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Deal finally opens door for public-housing residents to get union jobs

Painters’ union and New York City Housing Authority create apprenticeship program

By Rosa Goldensohn | October 25, 2016 12:40 p.m.

Crain’s New York

For years, unemployment has plagued the city’s public-housing residents, who rarely could navigate the process to nab one of the well-paid union building trades jobs in and around the developments where they lived.

Now, the New York City Housing Authority and the city painters’ union have opened that door a little wider, teaming up in an effort to create lasting jobs for public housing residents through a new training program.

The city’s Civil Service Commission has approved 105 apprenticeship positions, allowing those in the training program to sign union cards.

“They get paid while they work, and they train next to our journeymen and painters who are already working in NYCHA,” said Davon Lomax, political director of painters’ union DC9. “They’ll be doing everything from sanding to painting to lead abatement to patchwork.”

DC9 began training Housing Authority residents three years ago, but the official positions give trainees the job titles that qualify them as full-fledged painters’ union members.

“The point was to create the titles so when they did graduate they can land somewhere,” Lomax said. “They can’t be in the union if they don’t have the title.”

Housing Authority residents often point to unemployment as a root cause of violence and other problems in public housing.

Of the more than 100 residents already enrolled, 86% are women and 96% are minorities.

After completing the training, the program graduates can work on private-sector jobs or on property of the Housing Authority, which has a project labor agreement with the Building Trades through 2018.

“But they could also be working at the World Trade Center for any other union construction site in New York,” Lomax said.