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L'Ambiance Plaza gift to fund
health and safety training
February 9, 1998

When the dust cleared around L'Ambiance Plaza in Bridgeport 10 years ago, 28 construction workers were dead. The frailties of a building technique known as lift-slab construction were laid bare. For practitioners of occupational safety and health, it was a grim day.

Now the dust from that April 23, 1987, tragedy has settled. This time it's the dust from mediated settlements that have provided survivors of the building's collapse, as well as the spouses, children and relatives of the victims, with a total of $24 million. To help prevent future tragedies from occurring, in Connecticut and elsewhere, the last $65,339 left in the account that held the initial settlement, has been donated to UConn's Labor Education Center.

The gift will support courses the center's staff teach on occupational safety and health. The endowment, officially called the L'Ambiance Plaza Workers Memorial Fund Endowment, will be matched by the state on a one-for-two basis under the auspices of the extended UConn 2000 endowment program, making the award worth nearly $100,000.

"It's quite an honor," says Mark Sullivan, director of the Labor Education Center. "Considering the magnitude of the accident, the press it received, and how much more cognizant it made people of occupational health and safety, I'm extremely honored they would choose us" for the award.

The funding represents the second award that has come to the center for occupational safety since the tragedy, which occurred when a huge slab of concrete being raised to one of the top sections of the plaza broke free and crashed to earth, crushing dozens of workers. The union whose membership suffered the most devastating losses, Laborers Local 665, donated $10,000 to the center in 1987, and interest from the fund allowed center officials to conduct safety classes and print a safety booklet.

Sending the remaining money from the legal settlement to UConn was also first broached by a member of Laborers Local 665, Ron Nobile, the union's business manager.

The Labor Education Center currently runs five classes in occupational safety and health, including two at Pratt & Whitney's East Hartford plant. Similar classes also are taught at UConn's Avery Point, Hartford, and Waterbury campuses. About 100 primarily non-traditional students are enrolled in the courses.

Richard Veilleux