At NJCU, historic project labor agreement comes with internships, too

MOU with Hudson County Building Trades will commit to apprenticeship programs, as well

A memorandum of understanding signed by New Jersey City University and the Hudson County Building Trades will make NJCU the first public university in the state to authorize that all university construction projects that exceed $5 million be completed by union labor.

The historic agreement, however, is about more than just union projects — it’s about jobs for students and the community.

The agreement memorializes NJCU’s commitment to partnering with Hudson County community leaders so that its diverse, local residents are able to take part in economic opportunities provided by future university construction projects.

The MOU specifically establishes a program wherein university students are able to participate in internship and/or externship opportunities to gain meaningful experiences.

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Jersey City), the Assembly deputy majority leader, said the internship opportunities will have impact.

“Today’s important step will provide opportunities for minorities in our community and the access to paid internships will allow some students to get paid while learning, with apprenticeships right here in their own community,” she said. “I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to be here to witness a partnership that’s for the people, by the people.”

Call for support for NJCU

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, the Assembly deputy majority leader, said the state needs to support New Jersey City University.

“Generations of families have gone to this university,” McKnight (D-Jersey City) said. “NJCU is a staple in the community. To have this ripped out from underneath us would be devastating. Most of the alumni and those students attending now are not aware of what has transpired on campus. What they do know is they want to come here for an education and continue coming here, and they want their children to come here.

“It’s a staple in the community and it’s an institution that needs just a little help. NJCU has hit a bump in the road, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. We need all stakeholders in the state of New Jersey to come together as a family to lift NJCU up.”

Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea, long an organizer of job programs, shared in the optimism.

“As a strong advocate for both organized labor and public education, I’m very pleased to see the Hudson County Building Trades and New Jersey City University come together today for this historic announcement,” he said. “Our public institutions must always take whatever steps they can to partner with the working men and women of our labor unions, and this agreement is a testament to that principle.”

Hudson Building Trades President Patrick Kelleher said the announcement is a point of pride for union members.

“The Building Trades members, their kids and their families went to this institution and will work on projects where they live,” he said. “We have members who live in Jersey City who can work on maintenance projects, and other members looking to open small, minority-owned union businesses who will have an opportunity to bid on work.”

Kelleher said the impact is deep.

“This doesn’t just benefit Jersey City, but the entire county and its surrounding communities. The apprenticeship program with the university is a partnership — one about opportunities and forging a relationship with the college and the building trades,” he said. “The commitment we have made to NJCU is that we want the university to succeed. This is going to be a success story.”

NJCU interim President Andrés Acebo said the agreement represents what the school represents — an anchor of opportunity in the community.

“New Jersey City University is the state’s most socioeconomically diverse public university and the oldest minority- and Hispanic-serving university in the state — anchored in the state’s most diverse region and second-most populous city,” he said. “As such, NJCU has an obligation to the community it serves to be a true anchor institution.

“The historic nature of this PLA is as a blanket commitment that any major public works project that the university spurs or supports on its campuses will be dedicated to ensuring that the men and women in this community are direct beneficiaries not just of the final product, but in its labor and economic stimulation.”

Acebo said the agreement shows that NJCU’s commitment to the city’s residents is as strong as it is to its students.

“A tenet of this institution has been, and must continue to be, economic mobility,” he said. “Finding community partners and organizations that are similarly anchored into that principle is critically important and that’s what we solidified and memorialized with this partnership.”