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Building a workforce to build the new Bills stadium

Building trade unions are gearing up apprentice programs to supply trained workers.

WEST SENECA, N.Y. — With the groundbreaking for the new Bills stadium scheduled for sometime in the first week of June, building trades unions here in the Buffalo area is ready to beef up their ranks for all those construction jobs.

The site preparation work in Orchard Park is well underway. Contractors are still putting up perimeter fences and other site clearance is still going on like the removal of a stand of trees we saw Friday. 

But in the coming weeks, the so-called big dig begins with those large excavators slicing through the soil to set up space for the stadium foundation. 

The men and women in the cabs of those big earthmovers are members of the Operating Engineers Union Local 17. But there will also be, of course, ironworkers erecting the steel skeleton which is the frame we have seen on other projects. Also, there will be skilled crane operators, pipefitters, electricians, and more. 

Ironworkers Local 6 Business Agent Jim Willis tells 2 on Your Side: "It's a great opportunity for us to increase our apprenticeship members and recruit people that way and also you know ramp up our organizing effort to gain membership."

Politicians like to quote the figure of 10,000 construction jobs, but that is, of course, spread out over the three years of the project as per the construction schedule. 

Willis points out: "About 90 percent of them are going to be local people. The 10 percent of the foremen and general foremen superintendents are people the contractor would want to bring in."

These leaders of the building trades unions are fairly confident that through their apprenticeship programs, they should have enough workers in the pipeline to be able to handle the massive stadium project and various other projects in the area

Willis emphasizes: "We feel very confident with the steps we are taking that we'll have enough of our members and local members provide the manpower for the job."  

Business Agent Paul Hopkins of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 17 said: "We have a four-year apprenticeship program and I will say that we took in 18 apprentices, which our program started in 1973, and this is the most we've ever taken in at one time."

Hopkins also is very pleased to see the inclusion of the Project Labor Agreement or PLA in the stadium contract for the Bills, Erie County, and State.

"Also in this project, which has a PLA and which makes a huge difference, because you're going to get local people working," Hopkins said. "There's been other projects, perfect example Amazon in Hamburg. You know, no PLA. You had a lot of out-of-town contractors, and where is their money going? You know, back home, so the PLA makes a big difference." 


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