Building a Trusting Collaboration Between Workers and Employers to Create Quality Employment Opportunities

BuildRI contractors are dedicated to developing skilled trades workers through union apprenticeship programs. These programs provide new entrants with 3 to 5 years of supervised on-the-job training and classroom instruction, depending on their chosen craft. BuildRI is a successful labor-management partnership made up of representatives from major contractors and construction industry unions in Rhode Island. Originally launched in 2000 as the Rhode Island 21st Century Labor Management Partnership, BuildRI’s goal is to promote the mutual interests of labor and management in the union construction industry. This includes creating well-paying jobs and providing the necessary skills through apprenticeships and other training programs.

During a recent visit to Rhode Island, I had the opportunity to speak with Executive Director Greg Mancini. He shared some insights about his role and the organization’s accomplishments. When asked about how he became the executive director, Mancini explained that he was chosen because he was not affiliated with either labor or management. This was a sign of the initial hesitation from the members about having someone from their own organization lead the new venture.

One of the challenges that BuildRI faced was negotiating project labor agreements (PLAs) on major construction projects in Rhode Island. However, in 2002, the Rhode Island Supreme Court made it more difficult to implement PLAs by requiring a “reasoned study” to determine their feasibility. Mancini feared that this would hinder their ability to secure public sector PLAs, which was a crucial aspect of their organization’s purpose. Despite this setback, the board continued to meet and build mutual respect and trust among its members. As a result, they were able to have more success in the marketplace.

Mancini’s persistence paid off when he convinced some public sector entities to conduct a “reasoned study” and ultimately implement PLAs. This led to a total of 38 studies, all of which concluded that PLAs were beneficial in achieving the goals of the state purchases act. As a result, PLAs have been implemented on approximately $2.8 billion in construction projects. This success has solidified BuildRI’s position in the public sector construction market.

In conclusion, BuildRI has proven to be a valuable partnership between labor and management in the construction industry. Through their efforts, they have created good jobs with family-supporting wages and provided the necessary skills through apprenticeships and other training programs. Despite challenges, they have continued to thrive and make a significant impact in the construction industry in Rhode Island. 

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