor


The National War Labor Board mandates equal wages for men and women. 12


More than 3 million women are union members, 22% of total


Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers holds conference on the problems facing women workers.

“Traveling is the most fascinating part about it, because you get to meet so many other people,” she said. Her successes have also come with challenges. “They see a girl coming, and it’s, ‘Are we going to have to pull her weight? What is this girl even going to do?’” she said. “But I held my own and I’d get right into it with them, and I gained a lot of respect.” Older generations still cling to misconceptions when it comes to women versus men on the job. However, she’s noticed a change over the years, where the younger workers are phasing out those old mindsets.

“There was one guy who did not want to work with women,” she said. “But my buddy said, ‘Take her. You’re going to regret it if you don’t.’” That was in 2006. Now, they’re close friends, she said. Proving herself on the job is an issue of the past, but the dangers of coming into contact with asbestos impacts Wagenhoffer and her colleagues daily. Insulation has come a long way since the health risks it posed just 20 years before Wagenhoffer joined the trade. That’s because most buildings or machinery constructed prior to the 1980s include insulation with asbestos. “By the time I got here, there were already so many rules and regulations. We wear suits, masks and gloves. It’s crazy what we

have to put on,” she said, adding that she wears long-sleeved shirts all year long as an extra layer of protection from the fibers. Wagenhoffer is also on the executive board and apprenticeship board for Local 89, where she works with business manager Fred Dumont. He says Local 89 hasn’t fully recovered from the recession of 2008, but that 2018 is looking very promising with several projects in the works. “Gerry works for me, but she’s someone I’ve looked up to and I’ve admired,” Dumont said. “She’s always conducted herself with dignity and respect. She’s had a very successful career. I couldn’t be happier for her, now that she can soon enjoy her pension and retirement.” Once she retires, she plans to chase her other passion: Zumba. So far, she’s only made the dance workout part of her spare time, but being an instructor is her long-term plan, she said. In the meantime, Wagenhoffer encourages younger women to join the trades. Her advice? Don’t be intimidated by the guys on the job or the job you’ve signed up for. “As long as they help you and you pick up on it, you’ve got a friend for life,” she said.


Passage of the Equal Pay Act signed by John F. Kennedy.


Supreme Court rules that any woman that meets the physical requirements can work in jobs that were once male only.


The First Trade Union Women’s Conference in New York leads to the formation of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW). 13

Women in the labor movement 2017

Woman welder finds a home with Iron Workers Local 399 By Jane Yepez When Lissette Rossi graduated from high school, she was at a loss about what to do with her life. She stumbled upon an opportunity to work at the Port of Camden as a security guard and she got the job in 1999 thinking of it as a holding place until she figured out her next step. She was so diligent about security that Customs and Immigration wanted to recruit her. That, and her friendly demeanor, brought her to the attention of the legendary Joe Balzano, CEO for the South Jersey Port Corporation, now deceased.

“I expressed to Joe that I wanted a chance to be a forklift operator,” says Rossi. “I watched the guys unloading ships and earning a lot more money and I wanted that opportunity too. But there were no women employed in those jobs at the time.” Balzano thought it was time to introduce women into the shipyard workforce. But he knew he had to do it carefully, so he created a back-door strategy to introduce Rossi onto the team. He made her a supervisor in the maintenance department where she reported

to Franco Mastrogiorgio, who she describes as “such a gentleman.” But it was not the case with many of the men she worked with. “It was horrible,” says Rossi. “Men had trouble taking orders from a woman. It was mostly the older generation. I never had problems with men my age. Once, someone even put a dead rat in my truck. But I always remembered what Joe Balzano told me. ‘Listen kid, if they’re talking about you, you must be doing something right.’” Rossi persevered, but in 2007 when the economy got bad, she was among 40 who were laid off. That’s when her uncle Joseph Fitzpatrick, a Local 401 iron worker in Philadelphia, suggested she consider a job with the union. “I remember that in third grade,” says Rossi, “I had to do a report on someone’s job and I wrote about my uncle. I thought it was so cool that he built bridges and high rise buildings.” She had missed the application process in Philadelphia so her uncle encouraged her to apply to Camden Local 399. Her family was very supportive. “I played Lissette Rossi on the job with her brother Michael who is now an apprentice for Local 399.

Timeline of Women in Labor


Dept. of Labor guidelines expand opportunities for women in apprenticeships and construction work. 14


Chicago Women in the Trades is formed to support and train women in non-traditional careers.


Oregon Tradeswomen forms to promote success for women in the trades. More states follow.


Women are 42% of all union members.

“I couldn’t be in a better place.” Lissette Rossi sports in high school and I’m very strong which surprises people because I’m only five foot four. And the shipyard was a great training ground for the construction business. “I grew up in the Cramer Hill section of Camden,” says Rossi, “and I was the first girl to play ball for the Cramer Hill Boys Club and I was the first altar girl at my church. In high school I played basketball, field hockey and lacrosse and I also lifted weights. My family always told me I could do whatever I wanted to do. So, in 2008, I applied and was accepted into the Iron Worker’s Local 399 apprenticeship program.” Rossi became a certified welder and loves the work. “It’s a physically demanding job,” she says. “It’s not for every woman. Our tool belts alone can weigh from 60 to 80 pounds with tools. “There was certainly a lot of resistance when I started. But I was prepared after the shipyard experience. I think men thought they were going to have to carry my weight, but when they realized how strong I am and see that I never miss a day of work, attitudes changed. I now have a lot of friends in the union.”



