Business

Meet the Congressman from the Jersey Shore


Lifelong Long Branch resident Frank Pallone Jr., seen here in Asbury Park Convention Hall, has been re-elected 16 times to represent the Shore area. Photo by Allison Michael Orenstein

Frank Pallone Jr. is, first and foremost, the congressman from the Jersey Shore. To drive home that point, his name shows up in the news every year as the guy who helps replenish the sand on our beaches—an estimated total of 163 million cubic yards of the stuff over the last three decades, at a cost of $1.2 billion to the federal government.

The lifelong Long Branch resident has served since 1988 in the House of Representatives, and has been chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee since the Democratic Party took back control of the House last year.

When the House is in session, he spends four to five days each week in Washington, D.C. When he’s not in the nation’s capital, Pallone, like most members of Congress, comes home to be with his family and to spend time with constituents.

On one recent spring day, Pallone met with the father-and-son management team at Foley Cat, a family-owned franchise operation in Piscataway that sells and services heavy equipment. He toured the facility, then headed to a meeting with the Middlesex–Somerset County AFL-CIO Central Labor Council at their union hall in Sayreville. The union guys mostly complained about a lack of respect from the Trump administration and the president’s lack of an infrastructure plan.

Next came an emotional meeting in Pallone’s New Brunswick office with two Salvadoran women, Asbury Park residents who have been in this country for more than two decades but who face deportation in January when the Temporary Protected Status program expires.

Pallone supports the program, but offered little hope that the Trump administration will extend the status of the two women, even though one of them is an entrepreneur and both regularly pay their taxes. If deported, one of the women will have to decide whether to bring her 13-year-old daughter, who was born here and is a citizen, back to El Salvador.

Pallone can’t solve every constituent problem that comes his way, but his new chairmanship does provide significant influence. His committee has jurisdiction over health care, including Medicare and Medicaid; consumer protection, including food and drug safety; energy policy, the environment and climate change; and telecommunications and the Internet. That means about 40 percent of all bills introduced in the House are referred to Pallone’s committee for hearings. The committee also oversees five cabinet departments and seven independent agencies. The committee’s scope is so vast that the late John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat and a former Energy and Commerce chairman, has been quoted defining the committee’s reach with the quip that, “If it moves, it’s energy, and if it doesn’t, it’s commerce.”

Pallone’s stature makes him a power back home, too. After Superstorm Sandy, he pressured insurance companies to meet their obligations and sponsored federal legislation to reform the flood insurance program. More recently, he introduced a bill in the House that would provide grants to pay part of the cost of removing toxic chemicals from New Jersey’s drinking water.

On another front, Pallone and his 11 New Jersey colleagues in the House co-signed a letter encouraging the Interior Department to abandon plans to allow companies to drill for oil and natural gas off the Jersey Shore. “There’s only about two weeks supply of oil out there,” he says. “There may be more, but it’s just not worth it. The risk is that you have a spill and you destroy the whole tourism industry.”

Pallone’s committee, it sometimes appears, is the only House panel not preoccupied with investigating President Trump. Instead, he has pursued an ambitious agenda that often has the committee’s staff scurrying. In just the first few months of his chairmanship, he steered measures through his committee and the full House on net neutrality, health care affordability and prescription-drug pricing, as well as a bill to keep America in the Paris Climate Agreement. Things don’t usually happen that quickly in Congress.

The bills passed in the House, but have little chance of becoming law as long as the Senate has a Republican majority and Donald Trump is president. Pallone remains undaunted. He’s establishing a traditional Democratic agenda for the day when, he hopes, Democrats once again control both houses of Congress and the White House. And even as the young progressives in his own party are making their voices heard, the pragmatic Pallone is more interested in preserving Obamacare and existing environmental regulations than in pursuing goals that he sees as not only divisive, but potentially politically dangerous for Democrats.

The preservation of Obamacare is something of a legacy issue for Pallone. He was chairman of the Health Subcommittee when the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010. But he also sees little benefit in handing the Republicans a cudgel they can use to beat Democrats in moderate House districts in 2020. He predicts that, if his party adopts the pet projects of the new progressive members, “Republicans will say, ‘Let’s just talk about Medicare for All and the Green New Deal,’ so they can beat us up with them.”

