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Published: March, 2020; Vol 16, Num 10

Building a Brighter Future at the 2019 New England Region TriFunds Retreat

In early December, staff from the LHSFNA’s Occupational Safety & Health Division, Health Promotion Division and Communications department attended a retreat in the New England Region to develop new strategies to serve LIUNA members and signatory contractors as well.

During the three-day event, we discussed topics ranging from drug addiction to community engagement. On the first day, we settled in to discuss three of the most pressing health and safety topics affecting the construction industry:

  • Violence in the Workplace
  • Opioid Awareness
  • Mental Health

This discussion was led by the LHSFNA’s Jamie Becker, Director, Health Promotion; Travis Parsons, Associate Director, Occupational Safety & Health and Emily Smith, Health Promotion Manager, Health Promotion. The presentation covered the current state of all three issues within the industry and led to a discussion about how they are being addressed by other TriFund affiliates and groups across the Region. For example, we learned how one LIUNA Local has worked to implement a support system for members struggling with opioid addiction. Rather than acting like the issue never existed when a member returns to the jobsite after struggling with addiction, coworkers are being supportive and assisting the member with staying healthy and on the job. This is just one example of best practices and programs that LHSFNA staff were able to identify for potential implementation across a wider part of the LIUNA network. We ended the first day with a deeper understanding of how these topics are personally affecting Laborers, employers and communities in the Region.

On the second day, Fund staff traveled to the New England Laborers’ Training Academy (NELTA), where Jay Sabitoni, Training Director, explained the history and future of the academy and how it functions in the Region. Fund staff and the other attendees at the retreat were given the opportunity to see the full impact of our work when we heard from two graduates of the NELTA’s apprenticeship program. They shared powerful stories describing how becoming LIUNA members and going through the apprenticeship program has changed their lives, not only by giving them the fulfilling jobs they were searching for and the ability to earn a living, but also through the training they received and the skills they now have to work safely. 

Later that day, we got to see exactly why the LIUNA Education & Training Fund (LTEF) produces such outstanding results. Larry Baldino, Director of Operations, gave us a tour of LTEF’s state-of-the-art facilities, which include a virtual classroom that allows LIUNA Training to reach instructors and other groups across the U.S. and Canada. We were also presented with an overview of the LIUNA Training and Education Fund’s comprehensive curriculum, which covers specific job functions of construction craft laborers, including the technical abilities needed to be successful and safe on the job. To pass these courses, students are required to have a perfect hands-on score; anything less is unacceptable in such a high-hazard field.

We finished the day with a discussion led by Robin Melfi-Coia, Administrator, New England Laborers’ Labor-Management Cooperation Trust (NELLMCT), on attracting the next generation of Laborers and building a stronger community and a safer workforce.

On our final day, we were briefed by Scott Gustafson, Director, and Adam Lupino, Regional Policy Coordinator, of the Laborers’ New England Region Organizing Fund, as well as John Hutchings, Director, and Vincent Albanese, Policy and Public Affairs, of the New York State Laborers’ Organizing Fund, on labor laws and how they affect members on multiple fronts – wages, benefits, work quality and safety.

Throughout the retreat, Fund staff and other LIUNA affiliates shared ideas about outreach both within LIUNA and in the community at large, with the goal of strengthening our working relationships and focusing on some of our common goals: foundations built on fairness, quality and safety for everyone involved.

Moving forward, LHSFNA staff will be involved in a number of committees that will take the ideas discussed at the retreat and shape them into concrete programs and initiatives across the Region. These areas include training and apprenticeship, outreach to LIUNA members and outreach through community organizations and social media channels.

[Anne-Marie Hainer is the Fund’s Digital Media Specialist.]