Rossi where she loves to be – welding steel beams. She credits Local 399 Business Agent Richard Sweeney for being supportive of women in the trades and providing great leadership to the organization. “The benefit of being in the union,” says Rossi, “is I never have to be concerned that the men are earning more than I am. You are guaranteed you get the standing rate for the job.” She is especially proud of her younger brother Michael who is now an apprentice for Local 399.

AFL-CIO calls on unions to bring Women comprise more women, minorities and young 46.5% of the U.S. workers into leadership positions. workforce.

“We worked on the new Sixers practice facility together and I made sure I taught him all of the safety rules. I told him ‘Mom will kill me if something happens to you.’” Rossi loves her job and stays in shape by doing cross fit five times a week at Crossfit 643. “It’s a macho world that I work in,” she says. “But I don’t get offended. I go to the job and blend right in. It’s all about getting the job done and the guys have my back. I couldn’t be in a better place.”


President Obama establishes White House Council on Women and Girls to ensure that women are treated fairly. 15

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Maria Greenwald’s legacy lives on And while the South Jersey-focused women’s group is still “new in the ear,” they have several events and activities planned, Swan said. Philanthropy efforts are underway to collect gently used professional clothing, shoes and accessories for Attitude, Inc., a charity that helps improve self-image of women seeking business attire and job-readiness for future employment.

By Samantha Costa Maria Barnaby Greenwald’s name is synonymous with firsts: She was Camden County’s first woman surrogate, Cherry Hill’s first woman mayor, the first woman elected as a Camden County Freeholder and the first woman to serve as Director of the Board of Freeholders. Her legacy lives on in her community and the South Jersey Region at large thanks to Maria’s Women United – a group created in her honor one year ago – devoted to uniting, promoting, mentoring and empowering Democratic women of South Jersey. “As the first woman elected to countywide office in Camden County and a beloved mayor of Cherry Hill,” says Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, “my mother

“Our mission is to put forward good women candidates for all levels of government.” Amy Swan

“It’s a challenge in these times to get people involved; not just women, but anyone,” Swan said. “Our lives are busier than ever and politics does not have the best reputation these days given the political climate.”

Maria Barnaby Greenwald was a trailblazer in South Jersey politics, breaking down barriers for women throughout our region. “I am proud to see her legacy carried on through Maria’s Women United. This organization upholds the ideals of integrity and leadership that my mother held dear and provides support to the women of South Jersey.” The group was formed one year ago by Carol Murphy, a candidate for the 7th legislative district

of the New Jersey Assembly. Now leading the cause is Amy Swan, the chief of staff for the 6th legislative district office of New Jersey Assembly Members Greenwald and Pamela Lampitt. “Our mission is to promote support and put forward good women candidates for all levels of government,” Swan said. “[Carol] got the organization off the ground. She started it, and we’re grateful for her doing so. We’re very glad to be able to support her in her run for elected office.”

Although the doubleedged sword of politics can hinder people, Swan said, “it has also energized communities of people.” She’s witnessed an increasingly large number of people getting involved in local politics. The group aims to support and mentor women who are interested in taking the leap from the couch to the conference room. “We hope organizations like ours encourage people to get involved, because it can be very meaningful and rewarding, especially at the local level. You can see when you’ve helped somebody and when you’ve made a difference,” Swan said.


Apprenticeship Programs Deliver

Technology at the core of IBEW Local 351 apprenticeship program By Joe Tansey Photos: Curt Hudson At the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 351 training facility in Hammonton, New Jersey, the thing that is most striking is the technology used in the five-year apprenticeship program. “Technology is a huge factor in the electrical business,” says Charles “Chuck” Della Vecchia, Business Agent for Local 351. “This is an industry that changes daily, so if you don’t keep up with it, you get left in the dust.” Training Director Louis R. “Louie” Jiacopello is in charge of the apprenticeship program, and he makes sure that apprentices get hands-on technology experience.

“Everything’s changed in the last four years,” says Jiacopello. “Everything is done on the computer now. Workbooks are obsolete. We had to make sure we had enough computer equipment in here to handle a couple hundred apprentices at once. Technology is everything now.” “The reason we have this state-of-the-art Joint Apprenticeship Training Center is because of the collaboration between the union and our contractors,” says Dan Cosner, Business Manager of IBEW Local 351 and President of South Jersey Building Trades Council. “It’s a partnership with our contractors because they understand it too. We look to Louie to determine how we invest in technology and he keeps up on all the advances.

Instructor John Traenkner watches apprentices at a simulator for phone and data lines. We want to produce the best workers, so we don’t have any issues investing in journeyman training.” Jiacopello was instrumental in developing the facility on the Black Horse Pike, which was a major upgrade

over the Vineland training center. “Louie was very instrumental in creating this space,” says Cosner. “He invested a lot of time helping plan and overseeing construction of the new center. When we merged three locals, we kept the school in Vineland and built this training center in order to have an updated facility. “We are also conducting more specific journeyman training. You have to have specialists,” Cosner says. “It’s not just five years of school anymore. It’s the Built Right Process Safety Management classes, the code classes, journeyman updates, safety and more.”