Pallone’s current agenda didn’t end with passage of his initial package of bills. In response to an Environmental Protection Agency ruling to allow the use of asbestos in some manufacturing, he introduced a bill that made it clear that “anything less than a full ban is unacceptable.” Proposing new laws isn’t the only tool at his disposal. He also reached out to Facebook executives for an explanation about why it was exposing health information, including substance abuse, about some Facebook customers. Committee members later followed up with a meeting with Facebook.

Pallone has a secret weapon for getting things done. Unlike many other New Jersey political figures, he is neither confrontational nor obsequious. People like him instantly, and he rarely does anything to alter that initial impression.

The son of a policeman in Long Branch, where the congressman’s brother John was elected mayor in 2018, Pallone earned degrees from Middlebury College, the Fletcher School at Tufts University and Rutgers-Camden Law School. He practiced maritime law and was elected to the Long Branch City Council in 1982, at the age of 30, and to the New Jersey State Senate in 1983. When Congressman James Howard died suddenly in 1988, Pallone won his seat in a special election. He has been reelected to 16 full terms since then. “I actually enjoy campaigning,” he admits. A bachelor when he was first elected, Pallone married Sarah Hospodor, a Jersey native, in 1992; they have three grown children.

The district Pallone inherited included Shore communities in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Three redistrictings have pushed his constituency northward and inland. As a result, his district shed Republican-leaning Ocean County and gained more Democratic Middlesex County.

The geographical shift made Pallone’s elections easier. Since 1994, he has earned at least 60 percent of the vote in all but five elections.

Still, he is not immune to constituent complaints. When he met with Kim and Jamie Foley, chairman and CEO, respectively, of Foley Cat, and the AFL-CIO leaders in Sayreville, they all wanted to know why Democrats and Republicans in Washington can’t stop fighting and pass an infrastructure bill that would benefit both business and labor.

Pallone doesn’t blame congressional Republicans for the inaction. “We get along better than people imagine,” he says. “We socialize more than people think.”

The blame for capital gridlock, he says, rests squarely with President Trump. “You can’t make a deal with him,” says Pallone. “He’ll agree with you one day, then change his mind the next day. You can’t work with that.”

Pallone’s efforts meet with almost universal praise. Business leaders laud him. Rich Weeks, the CEO of Cranford-based Weeks Marine, Inc., one of the nation’s largest dredging companies, first met Pallone at state Senate hearings in the 1980s, when both worked to clean the beaches of medical waste. Weeks says that, while he and Pallone “don’t always agree, he’s a good listener, and we talk all the time.”

Advocacy-group leaders have a similar response. Cindy Zipf, executive director of Long Branch-based Clean Ocean Action, also goes back with Pallone to the 1980s. She calls him “a champion of the marine environment, not only for New Jersey, but for the entire nation.”

Fellow Democrat Vin Gopal, a state Senator and former Monmouth County Democratic chairman, praises Pallone’s political commitment. “I can’t tell you how many calls I get from him about local issues,” he says. “He is so good at politics because he understands people and is in every end of the district.”

Union County lawyer Frank Capece is even more fulsome with his assessment. “Pallone feels no need to tell everybody he’s the smartest guy in the room,” says Capece, “even though he usually is.”

After 30 years on the job, Pallone is unlikely to develop an overinflated ego, and he’s even less likely to forget the importance of the sand. As long as New Jersey has beaches, Pallone will see to it that the Army Corps of Engineers keeps the sand coming. And the press will be there to make sure everybody knows who made it happen.

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Watch Out for This Sneaky Type of Skin Cancer


Photo courtesy of Shutterstock



“When patients ask me what to look for in skin cancer, I tell them that pink is the new black because so many harmless-looking pink lesions ultimately turn out to be melanomas,” says Dr. Lauren Cooper of Affiliated Dermatologists and Dermatologic Surgeons in Morristown, Mt. Arlington and Bridgewater. “Sometimes we biopsy skin-colored moles and freckles, and even we dermatologists are surprised that they are early skin cancers.”

