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Building Trades Leader Steps Down

Monday, January 8, 2018

Statement by John R. Durso, President of the Long Island Federation of Labor AFL-CIO

“Richard “Dick” O’Kane’s retirement as President of the Nassau-Suffolk Building Trades Council is bittersweet.  From day one of his tenure he was steadfast in his commitment to advancing the causes of working people.  He provided a voice for the hard working men and women of the building and construction trades with unimpeachable integrity, which proved to be effective in strengthening apprenticeship requirements throughout our region.  On behalf of The Long Island Federation of Labor wish, I would like to wish Dick well in his retirement.

Durso continued, ‘We are looking forward to building on the relationship we already have with Matthew “Matty” Aracich in his role as the Business Manager of the Heat and Frost Insulators Local 12.  We are excited to get to work building upon the strong partnership we’ve developed through the years and have no doubt Matty’s energy and fresh perspective will prove to be significant assets as he steers the ship on behalf of the affiliates and members of the Nassau-Suffolk Building and Construction Trades Council as we head in to 2018.”

LIBN:LI union leader to step down

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.

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.

“The only disappointment in my tenure was that the IDAs on Long Island have yet to get on board with apprenticeship language in their requirements for projects receiving public benefits,” O’Kane said. “If they did they could create hundreds and hundreds of jobs across Long Island. Lets hope they do so soon.”