Apprentice Katrina Funkhouser with instructor Joe Dorazio at the JATC Center at Folsom.


Continued on p. 20


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Continued from p. 18 The apprentices are also appreciative of how Jiacopello designed the facility that sharpens their skills. “It’s like night and day basically,” says fifth-year apprentice Brett Brestel. “Doing the hands-on training really helps us better understand what the teachers are talking about. It’s really helpful for moving ahead in this field.” “There’s a lot of hands-on opportunities,” confirms second-year apprentice Katrina Funkhouser. “We have many different tools we can learn to use.” The program generates plenty of interest from applicants, but only around 30 per year are admitted. “Last year during the interview process, we had a very diverse group of applicants,” says Cosner. “We had college graduates, some from law enforcement, as well as the 19-year-olds looking for a career. We also saw a number from open shops wanting to get into the trades.” “This five-year program consists of a total of 160 hours a year minimum,” says Jiacopello. “Sometimes we go between 175 and 200 hours. They generally start in September and go through April or May and they start again in January, so I have rotating classes. “The first year is mostly DC power theory and some hands-on teaching about things like switches


and plugs,” Jiacopello says. “The second year is 95 percent theory and all the math. In the third year, we begin to go into transformers, some rigging, certification rigging, rigging transformers, and torqueing. Every year includes a code update and safety training. “In the fourth year, we go into motor control and more on transformer training,” Jiacopello says. “Fifth year includes programming, instrumentation and general foremanship. Every year they get code updates as the electrical codes change annually. We do tons of journeyman training, consisting of everything from OSHA to Built Right, and what they need for different jobs.” Joining the apprenticeship program is viewed as a good alternative to other education if you ask those teaching and learning the trade. “I did try other things before this, but my dad is an electrician,” Brestel said. “I

went to college for three years. I do have an associate’s degree, so I may take the credits from here and apply them to another degree. “I’d tell people it’s a great learning experience to further yourself,” Brestel said. “One of my buddies just asked me about the union and I had nothing but good things to tell him. You can make a great living and learn a lot.” “I’d recommend this to anyone,” Funkhouser said. “I went to college and worked at a nursing home. Now, I wish I had done this right out of high school. I would’ve been a lot further along.” No matter what amount of technology is applied, one old school maxim remains true when talking to all of those involved in the program: brotherhood. “Everything I have is because I am a member of the union,” Della Vecchia says. “I want to give back and that’s why I’m here.”

Chuck Della Vecchia, Dan Cosner and Louis Jiacopello. Front center is John McCord who trained both Cosner and Della Vecchia.

“This is an industry that changes daily, so if you don’t keep up with it, you get left in the dust.” Charles Della Vecchia






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Apprenticeship Programs Deliver

Small class size delivers huge benefits for apprentices in Local 89 By Joe Tansey Photos: Mike Plunkett Insulators and Asbestos Workers Union Local 89 may be small in size, but that’s what makes the bond between its members and apprentices so special. Local 89 keeps its classes for the five-year apprenticeship program small, and those involved get more one-on-one time with instructors. “I think because the program is smaller, we’re able to be really hands on,” says fifth-year apprentice Patrick Delli. “I learned a lot. I didn’t know anything when I first got in and now I can basically do anything. I think being in a small union and knowing everybody is like being in a family.” “I enjoy how tight everybody is,” says second-year apprentice Fred Davies. “I’ve developed a lot of friendships being in the local. I just like how everybody gets along and helps each other out.” “Right now, I have 16 apprentices,” says Local 89 business agent C.J. Gesemyer. “I believe we took in four this year; we usually take in four or five a year. We’re a small local, but we like to keep our guys working.” Local 89 casts a wide net to bring the best of the best into its apprenticeship program. “I go to job fairs, women’s clubs and inner cities,” says Gesemyer. “I go anywhere I can to find good apprentices. We look for diversity and do the best we can with that. We go from New Brunswick to Cape May so we cover central and southern New Jersey.”


Instructor John Amodio reviews tracing patters and cuts with apprentices. Most of the apprenticeship program focuses on commercial work. “There’s a curriculum for every year,” Gesemyer says. “They start out doing simple duct wrap on duct work and then plumbing pipes with fiberglass installation. The fourth and fifth year apprentices do metal jacketing, PVC jacketing, and more on the industrial side. We try to

keep our apprentices focused on commercial, that’s where we have the majority of work.” “Our apprenticeship program lasts five years, including 720 hours in school when they’re not paid, and 9,000 work hours,” Gesemyer says.

In addition to being a tight knit group, family is a key theme that drew some of the current apprentices into the program. Delli’s brother works as a teacher in the program, and Davies received plenty of push from family members in other unions. “I was working in a factory after high school,” says Delli, “and they were laying off, so my brother suggested I come here.”