It’s known as amelanotic melanoma, a serious and often difficult to diagnose type of skin cancer in which the cells do not make melanin or pigment. Because of this lack of color, diagnosis is tricky and is often delayed until the lesion becomes more prominent in an advanced stage.

“We try to identify these types of skin-colored melanomas early. Just as a baby doesn’t look like an adult, an early-stage, pink melanoma doesn’t always fit the typical description of an advanced melanoma,” says Cooper.

So what should skincare-savvy folks be looking for? “Skin cancer can form anywhere, especially on the face,” she says. “We worry about the ugly ducklings—moles, lesions and freckles that are larger than a pencil eraser head and look different than anything else you already have.”

Often these sneaky melanomas can remain flat for a year, unlike the large, ominous melanomas some might expect. Some forms of skin cancer even appear as a subtle smudge, and could be pink, red, brown, black or a combination of colors. But they will typically look unusual and will appear as a new spot on the skin, Cooper adds.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends scheduling an exam with a board-certified skin doc who will examine you from head to toe. An easy way to keep track of your annual appointment is to schedule a review of your birthday suit each year during your birthday month.


SAVVY SKINCARE TIPS

  • Apply a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen, at least 50 SPF—on cloudy days, too!
  • Reapply sunscreen when perspiring and when coming out of the water.
  • Wear sunglasses and protective clothing. The bigger the hat, the better.
  • Avoid tanning beds—ultraviolet light can cause skin cancer and premature skin aging.

Learn more at aad.org.

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Pasha Mezze Grill Adds to Lake Hiawatha’s Dining Options


Kibbeh. Photo by Shelby Vittek



There’s no shortage of great Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants in Lake Hiawatha, an unincorporated community located within Parsippany-Troy Hills. In the span of a few blocks of North Beverwyck Road (the town’s main street), you’ll find excellent Turkish food at Bosphorus Restaurant, Afghan-style halal meats that attract a crowd at Kabab Paradise, and now, a medley of flavors at the new Pasha Mezze Grill.

Opened late last year, Pasha is housed in the restaurant space that was formerly home to Fazzolare’s Italian Bistro. Located on a corner, the BYO restaurant features large windows along two of the walls, with a light touch on decorations, making the space feel bright and airy.

The menu features dishes from all over the Mediterranean, representing Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Lebanon, Italy and Cyprus. To start, the mezze selection includes 10 cold options (hummus, tzatziki, labneh, etc.) and 11 warm options (grilled octopus, falafel, borek, etc.). We started with stuffed grape leaves and an incredibly rich and smoky, complex and creamy babagannoush ($7), which we scooped up with small rounds of pita that came warm in a basket. Next, we broke into the deep-fried balls of bulgar, minced lamb and pine nuts called kibbeh ($12) served atop a smear of fresh yogurt.

Babagannoush and stuffed grape leaves. Photo by Shelby Vittek

Skirt steak with carrots and a chimichuri sauce. Photo by Shelby Vittek

Lamb skewer with rice. Photo by Shelby Vittek

Entrées were large and filling, leaving plenty for lunch the next day. I ordered the lamb skewer ($18), cooked to a perfect medium and served with rice pilaf and a fresh herb salad. My only complaint was that it seemed like a small portion of lamb for what it cost; down the street, you get at least three skewers for the same price.

My dining companion opted for an 8-ounce skirt steak ($23), which we both enjoyed. It came with a bright and spicy chimichurri, mashed potatoes and roasted carrots that were the surprise hit of the night. Other entrée choices include adana kebabs, kefteh, a burger, branzino and whole trout.

We were too stuffed for dessert, but we’ll be back again soon. I had originally been worried that a restaurant serving similar dishes as the town’s most popular spots wouldn’t last long, but for once, I’m happy to report I was wrong.

Pasha Mezze Grill, 94 North Beverwyck Road, Lake Hiawatha; 973-265-4982; BYO. Open daily; brunch served on weekends.

