November 5, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Wide ranging discussions with the heads of New York State Helmets to Hardhats, Henry Van Arsdale Jr. Center for Labor Studies at Empire State College, and the Safety Professional Association — in addition to a national labor report from the Workers Independent News [WIN] network and segments with two military veterans making the transition into civilian life — all made week three of LaborPress Radio the most diverse episode yet.
LaborPress contributor, author and veteran ironworker Bill Hohlfeld joined publisher Neal Tepel at the mic as the hosts welcomed Anne Trenkle, director, NYS Helmets to Hardhats; Michael Merrill, dean, Henry Van Arsdale, Jr. Center for Labor Studies at Empire State College; Alec Mikeljohn, program director, Henry Van Arsdale, Jr. Center for Labor Studies at Empire State College; Michael Arvanites, presdient, Safety Professional Association; and Doug Cunningham, WIN national correspondent.
Helmets to Hardhats participants Tiffany Faulk and William Lembo also took time out to talk about how the 13-year-old program is helping veterans like themselves find success working in one of the many fields associated with the building trades.
“If you were a plumber in the Navy, you might not want to ever see another clogged toilet again,” Trenkle joked. “That’s why we ask [participants] for their top three choices.”
Tiffany Faulk, a Local 12 insulator is a Navy veteran who left the military still unsure about her future. But that all changed after a friend convinced her to contact Helmets to Hardhats.
“They called me within 48 hours,” Faulk says. “I didn’t think of [the building trades] as a path for me, but now I want that career.”
Like Faulk and other military veterans, Lembo found successfully transitioning into civilian life extremely challenging. Also like Faulk, however, the former infantryman discovered that Helmets to Hardhats offered him a chance to rapidly change directions — even after a 13-month tour of Afghanistan.
“Transitioning to a job outside the military is very hard,” Lembo says. “But I left Fort Bragg, drove home to New York and started working with Plumbers Local 1 the next day.”
Plugging workers into the power and possibilities of organized labor is what Merrill and Mikeljohn try to do every day at the Henry Van Arsdale, Jr. Center for Labor Studies at Empire State College.
In the latest episode of LaborPress Radio, both administrators talk passionately about the need to use continuing education to both reinvigorate today’s rank and file members, as well as reestablishing labor’s place in the public’s consciousness.
“Our main thrust is to explore the place, status and power of the worker,” Merrill says. “We need leaders in the union who are confident about the stories they have to tell. Students should feel like they have a place at the table.”
The rising death toll and accident rate on mostly non-union construction sites around New York City painfully underscores the urgent need to empower workers across all sectors. And yet, despite a building boom that is only expected to grow larger, the City of New York continues to suffer a dearth of qualified site safety managers able to help safeguard dangerous worksites.
“All of those fatalities happened were sites that didn’t have a site safety manager,” Arvanites tells LaborPress Radio this week.“We need a thousand more [site safety managers] with this level of building.”
The Safety Professional Association CEO also talks about non-union construction workers using fake safety credentials to get on job sites around town – and the city’s reaction to the perilous practice.
Finally, Cunningham expands the focus far beyond NYC with a bare-knuckle discussion about the Trans Pacific Partnership, so-called “right to work” laws and the entire “billionaire agenda.”
Tune into this week’s episode of LaborPress Radio to hear all this and more on WWRL 1600 AM, Sunday morning from 9-10 a.m.