From the left: Instructors John Amodio and Joe Torretta with Local 89 Business Agent C. J. Gesemyer. Both Gesemyer and Delli turned to the union after going through college and not getting out of it what they expected. “I went to college, but then I got into the apprenticeship program, and I’m very glad I did,” Gesemyer says. “For a lot of these guys, it’s a great way to make a living. The apprenticeship was the best thing to happen to me.” “I went to community college for a while,” says Delli, “and I thought it was too much like high school. It just wasn’t for me. If you just don’t know what you want to do in life, I think joining one of the unions is a good idea. It gives you guidance and teaches you how to do something that will make you money, provide a retirement, and you can do it for however long you like.”

was in high school that the building trades would’ve come through and showed me what they did, but I didn’t have that. “I’d tell a high schooler to think long and hard about it before you spend all that money on college,” Gesemyer says. “These are jobs that are going to be around forever. They’ve been around for 100 years and they’ll be around for another 100 years. Everybody needs an insulator or an electrician. We build things, that’s what we do.”

“A lot of my family is in unions, and a friend of mine is in this local,” Davies said. “I saw him when he joined and heard about all the projects that he does. I look up to him as a positive person in my life.” One thing is clear when talking to anyone involved in the Local 89 apprenticeship program. Giving back is vital at some point during their time in the union. “I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and we were talking about how fast it goes by,” Davies says. “I was telling him that I can’t wait to teach apprentices what was taught to me when I came in.”

Apprentices Dennis Mendoza, Fred Davies, Pat Delli and Instructor John Amodio.

Gesemyer has plenty of advice for someone who may be weighing their options after high school, and who may not think college is the way to go. “Feel free to stop by a union hall,” Gesemyer said. “We’re not scary people, we’re out to help. We want a good workforce. I wish when I



Apprenticeship Programs Deliver

Sheet Metal Workers Local 19 apprenticeship program Sheet Metal Workers


Local 19 trains apprentices in one of two state-of-the-art training centers in Philadelphia and Shoemakersville, PA. The apprenticeship program is a partnership between Local 19 and the Sheet Metal


Contractors Association of Philadelphia. The training program is equivalent to a four-year college education and a number of universities


accept credits earned as part of the program. Extensive postgraduate training is also available to help journey men and women keep current on industry developments.

1. Blake Sabourin, left, watches as Lyle Kaighn works metal through a roller. 2. Jeremy Farson completes a project at the Philadelphia Training Center. 3. Mike Lanzafame grinds a weld during training.

Continued on p. 27 25


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4. A hands-on class. 5. Instructor Ron Deichert works with, from the front, Andrew Meehan, Ken Getzinger and Robert Sall in a computer/CAD class.

6. William Stone, left, and Alex Barzeski, collaborate on a project. 7. Instructor Donny Smith responds to questions from the class. 27


Apprenticeship Programs Deliver

At 6:45 a.m., applicants lined up at the Local 322 Training Center.

Apprenticeships for Local 322 Plumbers & Pipefitters in high demand By Joe Tansey Photos: Mike Plunkett When Jeff Berger pulled up to Local 322 at 6:15 in the morning, he was greeted by a line of people snaking towards the entrance of the site’s training center. Berger, the training coordinator for Local 322, and his team had received a healthy number of applications for the union’s apprenticeship program. Long before Berger rolled into the parking lot, a line of applicants began to grow outside the complex. The potential apprentices came from a wide variety of backgrounds. Mike Wear of Cape May Courthouse, one of the older applicants, made sure he was near the front of the line for an opportunity with

Local 322. “I’ve welded before a nd I knew I wanted to focus on welding, and I heard that these guys are the best,” Wear said. “If you want to be the best, this is where you have to train.

Tim Dennison, Mays Landing, was prepared for the cold weather.

“Of the first five guys in line,” said Wear, “I was the oldest. I’m a little bit different. It seems I have more life experience than some of the others. This is something I’ve really wanted to go after. Welding to me is an art form. “I tried out last year, but I was 47th in line,” Wear said. “This year, I wanted to be right in front. I want to make sure I do the best I can to get it. That’s why I was here his early.” Although most applicants are younger, Berger says he’s received

Continued on p. 31 29

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Continued from p. 29

Apprenticeships for Local 322 Plumbers & Pipefitters in high demand

interest from all age groups for the apprenticeship program. “It’s a mix,” Berger said. “There were a couple of people last year that were in their 40s. We don’t discriminate by age, race, or gender. We hope to bring the best 20 to 24 people in that we believe are going to make good apprentices, not just because somebody’s 19. I didn’t start until I was 22 and now I’m in my 28th year.” A group of roughly 20 will enter the program according to Berger, and will be trained in different trades, receiving college credit for their training. “It’s not just a job, it’s a career” says Berger. “All of our current apprentices will get 32 college credits when they complete the five-year program. We’re associated with Washtenaw Community College in Michigan. That’s where we go for instructor training every year to learn all the new technology and anything else we need to keep up to date. “These apprentices get a well-rounded education,” Berger said. “They’re going to be cross trained in plumbing, pipe fitting, and welding. And we have an HVAC division in Hazlet, NJ. That’s a separate division, but some of the apprentices here have already applied there as well.”

Berger also recommends that those who aren’t accepted in the Local 322 apprenticeship program apply to different trades. “Regardless of where they end up working, the trades usually intertwine,” said Berger. “If they can’t get in here, hopefully they get in as a carpenter or an iron worker or another trade. They’re all great trades and they all work hand in hand.”

Some applicants arrived in the middle of the night.

Mike Wear receives his application as Training Coordinator Jeffrey Berger looks on.

