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City Changes Apprenticeship Law

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The City of Buffalo has made changes to an apprenticeship law that has been on the books since last October. It is an attempt to create more jobs for Buffalo residents.

The previous law required companies with construction contracts of $250,000 or more to participate in apprentice programs. But on Tuesday, Buffalo Common Council members voted 7 to 2 in favor of lowering the contract rule to $100,000.

Lovejoy lawmaker Richard Fontana says the number was lowered because some businesses were not following the city rule.

"A lot of the contracts were being split up. So a $300,000 contract was going out in $100,000 increments, which was actually costing the City more, and at times, it was done to get around the law. Now we have lowered the requirements so the law is not skirted," said Fontana.

Fontana says companies will be required to hire a certain number of apprentices. "The goal is to have 25% of them working for a company that live within the City of Buffalo," noted Fontana.

But under state law, the actual hiring goal can only be voiced and not enforced. Prior to the vote, lawmakers debated the issue. Majority leader Nick Bonifacio was opposed to the changes.

"I don't think this is going to create as many jobs as we think at this point. In West Seneca, they just changed the cap from $380,000 to $1.5 million and they could not get anyone to bid on their projects," said Bonifacio.

South District lawmaker Michael Kearns agrees with the legislation but wants the Council to receive updates once every two months so they know work is being completed and that contracts are verified.

"I think we have a balancing act we have the taxpayers over here and ht unions on the other side. I am going to support the legislation at $100,000," said Kearns.

A sunset provision is included in the law. If it is not working, it will expire next July.