In a move that he hoped would bring a little more clout to his argument to encourage Hartz Mountain to use local union labor on three buildings going up along the Weehawken waterfront, Patrick Kelleher, president of the Hudson County Building & Construction Trades Council, presented his case before the Hudson County Freeholders at their Aug. 7 caucus meeting.
Kelleher said local unions have put together a package of proposals to Hartz Mountain Industries that he hoped would encourage the developer to use local union labor rather than out of area non-union workers.
The freeholders, who have almost no say in the matter because none of the three buildings requires county approvals, have been very pro-union, requiring that project labor agreements for use of union labor be part of all county projects.
“When projects like this go to out of state workers, the money the workers earn gets spent out of state, and does nothing to help the local economy,” Kelleher told the freeholders. “We would like to see these jobs stay here in Hudson County.”
“The unions have put together a competitive package.” – Mayor Richard Turner
“The unions have put together a competitive package,” Turner said. “We would like to see the jobs stay local, considering the local employment problems this area is having.”
Weehawken is thriving
Turner said Weehawken, with six projects either under construction or about to start, is undergoing a building boom and has the most active waterfront for development in the county outside of Jersey City.
“The developer and the unions are talking,” Turner said. “Myself and other concerned people are interested in keeping the door open to the unions. We’re very optimistic that there will be a positive outcome to this.”
Union work means high quality work, Turner said, and it means jobs going to local residents.
But he said this is a discussion on going between Hartz and the unions, and while he has played an active role in making certain both sides continue to talk, he said there is very little the county or he can do except to encourage Hartz to consider the package.
“What the unions are offering as far as wages and other things is very competitive to what the developer can get with non-union,” Turner said.
The first of the three Hartz buildings – of 580 residential units – is already under construction, Turner said. Two more by Hartz are ready to start. Three other buildings are also slated to start with other developers.
“Many of these lots have been vacant for 30 to 40 years,” Turner said. “With these, one third of the Weehawken waterfront will be developed.”
As pro-union as the Hudson County freeholders are, the board has no say in whether the project will be union or not union, Turner said.
“None of these need county freeholder or county planning board approvals,” he said. “There may be a time down the road when that changes, but for now the freeholders have no say in this.”
Freeholder Bill O’Dea, however, said the county has given towns like Weehawken rights of way for various projects such as for Formula One racing, and that municipalities that get these favors from the county should also consider promoting union labor for projects municipalities approve.