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Contractors need carpenters and carpenters need work. The union is improving the connection

Road work is seen on Old Lake Shore Road in this WBFO file photo.
WBFO file
Road work is done on Old Lake Shore Road in this WBFO file photo. One of the work areas for union carpenters is heavy road and bridge building.

Carpenters union locals across New England and most of New York State are regionalizing matching members and jobs, helping both contractors and union members.

Bill Banfield is assistant executive secretary-treasurer of the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters, based at a local in the Hudson Valley. Banfield said the high-tech boom in Boston makes this all possible.

“We have a driving force, which is the City of Boston and the City of Boston has a tremendous amount of work," he said. "And with the work there and the stronghold that we have there, we can help out the other not-as-strong areas.”

So, to meet the needs of projects in the Utica area, he said workers are coming in from across the state. You do have to like travel.

“You may like that. You may have the opportunity to work for one contractor your entire career. You may like to travel," Banfield said. "You may not like to just stay with one company over the course of your career. Something could happen and there's other contractors out there.”

Chris Austin is western New York business manager for the union. He said many of his members do go on the road, even regionally because the local covers a lot of territory.

“The bulk of our carpenters from Carpenters Local 276, which covers the 12 counties of Western New York, the bulk of them find work from Rochester to Buffalo, Jamestown, Olean," he said. "We cover from Geneva west for this specific local.”

Banfield said carpenters do all kinds of things on a job site, even the divers who work underwater on elaborate projects to the detailed finish carpentry in executive offices.

“Not only do we do concrete work, building work, we're focused on working on heavy highway. That heavy highway, it's road work. It's the bridges. It's dams, power plants," he said. "So, there's opportunities through the entire organization and not just building buildings.”

Austin pushes for jobs in New York to go to New Yorkers, particularly tax-paid jobs.

"Isn't that what it's all about? Let's at least support ourselves and take care of our own state members first," he said. "It always kind of makes me ill to see travelers come in from Texas and work for 15,16 bucks an hour and take away our work opportunities.”

Austin is watching carefully the plan for another new science building out at the University at Buffalo’s North Campus. There are a lot of carpenter jobs in a building with a cost over $100 million.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.