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Heated to a boil: Experts say N.J.’s merger market is on fire — and there are few regrets

When you spend three decades officiating mergers and acquisitions, you’re going to see more than a few partnerships that everyone involved regrets.

Bob Anderson, shareholder at Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper P.C., certainly has seen his share.

Anderson, however, believes bad breakups are at an all-time low. Buyers and sellers pleased with their bottom line are often finding ways of making things work out in spite of quibbles.

“What’s making deals successful right now is the fact that, when the acquisitions are made, it’s in the context of a very good economy,” he said. “Even if you don’t find that operations are ideal at the company you’ve acquired, the fact that the economy itself is so strong — that tends to pull companies along regardless.”

For that reason, New Jersey’s merger market has remained at the busiest point in Anderson’s 30-year career over the past two years.

“People are buying and selling businesses at a rate I’ve never seen,” he said. “Sometimes, in the past, you’ve had different industry segments pick up an activity — with one area hot and one slow. Right now, there are buyers with money and sellers who see right now as a time to cash out in every industry.”

Other experts in these transactions, such as Jeffrey Cassin of Scarinci Hollenbeck, have been saying the same.

The defining story of dealmaking as of late has been the mixture of high levels of private liquidity, the recent tax overhaul leaving companies flush with cash and baby boomer company leaders retiring. With these ingredients, the market continued to heat to a boil, Cassin said.

M&A is all about buyers, as well as sellers, trying to predict the future. So, you can look at what businesses have done in the past, but now the future is making some people nervous because of the tariffs. It makes it difficult to predict what the next five years will look like.” — Bob Anderson

Although Cassin said a lot depends on particular circumstances when asked whether deals are more often successful today, he did say that he’s noticed both the buyer and seller side of the coin come to these transactions far more prepared than they did in the past.

“M&A actors have gotten more sophisticated using their legal, accounting and other advisers,” he said. “That allows them to ‘spec out’ their deals, basically just using those advisers to make better deals. And it’s the same on the sell side. Overall, it’s a cleaner process.”

Everyone agrees that sellers probably stand most to gain from deals today, due to the higher prices companies are fetching as larger businesses and private equity firms compete for the same deals.

Cassin said what’s fetching a higher price than ever today are companies that specialize in “human capital.” That means sales forces, IT teams and other employee-heavy operations.

“I think that’s a cool trend, because it means companies are really valuing people,” Cassin said. “And it might not have to do with general unemployment —and firms struggling to find talent —but just what businesses most need today.”

Even if the pricing of businesses is in flux, Cassin doesn’t expect any near-term issues that will make deals more difficult to pull off.

“Even when there is economic slowdown, M&A activity doesn’t always take a hit because you might just see a flip to it being more of a buyer’s market,” he said.

Anderson, on the other hand, wonders how much the international trade situation and new tariffs could start to deflate the ever-expanding appetite for acquisitions.

“M&A is all about buyers, as well as sellers, trying to predict the future,” Anderson said. “So, you can look at what businesses have done in the past, but now the future is making some people nervous because of the tariffs. It makes it difficult to predict what the next five years will look like.”

Without having seen any sort of impact yet, Anderson suspects that the economic saving grace less than perfect partnerships have had over the last few years might soon be a thing of the past.

“As it becomes more difficult to make predictions for what things will look like a few years out, that will make some more uneasy about what deals they’re putting together,” he said. “So far, activity is held up in the face of all that. We’ll have to see if that changes.”

Conversation Starters

Reach Bob Anderson of Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper at: randerson@lindabury.com or 908-233-6800.

Reach Jeffrey Cassin of Scarinci Hollenbeck at: jcassin@sh-law.com or 201-896-4100.

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NAI Hanson announces new office leases in Secaucus

NAI James E. Hanson, a commercial real estate firm based in Teterboro, announced Tuesday it has negotiated two separate leases at 700 Plaza Drive in Secaucus.

NAI Hanson said Hudson Pro Orthopedics & Sports Medicine leased 2,418 square feet and Nippon Travel Agency America Inc. leased 1,655 square feet at the property.

