New Jersey City University (NJCU) and Hudson County Building Trades signed a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) and memorandum of understanding (MOU) centered on providing internship opportunities for NJCU students.
The Jan. 31 PLA – the first of its kind involving a public university in New Jersey – authorizes all university construction projects that exceed $5 million be completed by union labor.
NJCU says the agreement formalizes its commitment to partnering with Hudson County community leaders so that local residents can take part in future university construction projects. To help students gain experience, the MOU will also establish a program for coeds to participate in internship and/or externships opportunities.
“New Jersey City University is the state’s most socio-economically diverse public university and the oldest minority- and Hispanic-serving university in the state – anchored in the state’s most diverse region and second-most populous city,” said NJCU interim President Andres Acebo. “As such, NJCU has an obligation to the community it serves to be a true anchor institution. The historic nature of this PLA is as a blanket commitment that any major public works project that the university spurs or supports on its campuses will be dedicated to ensuring that the men and women in this community are direct beneficiaries not just of the final product but in its labor and economic stimulation.”
Acebo, who recently took the helm of NJCU as the school navigates a budget crisis, was joined by Hudson County Building Trades President Patrick Kelleher; Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea; Assembly Deputy Majority Leader Angela McKnight, D-31st District; union leaders and other community stakeholders for the announcement. He said it is critically important to find community partners and organizations that are similarly anchored by these principles.
“We echo and show a model that in these partnerships we need to do things differently and innovatively to hold us accountable to the people we serve,” said Acebo. “I’m proud to enshrine a commitment that should be emulated to ensure that state and local investments remain in the community that is intended to benefit from it, and its dollars circulate multiple times in our community before it leaves it.”
We echo and show a model that in these partnerships we need to do things differently and innovatively to hold us accountable to the people we serve.
— Andres Acebo, interim president, NJCU
Kelleher described the announcement as a point of pride.
“The Building Trades members, their kids, and their families went to this institution and will work on projects where they live,” said Kelleher. “We have members who live in Jersey City who can work on maintenance projects, and other members looking to open small minority-owned union businesses who will have an opportunity to bid on work. This doesn’t just benefit Jersey City, but the entire county and its surrounding communities.”
“Project Labor Agreements are a win-win for workers and employers,” said the New Jersey State AFL-CIO in a statement. “Workers get good-paying union jobs, while employers can trust that projects will be completed on-time and with the highest quality work.”
O’Dea said he was very pleased to see this agreement come together, describing NJCU as an indispensable resource to so many Hudson County residents.
“Our public institutions must always take whatever steps they can to partner with the working men and women of our labor unions and this agreement is a testament to that principle,” he said.
The announcement is certainly welcome news following months of tough headlines – and even tougher program and staff cuts – for NJCU as it works to rectify a budget deficit that NJBIZ has extensively reported on.
“Today’s PLA shows that NJCU is not going anywhere – and this agreement will be a catalyst for other institutions to follow,” said McKnight. “NJCU is a staple in the community. To have this ripped out from underneath us would be devastating.”
She added that NJCU is an institution that just needs a little help.
“NJCU has hit a bump in the road but there is light at the end of the tunnel,” said McKnight. “We need all stakeholders in the State of New Jersey to come together as a family to lift NJCU up.”
“The commitment we have made to NJCU is that we want the university to succeed,” said Kelleher. “This is going to be a success story.”
Acebo said that the MOU, which will be ratified in February by the board of trustees, establishes a community partnership for students with the Business Trades business offices and their contractors so that everything that touches and concerns NJCU is linked and tethered to its mission.
“A mission of economic mobility, of upward social mobility, of taking a socioeconomically diverse population and historically underserved and marginalized community and empowering them,” said Acebo. “That’s an obligation that this institution must honor, and we are privileged to find community partners and stakeholders that share that goal and are willing to champion it together.”
Following the announcement, Acebo spoke with NJBIZ about the agreement, the budget situation, the outlook moving forward, and more. A full recap of that interview is forthcoming on NJBIZ.