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Ironworkers’ Alcoa picket enters second week

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MASSENA - The ironworkers’ picket outside Alcoa’s Massena operations entered its second week on Thursday, gaining support from other unions and federal, local and St. Regis Mohawk Tribal officials along the way.

Ironworkers Local 440 is picketing Alcoa for letting a Texas firm, which is bringing in its own workers, repair the roof at the Massena West plant that was damaged in a March fire. CCC Group of San Antonio brought 24 of its own workers here and hired four local employees, Alcoa spokeswoman Laurie A. Marr said previously.

That drew the ire of Local 440, which had hoped to put 32 of its own staff to work there. Two inflatable rats rose above the picketers as they continued their protest on Thursday; motorists driving by on County Route 42 honked horns to show support.

“Our people are starving up here,” Loren R. Fitzgerald, an ironworker for four and a half years, said. “It’s sad that Alcoa would let this go on.”

Robert J. Cole, Local 440 business manager, had proposed a project labor agreement to Alcoa last week, which would send some of the CCC’s staff home and employ more Local 440 members. Ms. Marr declined to comment on the PLA’s status on Thursday.

Mr. Cole had previously reached out to Rep. William L. Owens office for support.

Mr. Owens said he had requested Alcoa utilize as much local labor as possible to complete repairs soon after the fire and has since expressed his concerns about the CCC Group to the company.

“One of the principal issues facing the region is job creation,” Mr. Owens said. “If this is going to create jobs, it’s clearly something we should be involved in.”

Mr. Owens’ Republican challenger, Matthew A. Doheny, who was visiting Massena Thursday, said he did not feel it was appropriate for a congressman to intervene on such an issue.

“The last thing you want is the federal government wading in and telling productive businesses what to do,” he said. “It’s not in the long run the best way to go.”

But Mr. Owens disagreed, and said he sided with the ironworkers who wanted more local laborers on site.

“I would hope any elected official would do this for his constituency,” he said.

The picket also has the support of St. Regis Mohawk Tribal officials, who called for community members to rally at the site at 6 a.m. Friday. Chief Ronald W. LaFrance, standing alongside Chief Paul Thompson at the site, said he was willing to meet with Alcoa to advocate for local labor if the ironworkers requested his presence.

“If it comes to the point where we have to step up and sit at the table, we’re ready and willing to do that and prepared to do that,” Mr. LaFrance said.

Mayor James F. Hidy also visited with the ironworkers and expressed his support on Thursday.

“For a company that’s foreign to New York state to bring in people from other states is an absolute slap in the face,” Mr. Hidy said.

Mr. Fitzgerald charged the CCC Group had hired Mexican citizens who spoke little English. Richard L. Daddario, business manager of Laborers Local 322, said it didn’t matter where they are from; the bottom line is, they’re not local. He stood alongside the ironworkers on Thursday.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me that they would want to do that,” he said. “We have an unemployment rate of over 11 percent. That should be of a concern to Alcoa.”

Ms. Marr previously said the CCC Group was the lowest bidder for the roof contract through a competitive process by a “significant margin.” She previously could not confirm that CCC’s 24 workers were from Texas.

“They’re people that (CCC has) worked with on a regular basis,” she had said. “The contractor wanted to bring in some of its own in-house employees.”

She declined further comment about the picket on Thursday.

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