#DoesCornellCare?: Asks Local Union Building Trades

As students begin to arrive at Cornell University, we at the Tompkins County Workers’ Center are in support of our local sisters and brothers in the Tompkins-Cortland Building & Construction Trades Council (TCBCTC). The TCBCTC is rightfully upset about the ways in which Cornell building development has circumvented Cornell’s traditional work with local building trades unions, by turning over development at Maplewood Apartments to EdR Developers from Tennessee. Below is a message from the TCBCTC that the Tompkins County Workers’ Center wholeheartedly supports. TCBCTC asks the community simply to go to their website: www.doescornellcare.com, check it out AND sign the petition! Cornell has a responsibility to support local labor, to deal honorably with unions, and ensure all its workers and contractors are paid, at minimum, a Living Wage. Make sure they know that our community DOES care.

A grizzly bear cartoon holding a sign.

As new and returning students, with nervous parents in tow, converge upon Ithaca for the start of the new school year, they have been greeted with an important question “#DoesCornellCare?” and references to a website www.doescornellcare.com can be seen on white and red banners at every major roadway leading into town. [See details at the bottom of this email if you’d like to offer physical support to the ‘bannering’ tomorrow/Friday and Saturday.] Large sign trucks can be observed throughout the town displaying bright messages and asking questions about Cornell University. Facebook and Instagram are also a buzz with #DoesCornellCare.

The Tompkins-Cortland Building & Construction Trades Council is an affiliate of the Building Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). The Council is a group of skilled construction trades unions, who’s 3000+ members and families work and live throughout Central New York.

Cornell University selected a Tennessee real estate firm EdR to develop the Maplewood student housing project over many local companies. It has been widely reported that the Maplewood project has had its share of problems ranging from: Town of Ithaca inspection failures, OSHA fines, New York State Department of Labor investigations and multiple requests for extensions of work schedules. Building Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer, Dave Marsh questions Cornell University’s decision to use the massive out of state firm (EdR): “For decades, our local contractors and skilled members have built, on time and on budget, large complex and high tech buildings throughout the Cornell campus. This Tennessee firm cannot complete the simpler residential buildings on schedule and…. as an excuse for its failure… they blame our weather.”

STUDENTS? EdR was consistently behind schedule on the project. It was granted multiple requests from the Town of Ithaca Board to extend their working hours. Still, EdR failed to meet the completion deadline. As a result, over 100 students will be unable to move into Maplewood at the start of the school year. These displaced students will experience their college “campus life”, from a hotel room.

COMMUNITY? While Cornell University often talks about the notion of a sustainable community, its actions to use the massive out of state real estate firm and failure to require local workers on the Maplewood project, has resulted in countless resources leaving the community. Workers’ vehicles with licenses plates from over 20 different states can be seen in the employee parking lot adjacent to Rite Aid on Pine Tree Road. “The vast majority of construction workers and contractors at the Maplewood Project will get in their trucks and drive away with their earnings to such faraway places as: Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Cornell University really missed a golden opportunity to do so much more for our community. Local workers spend their earnings with local businesses, they invest in our community and often volunteer for civic responsibilities”, adds Building Trades Council’s Dave Marsh.

WHAT NOW FOR OUR COMMUNITY? The Tompkins-Cortland Building & Construction Trades Council is asking the community to consider Cornell University’s actions on the Maplewood Redevelopment Project. Why did Cornell tolerate the inspection failures or safety fines on Maplewood? Are all the students, especially the 100+ living in hotels, best served by its decision? Why did Cornell allow EdR to use out of town workers instead of mandating skilled local construction workers, local contractors, and local vendors?

Will Cornell make the same mistakes with its upcoming larger projects referred to as the North Campus Residential and East Hill Village Complexes?

Building Trades Council President Todd Bruer, maintains: “We will relentlessly ask the question #DoesCornellCare for as long as it takes until Cornell University truly and honestly commits to a sustainable community for Ithaca.”


Banner Team Locations on Friday, August 17th from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday, August  18th, from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon

1.   Rt. 79 and Rt. 366

2.   Stewart Avenue & Campus Road

3.   Stewart Avenue & University Avenue

4.   Cayuga Heights Community Corners

5.   Pleasant Grove Road & Jessup Road

6.   Rt. 366 & Pine Tree Road

7.   Pine Tree Road & Mitchell Street

8. Various Locations/Downtown Ithaca Commons, Etc.