Applicants receive instructions on how to complete their applications. 31

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Hundreds take part in “Steve Sweeney for Senate” rally By Gus Ostrum Photos: Curt Hudson Surrounded by legions of loyal union supporters as well as prominent New Jersey government and union officials, State Senator Steve Sweeney held a rally for his re-election campaign on a cold, blustery March Saturday morning at Union Field in West Deptford Township. Hundreds of local supporters didn’t let the bone-chilling temperatures swirling around South Jersey dampen their enthusiasm. They were present to support their candidate, Steve Sweeney, who has always stood up for the union way of life. “No one takes care of South Jersey

like Steve Sweeney, and we need him returned to the State Senate,” Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D, 3rd District) told the cheering crowd. Among the prominent elected officials on hand that day included Rep. Donald Norcross (D, 1st District), Asemblyman Adam Taliaferro (D, 3rd District), and Assemblymen Burzichelli, as well as several Gloucester County Freeholders and officials. “Steve Sweeney is loyal to South Jersey families and all of our working men and women,” said Taliaferro. “As we’re seeing with this turnout today, Steve enjoys a loyal base of support, and we need to return him to the State Senate. He has been our greatest advocate.”

Sweeney is known for standing up for the union way of life.

Continued on p. 35 33

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Continued from p. 33 Steve Sweeney told the crowd he will work hard to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Prominent union officials were present as well, including Daniel Cosner, President of the South Jersey Building Trades Council; William Mullen, President of the New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council, and Rich Tolson, Director of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers of New Jersey. Sweeney also had two additional supporters on hand – former New Jersey Governor Jim Florio and Tammy Murphy, wife of Democratic gubernatorial candidate and front runner Phil Murphy. Sweeney, one of the most powerful elected Democrats in the state, has served in the New Jersey State Senate since 2002, where he has represented the 3rd Legislative District. He was expected to launch his candidacy for Governor in 2017, but announced late in 2016 that he would not enter the race. A union ironworker by trade, Sweeney was elected as State President-designate in November 2009. He has been a friend to unions, their members and union officials throughout his career,

playing a prominent role in launching a construction boom in South Jersey. “Steve Sweeney always does the right thing for New Jersey and our citizens, and believe me, this isn’t always easy to do,” former Governor Jim Florio told the capacity audience. “He is a man of integrity and an elected official who never forgets his roots or his constituents and we need to give him our continued support.” Always the advocate for New Jersey employees, Sen. Sweeney pledged to his union brothers and sisters to continue fighting for their rights and those of working class families. “I can tell you that we will work hard to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” Sweeney told his supporters to a thunderous ovation of cheers. “We’re going to do the right things for working class families.” He added: “I will never forget or stop fighting for anyone in my South Jersey family. Your support really means a lot to me.”

“Steve Sweeney always does the right thing for New Jersey and our citizens.” Former Governor Jim Florio Rep. Donald Norcross addressed the crowd in support of Sweeney.


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Local 19 Sheet Metal Workers support cage fighter Joe Lowry By Don Benevento Photos: Curt Hudson As a mixed martial arts fighter, Joe Lowry has to think about a lot of variables each time he steps into the cage. Lowry never knows whether his opponent will attack with his hands or feet, or whether he will shoot a wrestling move at him. But the one thing Lowry can be assured of is, no matter who the opponent or what the challenges he faces, he’ll

always have plenty of encouragement from the crowd. As a member of Local 19 of the Sheet Metal Workers union, Lowry knows he has the support of his brothers who show up in force to cheer him on. “They back me 100 percent when it comes to my training and fighting,” he said. “It’s a brotherhood with the union and how we take care of one another. That’s one of the reasons

why I joined the union.” Lowry is easy to spot when he’s preparing to take the cage for one of his fights. He’s the guy wearing the Local 19 logo on his shorts. His union affiliation serves as a motivation for his fights. “I love wearing the logo on my shorts,” he said. “Knowing I have those guys out there supporting me gives me that extra edge. It’s something special.”

Local 19 “backs me 100 percent.” Joe Lowry Continued on p. 39



Continued from p. 37 wrestling since I was five, I was kickboxing at 15 – so it’s that training mentality. “I think working construction makes you mentally tougher than those guys who get to train all day.” Lowry, 27, is in his third year of apprenticeship with the union. He followed in the footsteps of family members who, not only were union members, but boxers fighting out of Philadelphia.

Lowry’s coach, Bob Peach, confirms that Lowry’s ability to work hard and put in time training works to his benefit.

“It’s fun,” Lowry said. “You’re outside and you get to work on these skyscrapers. People can actually see your work. And I can drive past and say, ‘Look, I did that.’” Lowry equally enjoys performing as a finely tuned athlete in a sport that seems to be growing in popularity every day.

Lowry is tentatively scheduled to fight for the Cage Fury Fighting 155-pound championship in May in the South Philadelphia Arena.

“My family has a boxing history,” Lowry said. “So I guess you can say it’s pretty much in my blood.”

“Because of my work schedule, I have to train extra hard because I don’t have time during the day,” Lowry said. “Some of guys are like, ‘how do you do it, man?’ I tell them it’s the mentality. I’ve been

“After wrestling, I wasn’t doing anything but working and lifting weights and it was getting boring,” Lowry said. “So I called Nick and told him I’m trying to get into MMA.” Lowry went on to establish a 10-0 record as an amateur MMA fighter and, under Peach’s instruction and management guidance, he is currently 5-0 as a professional.

