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Rochester airport building site
Rochester airport construction site, 1991, photo by Marilyn Anderson. View larger image »
Can of worms construction site
“Can of Worms” expressway construction site, 1990, photo by Marilyn Anderson. View larger image »

Topics » Allied Building Trades Council

Unions which represented workers employed in single industries would sometimes band together as a united council in order to effectively muster resources and maximize their impact in their dealings with employers. In Rochester, for example, the Printing Trades Council was comprised of unions representing the bookbinders, mailers, pressmen, writers, lithographers/ photoengravers, typographers, web pressmen, stereotypers, and electrotypers. Other such councils included the Metal Trades Council and the Culinary Trades Council.

The only local trades council that has endured to the present is the Allied Building Trades Council (BTC).

Established in 1888 as the various construction trades struggled to secure a nine-hour workday, the BTC represents the interests of building tradesmen to contractors, other unions, and public officials at every level of government.

In its earliest days, the Rochester BTC was comprised of plumbers, gas fitters and steamfitters; tinsmiths; sash, door & blind makers; carpenters; bricklayers; and slaters. By 1925 every construction trade union was affiliated with the Council.

The BTC sought funding for public works jobs during economic depressions and investigated the use of unqualified workers on construction projects. They lobbied for support for the construction of most public buildings in Rochester and in 1935 passed a resolution that only Monroe County residents be employed on city projects.

The Trades have always been community-minded, donating their labor to construct the Liberty Bridge across Main Street where WWII war bonds were sold, forming rescue squads in 1950 to help “minimize suffering and disaster in the event of an A-bomb attack,” teaching low-income residents to do home repairs in 1968, and building facilities at Camp Good Days and Special Times in 1987.

Crowd at Liberty Bell bridge
Liberty Bell Bridge, 1944, photographer unknown, Labor News archive.

Perhaps the BTC’s most diligent work over the years has been their attentiveness to legislative, electoral and policy issues. They have endorsed those elected officials who support working people and fair construction practices and vigorously opposed those who they found wanting. The creation of the Building Trades Joint Apprenticeship Council, passage of the Davis-Bacon Act requiring that prevailing wages be paid on publicly funded projects, and the formation of labor-management committees to promote job safety have all received the BTC’s support. Construction projects that exploit workers — whether by importing illegal immigrants, failing to pay appropriate wages and benefits, or refusing to hire area residents — have been brought to the attention of the public thanks to the BTC’s efforts.

Click here for History of the Building Trades Council »

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