Josh Levering and Nick DePaolera of NAI Hanson represented the landlord, The Carlton Group LLC, in the deals.

“700 Plaza Drive, located within The Plaza at Harmon Meadow, is a mixed-use commercial and residential complex featuring over two-million square feet of corporate offices, a 14-screen movie theatre, seven hotels, health club, convention center, as well as over a million square feet of retail space and numerous restaurants. Modern and fully-amenitized, 700 Plaza Drive is a fantastic opportunity for sub-3,000-square-foot tenants in the northern New Jersey market for tenants that prize quality facilities, good parking, and easy access New York City and the New Jersey Turnpike,” Levering said.

Hudson Pro Orthopedics, NAI Hanson said, is an orthopedic and sports medicine practice serving patients from its four existing offices. The new space will allow its team to better facilitate care of existing patients in the region and expand its service to the Secaucus community, NAI Hanson said.

“For the small office user, it is virtually impossible to find modern, well-located office spaces in the Meadowlands New Jersey market,” DePaolera said. “Therefore, a tremendous opportunity exists for landlords with buildings that can fill this need. We are happy to address this market niche at 700 Plaza Drive and look forward to continuing our activities with the landlord in assisting small businesses find a home in Secaucus.”

Financial terms were not disclosed.

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Hylan expands operations in Ariz., Calif.

Hylan, a Holmdel-based provider of specialized communications engineering and construction services, announced Tuesday it has expanded its operations in Arizona and California.

Hylan West, a construction company and division of Hylan, has opened three new offices in Phoenix, Arizona; Long Beach, California; and Sacramento, California; Hylan said, to support the growth of fiber and telecommunications construction demand in those markets.

“We are excited to continue our national expansion across our Hylan Companies,” Robert DiLeo, CEO of Hylan, said. “Hylan West is experiencing significant momentum with high profile projects that will continue to expand its footprint across the west and southwest. Our proven, turnkey capabilities and customer commitment strategically fulfills the growing need for telecommunications infrastructure for companies and government agencies of all sizes.”

The company said it plans to hire new team members in construction, fiber optics, commercial driving and engineering.

“As we expand, we are seeking new talent to add to the Hylan family,” states Slade Ottney, President of Hylan West. “We strongly believe in creating a family-like atmosphere for all of our employees and are thrilled to create new job opportunities in the key markets where we continue to grow and serve.”

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VegFest Heads to Atlantic City This Weekend


Photo courtesy of Pexels.



Atlantic City VegFest
Friday, July 12—Sunday, July 14

The 2019 New Jersey VegFest in Atlantic City runs Thursday through Sunday, but if you want to get the most bang out of your limited buck or tight schedule, check out Food Truck Friday, running from 2-10pm. Admission to Friday’s festival is only $8 plus processing fees (about $10 total), and that gets you access to all manner of vegan vittles—the improbably vegan Grilly Cheese, Terri Sacchetti’s revamped Fabulous Fig food truck, Delaware’s only completely vegan food truck Nude Food, and of course the trailblazing vegan-on-wheels Cinnamon Snail. Prices vary per food truck, but the music, AC ambiance, and good vegan vibes are all free. Showboat Hotel Atlantic City, 801 Boardwalk, Atlantic City; 609-487-4600

Secrets of BBQd Class with a Pitmaster
Saturday, July 13, 11am – 12:30pm

Fortunately for barbecue lovers in the Garden State, Alyson Lupinetti chose to take after her father, the late great pitmaster Butch Lupinetti; a Pitmaster in her own right, Alyson learned the family trade of exquisitely low-and-slow-cooked meats from an early age (her father won 600 trophies in his career; Alyson currently has over 100). Lucky you can learn from the pitmaster herself on Saturday at her “Secrets of BBQ Cooking Class” at the New Jersey State Barbecue Championships. For just $22, you’ll learn how to take ribs from raw material to lip-smacking meat miracle. Pulled pork is also potentially on the class syllabus; just come prepared with an appetite. New Jersey State Barbecue Championships, 201 Jersey Avenue, Wildwood; 609-523-6565