Lowry’s father, Tom, never turned pro, but had a successful amateur career. His grandfather Jim and Jim’s brother Tom are members of the Philadelphia Boxing Hall of Fame.

Lowry also gained a strong work ethic from his family. He puts eight hours a day into his job with Ganter Contractors and Architectural and Roofing, followed by as many as four hours a night of rigorous fight training seven day a week at the Beacon Martial Arts and Fitness Center in Cherry Hill, NJ.

on how to become an MMA fighter. Aside from coaching wrestling, Cottone has been a successful MMA fighter in his own right.

Peach thinks the sky is the limit for his star pupil. Joe Lowry follows in the tradition of a long line of family boxers “He pretty much outworks most of the guys he fights,” Peach said. “That’s one of the big advantages he has.” When Lowry is on the job, he installs siding and roofing on buildings in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. He carries a photo in his phone of himself and a co-worker standing on a swing lift 30 stories above Market Street in Philadelphia.

“I take a lot of pride in my work both in the gym and in the field,” he said. He began his career as a wrestler and football player at Timber Creek High School in Gloucester Township, NJ. In his senior year, Lowry earned a trip to Atlantic City for the state championship competition.

“What you’re seeing now in this sport are guys who are good at everything,” Peach said. “Joe is one of those guys.”

After graduating in 2008, Lowry turned to his high school coach Nick Cottone, seeking advice



To Roth or not to Roth: That is the question funding your retirement. If you are in the 25% tax bracket, it only actually costs you $3,750 to put $5,000 into your IRA.

By Cliff Simmons, CPA, CVA Most people realize it is important to save money for retirement. Although this is a simple idea, deciding the best way to do it is not always so straightforward. There are numerous tax-advantaged retirement savings plans available. As a union member, you may have access to an employer-sponsored plan like a 401(k) or a 403(b) tax sheltered annuity. You may also be familiar with an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) that you can open on your own. Since most people reading this article can open and fund an IRA, we will focus that. Whether you are looking to save in a plan like a 401(k) or an IRA, you often have a choice as to whether to make “traditional” or “Roth” contributions. In either case, there are certain tax advantages available to you when making your decision. It is important to understand the differences between these two types of contributions because the choice you make is one you will live with for a long time. Even though both a 401(k) and an IRA may allow either type of contribution, the rules are slightly different, so please consult with your advisor when deciding “To Roth or not to Roth.”

This discount comes to you in the form of a lower tax bill. As an added bonus, the government agrees to allow your money to (hopefully) grow with no taxes assessed along the way. It is important to remember that when you retire, every dollar that comes out of your account will be subject to tax based on your tax bracket at that time.

Your investment plus any earnings will be available tax free. Any time you enter into a transaction that includes some type of tax benefit, you are essentially taking on the government as a partner. When considering any partnership, it is always wise to be sure you have a clear understanding of your agreement with your partner. The government offers some significant benefits in this partnership, but no smart partner would give something so valuable without wanting something in return.

Traditional IRA contributions are named this way because they have been available for much longer. This type of contribution is tax-deductible l . That means if you make a $5,000 contribution, you get to subtract $5,000 from your taxable income for the year. To understand how this deduction benefits you, you need to know what tax bracket you are in. Based on your tax bracket, the government is essentially offering you a discount on the cost of

In the simplest of terms, you can think of a Roth IRA as being the opposite of a traditional IRA. Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax dollars 2. That means there is no deduction at the time you put money in. So, if you want to deposit $5,000, it will cost you $5,000. There are some very beneficial trade-offs, though, for giving up a discount today. Assuming you keep your money in until retirement age (currently 59), your entire investment plus any earnings will be available to you income tax-free. As an added bonus, if you contribute to a Roth IRA and later decide for some reason you need the money back, you can always withdraw your contributions with no tax or



Continued from previous page

To Roth or not to Roth: That is the question penalty assessed, assuming the Roth IRA has been established for five years. One other key difference is that traditional IRAs require you to start taking a certain amount of money (and paying tax on it) once you turn 70 1/2. These are called Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs). Roth IRAs do not have RMDs for you or your surviving spouse. As a result, you may be able to maintain tax-free growth of your money for a longer time, or even pass more of that money to the next generation, free of income tax.

So, ask yourself, would you rather subject your retirement savings to income tax today, or wait and pay income tax on withdrawals at retirement? The answer depends on several factors that are specific to your situation. There is no simple answer or rule of thumb. In fact, the answer is becoming even more complex as the years pass. Before making decisions for yourself, you should consult your own professional advisor to understand the impact to you and your family. The biggest mistake, however, is taking no action at all.

Your ability to contribute to a Roth IRA may be phased out based on your income. Consult your tax advisor.


Deductibility of contributions may be limited for certain individuals. Consult your tax advisor.

