November 13, 2015
By Bill Hohlfeld, LaborPress NY
On a quiet stretch of road, just off Route 9A in Westchester County, behind a neat and orderly desk, sits Edward Doyle, President of the Building and ConstructionTrades Council of Westchester and Putnam Counties.
Though his demeanor is friendly,make no mistake about it; he is all business.While he sits in an executive position now, he came up through the ranks, and all his comments betray the fact that he has never lost touch with where he came from or what his life has been about. His pride is evident when he speaks about his career in the Teamsters, and the time spent driving fuel oil delivery trucks, concrete mixers and tractor trailers. It wasn’t until he’d spent 16 years behind the wheels of those vehicles that he decided to become involved in the political process.He was first elected as Vice President/ Business Agent of Local 456 of theTeamsters back in the 1970’s. He then moved up the ranks to Business Manager, where he held a 20 year tenure.
Today, he continues to work tirelessly to maintain good working conditions for the unionized workforce in Westchester and Putnam counties,and to expand union density wherever possible.One of his more notable organizing efforts took place back in 2001. That was when he worked with the late Andrew P. O’Rourke, described by the New York Times as a “pragmatic Republican” who was then chief executive of Westchester County, and who had held that position for 14 years. During that period, Doyle managed to organize over 60 attorneys, secretarial staff and various departmental managers employed by the When asked what his biggest concern is today, he doesn’t blink. “The non-union contractor,” is his immediate answer. He is equally quick to respond as to what he believes is the most effective means of battling this onslaught. “ The PLA,” says Doyle is the strongest defense we have at our disposal… it has been since 1994. He refers to the rerouting of I 287 and the repairs that were done back then on the Tappan Zee Bridge.
He goes on to cite the building of the New New York Bridge, which will replace the Tappan Zee. “Over 1,000 Westchester and Putnam County residents, who are union members are employed on that project,” he states. “And that’s just those employed directly by Tappan Zee Constructors; that doesn’t count sub contractors.”Not nearly as effective, in Doyle’s opinion, are some of the IDAs (Industrial Development Agencies) in Westchester, most notably Yonkers. These agencies are supposed to create jobs for local people. But, often they don’t; contractors and their subs are likely to bring in workers from out of state who will work for sub standard wages. If nothing else, Doyle would like to see a prevailing wage established on these projects. “I’m not afraid to compete on a level playing field,” he says.As president of the council, Mr. Doyle works closely with the business managers and business agents of various trades on an ongoing basis. He talks of all the time these union representatives dedicate to their jobs.
“These guys often put in a 15 hour day,” he says. Besides their own local’s business, they serve on joint grievance committees, and will even take time on weekends to stage demonstrations in front of a contractor’s home. “When a union hall is a hiring hall, “ says Doyle “you don’t go home at 4 o’clock. You have to prepare for the next day’s work.” And, of course there are union meetings.They take place in the evening too. “ This isn’t a job,” continues Doyle.“This is a cause.”Mr. Doyle is also forthright in his desire to get more help in this cause from our elected officials. “We have to push are politicians a little more,” he says. “ We [theunions] are the local people. He harkens back to a time when the council received a $500,000/year grant from the state for job creation. That money was well spent. Local unemployed youth were recruited into a pre-apprenticeship program. For 5 weeks they were oriented to what the building trades were all about, schooled in the proper soft skills (attendance, punctuality, etc) and placed in the various trades. Over a four year period, this program produced 300 apprenticeship program graduates who have good careers today as a result.
Ed Doyle would very much like to see that grant reinstated.State grants notwithstanding, the Building Trades Council president urges young people to consider a career in the trades.He wants them to know that no local is closed to them, and that due to demographics of retirement there will be a real need for new blood over the next 5 years. “The trades offer good salaries and good benefits and are always looking for people who want to work.”Hard work is something Ed Doyle values. He tips his hat to the people who are out there now working hard and making it happen. And, he is convinced that it is hard work that will secure the future of the building trades. “The best way to take care of your job,” according to Doyle is “give the boss a good day.”