Labor unions step up Nassau Coliseum push

The Nassau Coliseum. (July 20, 2011)

The Nassau Coliseum. (July 20, 2011) (Credit: Ed Betz)

Labor unions are stepping up their push for a new Nassau Coliseum.

Unions representing construction, security and other industries have set up phone banks and will go door-to-door.

"For us, it's really about the jobs," said John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor. "This is important for the future of Nassau County and it's an indication of the idea that, yes, we can get things done here."

The Long Island Federation of Labor and the Nassau/Suffolk Building Trades Council, which represent more than 250,000 workers, began a walking campaign last weekend that will continue through before the Aug. 1 vote, said Roger Clayman, executive director of the Long Island Federation of Labor.

"If the Islanders move . . . the union members will not be working and that's lost revenue for everybody," said Tom Siesto, who heads SEIU Local 276, the Service Employees International Union, which represents parking attendants and security guards at the Coliseum.

The county expects to add 3,000 jobs, including union jobs.

County Executive Edward Mangano and Islanders owner Charles Wang have cited redevelopment of the 77-acre hub area as key to the economic health of the county.

The campaign for a referendum that would authorize $400 million in borrowing to build the Coliseum and minor league ballpark comes as construction unemployment on Long Island stands at 30 percent, union leaders said. Nassau last month laid off 128 civil service workers, all members of the Civil Service Employees Association, the county's largest union.

Although the CSEA Wednesday came out in support of a new Coliseum, it stopped short of urging its members to vote for the borrowing. In a letter to Islanders senior vice president Michael Picker, Nicholas LaMorte, president of CSEA's Long Island region, said "building the project" would "ensure construction work and permanent jobs . . . as well as a brighter future for our children."

But in an interview, Jerry Laricchiuta, president of CSEA's Local 830, said the union is not planning specific efforts to get out the vote. He pointed to the layoffs and Nassau Deputy County Executive Timothy Sullivan's comments that they allowed funds to be freed up to pay for the referendum.

"I do think it's important to have a Coliseum and I do think it's important to have the Islanders stay here," Laricchiuta said. "However . . . , in light of the fact that the Republicans attacked my membership -- and one made a comment about paying for this through the layoffs -- I cannot possibly urge my members to vote yes."

County spokeswoman Katie Grilli-Robles said she was "happy to hear about the CSEA's support for the hub project." She did not comment on the CSEA's concerns.

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