In just about a month, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery will be shutting down to prepare for a major expansion project. But an area labor leader is concerned the work is not going to include unionized skilled workers.
Laborer's Local 210, the Buffalo Building Trades and Construction Council, and the New York State Laborers' Organizing Fund are calling on the Albright-Knox to commit to creating jobs for local residents.
"Just like every other large project in the City of Buffalo like the Harborcenter, Canalside, Buffalo school renovations, the Northland Workforce Development Center, all these large projects have had project labor agreements," said Sam Capitano, is the president of Local 210, which has 900 members in Erie County.
Capitano says the bids are supposed to be coming out within a couple of weeks and the union is being "left in the dark."
"It's been a slow year for the construction industry here in Western New York, the slowest year I've seen in 12 years, and with this project right at home, in the City of Buffalo, we don't understand why we're being shunned like we are," Capitano said.
Even though state and local taxpayers are spending more than $26 million on the Albright-Knox expansion, it is not a public project. But Capitano says it is difficult and intricate.
"They're shopping prices around right now. And we're also concerned about the quality, as taxpayers in this community too, if they get low bids and not qualified employers, because what we see on projects this large, at the end of the day, when they do go the cheap route, we end up coming in, in the end, and fixing up their mess," Capitano said.
The Albright-Knox declined WBFO's interview request, but issued a written statement saying, "As we continue planning for this project, we are committed to having an inclusive workforce.”