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From Ironwork to Leading the Trades

LIBN Reports that Dick O'Kane, Nassau-Suffolk Building Trades leader is retiring, he started pre-apprenticeship program for area youth

Posted on
Jan 09, 2018

Long Island union leader Dick O'Kane has announced that he will be retiring. Below is an interview with O'Kane on his retirement.

The leader of one of Long Island’s largest labor organizations is retiring.

Richard O’Kane, 68, the president of the Building Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk, plans on stepping down from his post on Jan.19.

O’Kane’s successor will be Matthew Aracich, a business manager with Heat and Frost Insulators Local 12.

The Building Trades Council, composed of 37 individual construction-related unions, has an estimated 59,000 members and is one of the most powerful labor groups in the area.

O’Kane was voted in as president in June 2013, succeeding long-time Building Trades Council head Jim Castellane, who retired for health reasons. Castellane began his career as an HVAC insulator with Local 12.

A union ironworker for 43 years, O’Kane was an apprentice when he worked his first gig: Building a hangar at Long Island MacArthur Airport in 1970. O’Kane has also worked on repairing the Brooklyn Bridge and helped build Stony Brook University. He headed Ironworkers Local 361 before taking the top spot at the Building Trades Council.

During his tenure, O’Kane has pushed several Long Island municipalities to adopt laws that require contractors on larger building projects to have state-approved apprenticeship programs. He’s also been a staunch advocate for local hiring, lobbying companies and public officials to use construction workers from Nassau and Suffolk counties instead of importing them from out of the area.

In that time the council was able to show the municipalities of Long Island the benefits and value of hiring highly trained and skilled workers in the apprenticeship programs in municipal and private work all across Long Island,” O’Kane told LIBN. “These benefits provide good-paying jobs with a strong emphasis on job safety. The council was also able to show the municipalities the value of project labor agreements (PLAs) in public work, which through the years produced thousands of jobs across Long Island.”

O’Kane added that “it has been a pleasure and honor to serve” as Building Trades Council chief. He thanked the Long Island Federation of Labor for its work in advancing the labor movement in the area.

Under O’Kane, the Building Trades Council, in conjunction with the Long Island Federation of Labor, United Way, and the Workforce Development Institute, was able to create Opportunity Long Island, a program that helps young people prepare for a pre-apprenticeship training program that O’Kane says will eventually provide hundreds of jobs.

In 2014 O'Kane attended the 4th Annual Workers Memorial Mass, which UCOMM holds annually, where he spoke to Newsday about the importance of the mass.

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