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Editorial & Opinion

Justin Kelley – An open letter to all city council members and candidates regarding the Fane “Hope Point Tower”



Dear members of the Providence City Council and candidates for Council,

I am the Business Representative of the Rhode Island Painters Union, a union of over 500 members engaged in finishing trades work in Rhode Island. I am charged with representing these members and their families. We also speak on behalf of all finishing trades workers, thousands of whom, if given the chance, would like to enjoy the benefits of union membership and collective bargaining.

I write you today to urge your support for the Fane or Hope Point Tower development that is seeking zoning variance. This project is needed, not only by construction workers but by the whole city.

We at the IUPAT and the rest of the Building Trades put members to work project by project. The very nature of our work is that we put ourselves out of a job and move on to the next one. We take pride in working hard to ensure that each project is done professionally, on budget, on time and with the best results in the industry.

A little background and context from our perspective is necessary to understand why projects like this, where the developer has agreed to build under a project labor agreement, are so important to working people.

Can we please ask a favor?

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Almost every project that will put our members to work is universally opposed by someone. The projects our members work on are the most complex, difficult, large and costly projects in the industry. Given this, someone will be opposed. If the naysayers had their way nothing would be built other than the occasional house.

Currently there are ongoing projects that have subsidies from both the city and state which are utilizing contractors who have committed crimes against workers. Down the street at the Providence Commons site, at least one subcontractor was found guilty of wage theft through employee misclassification. Another subcontractor is under investigation. If the enforcement of labor law was as robust as needed, several other sites underway by local developers would likely yield the same results. No one blinks twice or is up in arms against these projects, likely because they keep the local, connected developers happy and in the money.

The construction industry is rife with criminal behavior by contractors who abuse unorganized workers. We aim to change this, however our ability to do so is severely hampered when there is not reliable, steady work. Projects like the Hope Tower provide needed sustainable work opportunities to our members.

This is the background from which I urge you to support the project at hand. This project from an objective stance is also a golden opportunity for the city of Providence and the state of Rhode Island.

This project is good for the city. It means growth. It means breaking from the status quo and welcoming someone who wants to invest a quarter of a billion plus dollars into this city.

We need the tax base, we need the housing opportunities, we need the housing density for the future of our city.

We need this, and more large buildings to become the 21st century city that we deserve to be. If we build this project, we will grow and attract business and talent to a city that needs it. If we deny this, we will send a clear message that we embrace our provincial past, and that the city is not open for business unless you are well-connected.

Please – for the working people of Providence and Rhode Island and for the sake of our economy and future- support and approve this project.

Justin Kelley is the Business Representative of the Rhode Island Painters Union, a union of over 500 members engaged in finishing trades work in Rhode Island.