In 2000 local manufacturer Sargent/Assa Abloy could not compete for contracts to supply locks and doors for the growing number of new schools being built in town because of the way the specs were written.
The city’s economic development director at the time told contractors: Change the specs so others can compete fairly.
Now lots of locally made Sargent products are in many of the city’s new schools.
The then director was Henry Fernandez. Now he’s running for mayor.
On Wednesday United Electrical Workers Local 243 put a lock on its gratitude for that 2000 deed with the union’s formal endorsement.
“You gave us the opportunity that we can bid and compete, and we did,” Local 243 President Ray Pompano said at a press conference at the manufacturer’s Long Wharf plant.
Wednesday’s was the latest labor endorsement in the current race for the Democratic mayoral nomination, for which five candidates are contending. State Sen. Toni Harp has received the backing of Yale’s powerful UNITE HERE Locals 34 and 35 and the region’s Central Labor Council. Last month Fernandez received the endorsement of the carpenters and laborers unions.
Sargent/Assa Abloy products can be found in New Haven schools, the hospitals, and the new Gateway Community College downtown campus. Back in 2000, Fernandez said he did not know why but the specs for new schools had originally excluded Sargent/ Assa Abloy.
“It favored outside employers, but it excluded Assa. I decided it was important to be their champion,” Fernandez said.
Although he could not remember what specifically the problem was, “I said, ‘You need to redesign the specifications [pertaining to locks, doors, closing mechanisms].’ I sat down with [general contractor] Gilbane and asked them to sit with Assa and redesign the specs.”
“He’ll keep us employed. He’s trying to keep schools with Sargent locks. It’s only right to support him,” said union Vice-President Chris Fiorentino.
The union has approximately 350 members, three quarters of whom live in New Haven and 90 percent of whom are registered to vote, Pompano estimated.
Fernandez noted the company’s robust manufacturing floor, engineers who design the products, and staffers who market Sargent/Assa Abloy all under the same roof creating products that are competitive all over the world. That, he said, is “what I mean when I talk about economic development.”
Fiorentino said the union’s endorsement was made by the 12-member executive board, with no vote taken of the rank in file.
The union’s recording secretary, Tony Stewart, said he had not yet made up his mind whom to vote for.
Pompano said that he graduated from Wilbur Cross in 1965, got a job two weeks later at Sargent as a buffer and polisher, and then learned the tool and die trade. He’s been with the company ever since. He thinks Fernandez’s approach will keep that route alive for New Haveners.
The next step after the endorsement: “I’m going to sit down with the campaign manager and see what we can do,” he said.
Fernandez on Holder-Winfield
Meanwhile, asked about the news Wednesday that Gary Holder-Winfield has dropped out of the mayoral race, Fernandez said, “It’s important to get the race down to the candidates who will be [there] in the end.”
Fernandez said he expects more candidates to drop out. “This will allow for serious discussion,” he said. “Up to now it’s been difficult for residents to cut through the noise.”