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Oct 24, 2008 1:01 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Union protests wages paid by bowling alley owners

Oct 24, 2008 1:01 PM

A local carpenters’ union is contending that the owners of a new 28-lane bowling alley now under construction on Route 58 in Riverhead are unwilling to pay contractors union-rate wages, while the owners are maintaining that they are just practicing good business.

For the past month, several members of Local 7, a Hauppauge-based branch of the Empire State Regional Council of Carpenters, have stood outside the construction site to protest what they describe as unfair payment and benefits offered to contractors by the owners of Bowl 58—business partners Joe Albanese and Bob Bunt.

Mr. Albanese and Mr. Bunt previously managed Westhampton Bowl on Sunset Avenue in Westhampton Beach, which closed in late June. Construction on Bowl 58, their latest business venture, began this past spring and is anticipated to be completed by early next year.

Mr. Albanese said this week that he does not understand why the carpenters’ union is protesting the construction project. “I don’t know what their point is out front,” he said. “We have not awarded bids for carpentry work yet.”

He quickly added that the union has every right to protest. “It’s a free country, there’s freedom of the press,” Mr. Albanese said.

At the job site on Friday, about half a dozen union members, some of whom traveled from as far west as Lake Grove and as close as Mastic, passed out fliers outlining their opposition. A large banner, decorated with two American flags and positioned just outside the fencing surrounding the job site, stated in red-and-black lettering: “Shame on Bowl 58 for hurting our community.”

A flier that the carpenters were handing out stated: “By attacking the area labor standards for carpenters, Bowl 58 LLC’s subcontractors are destroying the carpentry craft workers’ standard of living, as well as the communities that rely on their purchasing power.”

All of the carpenters protesting at the site on Friday, as well as those answering the phone at the union’s office in Hauppauge the same day, declined to say how much the carpenters working on the new bowling alley should be paid. A man answering the phone at union headquarters, who refused to identify himself, also said he would not say how much Mr. Albanese and Mr. Bunt are paying the contractors.

Instead, the man would only reiterate information that was included in the fliers, stating that Bowl 58 is “not paying the area standards, which are what the Department of Labor says is needed to live on Long Island.” The union representative added that fair wages vary, depending on the type of work that is being completed.

Local 7’s website states that union carpenters in the Empire State Regional Council of Carpenters earn between $22 and $37 per hour, in addition to receiving comprehensive health and retirement packages.

John Acquaro, a carpenter from Ronkonkoma who is a member of the Local 7, tried to summarize the reason for the protest. He emphasized that the issue is not whether or not the carpenters’ union wins the bidding process. Rather, he said the issue is about providing wages and benefits to workers so that they can afford to live on Long Island.

“They’re not living up to the area standards with wages and benefits,” Mr. Acquaro said of the owners of Bowl 58. “There’s a lot of people in the community who are out of work and their pay scale does not meet area standards.”

Mr. Albanese said he could not give specifics on how much he is paying construction workers at his site—many of the subcontractors for the construction site manager, Hauppauge-based West Rac Contracting, work at a flat rate, he explained. Mr. Albanese added that the workers are not receiving benefits, while noting that he does not have benefits himself.

The carpenters protesting outside the construction site are free to bid on the project, according to Mr. Albanese, He noted that the roof of the new 32,000-square-foot bowling alley will require extensive carpentry work. Mr. Albanese also said that he is perplexed as to why the union has not yet bid on the work.

“I told them to give bids when they first came out,” Mr. Albanese said. “If they want to bid it, they can bid it.”

The Bowl 58 project has been in the site excavation phase for several months, and officials with West Rac Contracting are still reviewing bids from subcontractors, according to Mr. Bunt. Construction of the bowling alley is set to begin within the next few days, according to Mr. Albanese.

Mr. Albanese, who visited the job site on Friday, stressed that members of the Local 7 are “more than welcome” to bid on the job. “But at the end of the day, it has to come down to the numbers,” he added.

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Scew the unions! Be happy that there's work to be had.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Oct 25, 08 7:07 PM
Hey union guys, what makes you think your members are worth more than the crew doing the work now?

The year is 2008, not 1958. Get with the times.
By NYC (7), Amagansett on Oct 25, 08 7:39 PM
it's good to see that non-uniion workers are being hired as unions were once very important, now they seem to be runining this country for an example look at the big 3 auto manufactorers. Maybe union carpenters should look at thier unions as to why non-union workers are being hired nationwide, maybe the unions are too expensive for the rest of the "real world "
By typical (63), southampton on Oct 26, 08 7:01 PM
Seems like a small job for Local 7 to be fussing over.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Southampton on Oct 30, 08 6:42 PM