LI building council elects new president

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A key construction labor organization on Long Island chose a new leader Wednesday to replace its chief of five years.

The Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties elected Richard O'Kane as its new president when its current head retires in June. O'Kane, 63, is business manager at the Ironworkers Local 361, which is based in Brooklyn and covers Queens and Long Island as well. He is also a trustee of the council, which represents 36 local unions and about 65,000 workers on Long Island and in New York City.

The issue of union jobs on Long Island "is as important today as it has ever been and maybe more so as a result of the hurricane," O'Kane said following his unopposed election in Hauppauge. "There was a rush to clean up [after superstorm Sandy] but that didn't last."

He said his top priority would be to push for prevailing wage legislation, and for projects that receive taxpayer subsidies from industrial development agencies to use union labor. He said he would pursue project labor agreements -- which establish wages and conditions that apply to all workers on a project whether or not they're in a union -- to maintain local jobs and wages that he said are being undercut by out-of-state, nonunion workers.

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"It provides a common gain for the contractor, everybody's in harmony, abides by the same rules," O'Kane said.

The labor group's current president, James Castellane, suffered a heart attack two years ago and announced last month that he would step down for health reasons. O'Kane, who is from Brightwaters, said his first union job was as an apprentice in 1970 working on MacArthur Airport.

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