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Unions support St. Patrick’s parades By Kevin Callahan Photos: Mike Plunkett Jason Jones wore brilliant bright green pants and a matching jacket and tie that were covered with green shamrocks. Jones, the Mayor of Mt. Holly, was far from the only union member to wear green in March. Local Unions came out in strength as well as in green for annual St. Patrick’s Parades on Saturday, March 4, in Burlington County and Saturday, March 25 in Hamilton Township. Jones, who is a member of IBEW Local 269 in Trenton, saw his union come out strong for the 13th annual St. Patty’s Parade in Mt. Holly while Local 269 supported the Hamilton Township Parade, joining members of the Insulators Local 89, the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 9, and the Carpenters Local 254. “They are supportive of this parade and others because our union members are from these areas,” said Jones, who added there were five or six different unions marching in Mt. Holly. “They give back to the communities in a big way.” Lenny Rataski, a 16-year member of Local 89, brought his wife, Emily, and children Max, 3, and Violet, 10 months, from Somers Point to the Hamilton parade. “I believe it gives a face to the union and personalizes us in the community,” Rataski said. “We’re not just a unionized work force, but we are a unionized community, we are members like everyone else in the community.” Brian Kamp, the Business Representative for Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 27, said there were close to 40 members marching in the Mt. Holly parade. “We support


the parade because the towns and the county support us,” said Kamp. “They believe in highly skilled local labor and it’s towns like Mt. Holly that understand the circle of money. If you keep your resources close, it reinvests back into the community.” Peter Scribner, a member of Local

Union 27, has been driving from his home in Mays Landing for the last “three or four years” to march in the mile-long parade down hilly High Street of historic Mt. Holly. “We give support and more importantly they support working families and labor,” Scribner said about Mt. Holly.

members, family and friends. “It shows the community we support them and it shows members we are a brotherhood and sisterhood,” Dumont said. Chuddy Whalen, the Assistant Business Manager for the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 9, said: “It’s a good way to get recognized in your hometown and let them see organized labor and what we do by marching in Hamilton. “We also support Habitat for Humanity and build homes for our troops when they come home and making them accessible for those with disabilities,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of people have the opportunity to see that.” Paul Belardo, Counsel Representative for Local Carpenters 254 based in Edison, said there were about 40 men and women members and about 20 of their children marching in Hamilton.

Scribner’s sons, James, 14, and Nathan, 17, carried the Local Union 27 banner as they have been doing the past few years. Wayne DeAngelo, the President of the Mercer-Burlington Building & Construction Trades Council, was proud to see “the diversity of the building trade councils for Burling-

ton and Mercer Counties coming down here to join the public and private sectors marching in Mt. Holly.”

Charlie Park and Stanley Rudziewicz, members of Local 254, built a float again this year for the parade. “The Community is number one and we wouldn’t have our jobs without the community backing us,” said Rudziewicz, whose 5-year-old daughter Samantha rode in the float.

Fred Dumont, the Business Manager for Insulators Local 89 from Hamilton, didn’t let two previous postponements of the Hamilton parade keep him from hosting his annual pre-parade party for 40 Local

Park proudly pointed to the two handsaws and hammer arranged as an emblem on the front of the float. “We are the community,” emphasized Park. “We are the ones who build the community.”



Low Back Pain and Sciatica

Low back pain with or without sciatica may cause debilitating pain and is one of the most common causes of lost productivity and work in the US. Severe tightness and pain across the lower back is often referred to as ‘spasms’ and may be so incapacitating that one cannot stand, walk, or do any activities of daily living despite there being relatively little actual damage that occurred within the spine. Sciatica refers to a combination of shooting pain, burning, tingling, or weakness that typically travels from the back or hip area down the leg towards the foot. Both of these symptoms occur as result of injury or damage to the intervertebral disc or the shock absorber between the vertebrae of the spine. An intervertebral disc has two main parts: an outer shell of fibrous cartilage (the annulus fibrosis) and an inner filling of a jelly-like material (the nucleus pulposus) (fig 1.) The outer wall of an intervertebral disc can become weakened for a variety of reasons. As people age, the fibrous material becomes more brittle. Excessive strain can rupture the annulus fibrosis. Poor diet and exercise habits or frequent bending, stooping and twisting at the waist can also weaken the disc.

Figure 2. Lumbar spine MRI with arrow point to an annular tear or injury. Note in contrast to the healthy disc level above the labeled disc there is a swelling at the tip of the arrow and the disc in general is more black and degenerated.

Figure 1. Lumbar spine anatomy showing the central nucleus pulposus surrounded and held in by layers of annulus fibrosus. This tissue lies directly next to the spinal cord and nerve roots within the spinal canal.

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) refers to any “wear and tear” type of injury that occurs to the disc. Such an injury can occur suddenly as in the ‘pop’ one feels as a result of a tear in the disc when bending too quickly at the waist versus a slowly worsening low back pain over months to years. When the pain is isolated to the lower back and does not cause sciatica symptoms down the leg, this most likely represents a tear or strain of the outer disc layers or annulus (see MRI fig 2). Conversely, if the low back pain and spasms are accompanied by sciatica symptoms traveling down the leg, there may be an associated herniated or broken off piece of the disc which is pressing on a nerve within the spinal canal (see MRI fig 3)

Figure 3. Lumbar spine MRI with arrow pointing at a herniated disc that pushes out from the disc and compresses or pinches the nerve roots traveling inside the spinal canal. This causes sciatica symptoms that travel down the leg.