Bastille Day Dinner at Chez Catherine
Sunday, July 14

Whether or not you celebrate the 1789 Storming of the Bastille, fans of grand French gastronomy should head over to Chez Catherine in Westfield this Sunday. The restaurant will be serving up a very special Bastille Day prix fixe menu. Yes, it’s $125 for dinner and a cocktail (plus $55 for wine pairings), but the night promises to be gustatorily grand: starting off with a cocktail and canapes, the night moves from melon and ham to Grilled Tuna with Avocado and Pineapple, Black Angus Filet Mignon, and even old school show-stopper dessert, Baked Alaska. Call to make your reservation ASAP; spend the rest of the week practicing your “Vive la France!” Chez Catherine, 431 North Avenue West, Westfield; 908-654-4011

Beer Pairing Dinner at Tre Pizza in Freehold
Thursday, July 25, 7–9pm

Tre Pizza is already serious about its craft beer, but on the 25th, they’re putting one brewery front and center: Cape May Brewing Co. (one of our Top 16 breweries) is bringing four very different beers for four very different courses from the Tre Pizza kitchen for a beer pairing dinner. The night starts with “Catch the Drift” New England IPA with Crab Dip & Soft Pretzels, moves on to “The Bog” (a light, tart cranberry Shandy) with a Blackened Tuna “Salad” with Cranberries and Orange; next is a “Coastal Evacuation” Double IPA with a Seafood Steampot and Cajun Rice, and finally a Honey-Porter Nitro with Cherries Jubilee on Waffles. Tickets are $60 for the whole deal; call to make a reservation. Tre Pizza, 611 Park Avenue, Freehold; 732-751-4422

Stateside Vodka Cocktail Dinner at Blue Morel
Friday, August 2, 7pm

Wine dinners are (fortunately) fairly commonplace. This four-course pairing of sophisticated cuisine and vodka cocktails? Less so. Not only that, but this isn’t just any vodka—from Federal Distilling in Philadelphia, Stateside Vodka is distilled no fewer than seven times (i.e. hyper-smooth)—and these aren’t just any cocktails. 2018 Iron Shaker competition winner Carlos Ruiz will be mixing up the cocktails, all of which will be designed to match Chef Dennis Matthews’ menu. Call for tickets, which are $59 before tax and tip (considering vodka’s summer-appeal, they’re likely to go fast). Blue Morel, 2 Whippany Road, Morristown; 973-451-2610

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Avaap acquires Navigator Management Partners

Edison-based Avaap, an advisory service and IT management consulting firm, announced Monday it has acquired Navigator Management Partners, a Columbus, Ohio-based cross-platform management and technology consulting firm.

The acquisition will allow Avaap to provide technology advisory and management consulting services for organizations in health care, retail, higher education, nonprofit, government, manufacturing and other industries.

Avaap, which has more than 200 customers in 35 countries, will now be able to serve a broader sector of the market, it said.

“The acquisition of Navigator is a landmark step in Avaap’s strategic development,” Dhiraj Shah, CEO and president, Avaap, said. “Digital transformation, migration to the cloud, and other industry disruptors are increasing the need for customers to seek an experienced partner that understands their business, not just the technology. Our focus is to have the leading market share in the industries we serve by providing superior end-to-end capabilities. This acquisition, along with the continued support from our capital partner NMS Capital, and the new partnerships we inherit, allow us to support our growth goals and extend that commitment to our largest assets; our customers and employee citizens.”

Financial terms were not disclosed.

“We are two growing and profitable companies, both passionate about our shared vision and values. Joining together puts us in a stronger position to build for the future faster and better than before, combining a massive breadth of experienced resources across multiple ERP platforms, as well as BI and change management expertise. The acquisition will allow our existing and new customers to have access to some of the best people and technologies available to address their critical missions and our employees will benefit from greatly expanded growth opportunities as part of the new company. We see strong opportunities for growth and the combined organization will enable us to have the team and resources to do so,” Navigator CEO David Schoettmer said.

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Youth movement: Unions are using everything from video games to history lessons to recruit next generation

You won’t find any scolding labor leaders telling youth to put down the video game controller and get to work.

Instead, they’re handing them the controllers, so they’ll get to work.

IUOE#825
Greg Lalevee shows U.S Rep. Mikie Sherill how to use the crane simulator at the union’s training center.

Greg Lalevee, business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825, said his organization is enticing millennials — and the generation that precedes them, too — with video game-like simulations of the sort of heavy machinery his members work with.

It has been a hit.

“So, for young people into their Xbox, we have this great opportunity now to easily transition them to this work,” Lalevee said. “These young people get to make an informed choice about whether this is something they want to continue down as a career path in a way that interests them.” 

It’s just one of the ways unions are trying to stay ahead of the curve on the demographic shifts that have every organization scratching their heads.

What’s the best way to appeal to millennials? Lalevee isn’t sure labor unions have it totally figured out yet, but he’s certain that these organizations realize the importance of the question today — given this demographic’s increasing majority in the workplace.

His organization has found a mix of technology and education to be the missing pieces of the puzzle. The Springfield-based Local 825 is transforming its training program into a two-year technical college that’s responsive to the latest robotics, artificial intelligence and virtual reality tools.

“We want to be at the college fair with mom and dad and tell them that blue-collar work isn’t such a bad place to be,” Lalevee said. “The pay is decent; the benefits are terrific. And, oh, by the way, we’re not abandoning your child’s educational path. We can continue it.”

The end-goal is connecting with a young base of workers that can bolster union numbers that have steadily fallen over the course of millennials’ lives. 

In 1983, the first year that U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics had union membership data available (and also nearly the cut-off between millennials and the Generation X population before them), there were 17.7 million union workers. The number of wage and salary workers in unions stood at 14.7 million in last year’s BLS total.

Union leaders such as Lalevee are confident that millennials generally respond favorably to the idea of organized labor participation, even if they grew up during the tail-end of the country’s sharpest declines in union density.

In New Jersey, the impression young people have of labor unions is dictated largely by what part of the state they come from, according to Tom Walsh, president of a union that represents workers in retail manufacturing and a variety of other industries.

“I’ve found that there’s two different types of millennials: The millennials from urban areas are more receptive and eager to listen,” he said. “But, then, when we go towards the suburban areas, they don’t even want to talk to you.

“They think things are going to just pan out for them no matter what, so they don’t want to hear it. It’s a very strange dynamic.”

Walsh’s Local 262, like most unions, needs to win over millennial workers in order to continue to thrive. That’s not always easy. Millennials, even with the reputation that precedes them of being engaged do-gooders, aren’t always predisposed to see the value in union membership.

Walsh described an attempt to organize an ambulance group in suburban New Jersey that went awry when the company found out employees were talking to the union.

Tom Walsh

“They just completely stopped answering the phone,” he said. “But, at a place I’m organizing now in Elizabeth with a lot of millennials, one of their coworkers got fired — and that’s just making them feel more strongly about it. Now, they really want the union in there. They’re constantly calling, day and night, giving me information and asking me what they can do.”

There are young workers — and future union members, Walsh hopes — that have become some of the union’s staunchest advocates.

“And any time we ask if they’ll come to something, they’ll always be there,” he said. “You can’t count on that from all young people. Especially those from suburban areas, they have so much more fear.”

Walsh believes that, taken as a whole, unions have excelled at keeping up with technology and appealing to millennials in through digital channels. At the same time, he also thinks there’s a disconnect.

“Kids coming out of school are so often thinking that government officials are doing something like minimum wage bills out of the kindness of their hearts, and not community groups and unions pushing for this change for years,” he said. “We need to do a better job educating kids from an early age on what unions have done throughout history to improve the safety of workplaces and quality of life, because that’s neglected.”

With millennials in the workplace, have been handed an opportunity to reintroduce labor unions to a working population that doesn’t share many of the same preconceptions as other generations.  