Treatment for either type of injury initially involves relative rest (eg it is good to keep moving around as much as possible within pain limits rather than staying in bed), medications to alleviate pain and spasms, and therapy exercises. If these do not help over a course of 4-6 weeks or if the pain is so severe that exercise isn’t possible, an epidural steroid injection should be considered. This procedure involves injecting a liquid steroid or cortisone medicine near the nerve root using xray guidance in order to help decrease the swelling and inflammation around the nerve. If none of these treatments are effective or if there are signs of nerve damage, such as leg weakness (eg footdrop) or loss of bowel and bladder control, then surgery may be recommended. In cases of disc herniations, usually a simple minimally invasive surgery called a ‘discectomy’ is effective at alleviating the pain and can be performed as an outpatient procedure. Despite being a minimally invasive procedure, however, this and any surgery carry some risks including scar tissue formation, nerve damage or injury, infections, etc, so non-surgical treatment options should always be undertaken first. Robert Greenleaf, MD Spinal Surgeon Reconstructive Orthopedics 609-267-9400



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Our Union Partners Our Union Sponsors Ironworkers Local 399 409 Crown Point Road Westville, NJ 08093 Phone: (856) 456-9323 Fax: (856) 456-8702 President • Business Manager Richard Sweeney Financial Sec-Treasurer Business Representative Paul W Lenkowski

Local Union 89

1502 So. Olden Ave Trenton, NJ 08610 Office: 609-587-8905 Fax 609-587-9089 Fred B. Dumont - Business Manager Chartered By Operative Plasterers & Cement Masons International Association - 1916 2843 Snyder Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19145 Phone: (215) 468-0235 Email: BILL OUSEY President/Business Manager

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International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers Local #14 2014 Hornig Rd. Philadelphia, Pa., 19116 Telephone (215) 289-4303, Fax (215) 289-8655 • Stephen F. Pettit - Business Manager Financial & Corresponding Secretary James Cunningham - President John Stahl III - Vice President Robert Cellucci - Business Agent Ronald Rickert - Business Agent

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SJ officials tour Bricklayers training center By Gus Ostrum Photo: Mike Plunkett

trades before returning to college, expressed his appreciation for the tour. He listened intently to the message union officials delivered before speaking with several apprentices.

Union representatives and South Jersey elected officials toured the Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local 5 training center in Bordentown in February to discuss career opportunities available through apprenticeship programs. Union officials who participated in the tour of the BAC facility included Richard Tolson, Director of BAC/ADC of New Jersey; Leon Jones, Jr., recording secretary and field representative for BAC/ADC; Robert Alesandro, apprentice coordinator for BAC/ ADC, and Dan Siteman of the International Masonry Institute. Ren Englehardt, apprentice instructor, led the tour of the BAC/ADC training complex. Also in attendance were Assemblyman Paul Moriarity (D, 4th District), Gloucester Township Mayor Dave Mayer, Camden City Councilman and former Assemblyman Angel Fuentes, Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D), and Camden County Freeholder Susan Angulo. According to Robert Alesandro, approximately 120 apprentices are currently enrolled in New Jersey apprentice programs statewide. He noted that the training provided in the Bricklayers’ apprenticeship programs are valued at $25,000 to $30,000, but are provided free to the apprentices.


Apprentice training International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, instructor Ren Engelhardt and student John Del Duca.

“I’m impressed with the program the Bricklayers Union offers here and with the apprentices who have committed to the trades,” he said. “We must impress upon our youth to take advantage of these tremendous programs. The young men and women who are already here are indeed impressive – you can see they are committed workers who want to learn a trade and support their families and communities.” Union officials stressed that they are spreading the message about opportunities in the trades and requested their support of the apprenticeship programs.

Natequan Kent “The training we provide is a tremendous value to applicants interested in the trades,” Alesandro noted to the local officials in attendance. “We are working hard throughout the state to make sure young people are aware of these opportunities.” Alesandro stressed that apprentices get paid to

Ricky Dottoli learn a craft instead of incurring debt early in life. Depending on the programs they choose to pursue, the apprenticeship programs generally last four to five years and can lead to excellent career paths. Assemblyman Paul Moriarity, who spent approximately four years in the plumbing

“We are spreading the word and getting out the message,” said Tolson, Director of BAC/ADC New Jersey. “There are some great opportunities here for young men and women. We also stay in touch with the evolving techniques and technologies in construction today, and our facilities provide state-of-the-art training for our apprentices, who will have excellent career paths once they complete the programs.”

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Bits & Pieces Supreme Court Nominee Just as Trump’s health care plan would have been a disaster for the country, his choice of Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U. S. Supreme Court poses a similar threat to working families. To oppose this nomination, call 844-899-9913 and urge your U.S. Senator to block this nomination.


Union made munchies When you grab a snack, support those companies using union labor.

3 3 Camden Waterfront revitalization Conner Strong & Buckelew will move its headquarters to the new Camden Tower in 2019. The firm will occupy the top three floors of the 18-story building, the tallest on the Camden waterfront. The LEED certified building is being constructed by all union labor. The tower will sit amidst a number of other projects scheduled for construction.

D’Agostino recognized Congratulations to Christine D’Agostino, VP of Operations for the Carpenter Contractor Trust, on being honored by NJBIZ for the 2017 Best 50 Women in Business award. 58


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Trades & Unions Magazine  

Women in labor leads this edition off. Also, the value of building a young skilled labor force through apprenticeship programs. Don't mis...

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