“We’ve been unfortunately stereotyped for a long time,” Lalevee said. “But I can go through our membership and introduce you to the Little League coaches, the Boy Scout or Girl Scout leaders, the PTO president. These are regular people involved in their communities. That’s who we are.”

And, as far as who these unions will continue to be — that’s up to millennials.

The other face of Janus

Last June, the Janus decision shook labor leaders. 

The landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned union-favorable law that held for four decades prior, suddenly making public-sector union support optional for employees.

Tom Walsh of Local 262 said the expected immediate impact was that it would make the job of keeping union members active in the public sector extremely difficult. It didn’t directly affect his organization, but he was concerned about the blow it would strike to all labor unions.

Almost exactly a year into the change, no labor leader is saying unions are down for the count.

“If I’m just going off what sister (labor unions) have told me, it hasn’t really hugely affected them at all,” Walsh said. 

One step back, two steps forward. That’s how Greg Lalevee of Local 825 described it.

“From what I understand, the public employee unions that Janus was a direct hit on have maintained or increased membership since,” Lalevee said. “And even us, though not necessarily affected by it, we’re getting more and more calls after it from people interested in unionizing their workplaces.”

Conversation Starter

Reach Greg Lalevee of Local 825 at: glalevee@iuoe825.org or 973-671-6900.

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Time warp: When a company works around the globe, like Certara, the clock is always ticking

The clock tells her it’s the workday’s end, but Ellen Leinfuss knows better.

That’s because, as she commutes home from her company’s Princeton base in the evening, Australia is just hitting its stride.

Leinfuss is chief corporate affairs officer at Certara, which is a leader in an industry that calls for this sort of global timekeeping: pharmaceutical drug development.

And it’s becoming more and more necessary to keep a watch on what’s going on as far off as Australia as each day passes.

The United States, and the so-called Medicine Chest the company is based in, may still headline drug development efforts, but it’s not the only story today.

A provider of solutions that assist drug development from discovery through clinical stages, Certara has spread its services and products to about 1,700 companies, academic institutions and regulatory agencies in 60 different countries.

About 60% of its work is in the U.S., 30% lies in Europe and 10 percent (and quickly rising) is in Asia-Pacific.

“The U.S. is the largest market,” she said. “The second-largest would be (Europe), if you combined all of Europe into one. And then the third, in terms of developed markets, is actually Japan. China is also starting to come on strong. So, our business follows that same cycle.”

We like to recruit the top talent to our organization regardless of where they’re located. That’s how we’ve grown globally and how we’ll continue to.” — Ellen Leinfuss

There’s a head-spinning amount of agencies (and acronyms) that make the rules and decide whether new drugs pass muster. The three big ones are the U.S. FDA (Food & Drug Administration), the EMA (the European Medicines Agency) and the PMDA (Japan’s Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency).

“They all learn from each other,” Leinfuss said. “Even if the FDA sets the standard, the rest aren’t required to follow. They collaborate.”

What these agencies all have in common, she added, is that they’ve all embraced the benefits of model-informed drug development. Simply put, this is the application of a wide range of models in drug development that lead the decision?making process and ultimately secure one of these agency’s approvals of a new medicine.

Leinfuss explained that, in the past five years, model-informed drug development “has migrated from more of an academic nicety to a regulatory necessity.” Now, almost every approved drug has leveraged it in some way, she added.

Certara offers guidance on this process, as well as related software for those with drug candidates. More than 90% of FDA-approved novel drugs over the past four years were supported by the company in some way.

Besides consultative services, Certara has distributes a line of software products to emerging markets for drug development such as Korea, Israel and Australia, which Leinfuss said have built sophisticated local pharmaceutical industries.

The company has a pool of about 850 employees, but they’re scattered throughout at least 15 countries due to the industry’s global proliferation. Many of those employees communicate with teams based in other countries remotely.

So that means they, like Leinfuss, often know what time it is on the other side of the world.

“We like to recruit the top talent to our organization regardless of where they’re located,” she said. “That’s how we’ve grown globally and how we’ll continue to.”

Conversation Starter

Reach Certara at: certara.com or 609-716-7900.

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