My turn: Truth and consequences about Project Labor Agreements

Posted: Friday, May 09, 2008

We here at the Juneau and Vicinity Building and Construction Trades Council, composed of more than 900 of your local friends and neighbors in the skilled crafts, would like the Juneau public to know the truth about project labor agreements. It seems there has been a lot of misinformation being disseminated by those that oppose them, particularly with the lawsuit filed against the city of Juneau.

PLAs provide uniform workplace terms and conditions. Contractors bidding a project with a PLA do not have to hire union-only trades people to be eligible to bid on the project as stated in the Juneau Empire news story on May 4.

Anchor Electric owner Bill Shattenberg's assertions that there is "no legitimate public purpose" and that a PLA "favors union contractors over non-union contractors" are simply not factual as has been determined by many courts across the country and here in Alaska as well. The public good is well served through the use of PLAs on city projects as evidenced by the projects that have been done under them since 1996 coming in on time and within budget, and in the case of Riverbend Elementary School below budget.

PLAs are the only legal method to accomplish "local hire" through the participating unions' hiring halls, and already since this lawsuit was filed, out-of-town contractors are inquiring about bringing in workers from elsewhere. Without a PLA, both local and out of town contractors can bring in a workforce that pays no taxes here, except for the sales taxes they incur. Then they leave Juneau, taking with them the money they made here.

PLAs provide predictable labor costs through the life of the projects. They provide mandatory and legitimate apprenticeship training opportunities for our young folks. They guarantee a steady supply of skilled and tested manpower, which lowers costs through increased productivity and a better quality craftsperson, which also increases the lives of the buildings being constructed. Furthermore, each participating union has granted monetary, workplace and work-rule concessions to participate, which gives something back to the community.

PLAs do not limit competition as stated, either. Contractors choose to bid or not bid on projects for any number of reasons, not the least of which would be a PLA. No contractor exists that bids on every project.

Those suing the city of Juneau need to be exposed for who they are and what they do.

The Associated Building Contractors is an Anchorage-based anti-union contractors association and is no friend to Juneau. They have no local offices, pay no taxes here, are anti-worker and support political candidates for public office that endorse and have filed legislation to move the capital. They have no interest in the betterment of workers' standards of living but rather have a paramount interest in bettering their own bottom lines at the expense of those workers. This is evidenced by their registered yet bogus apprenticeship training program, which has graduated but a small fraction of those that begin it.

Anchor Electric's program is similar or the same, and it should be pointed out that while no IBEW members have taken long-term employment with them, in the recent past I can count at least eight former Anchor employees who have joined IBEW ranks - one of them being the current state of Alaska electrical inspector in Juneau.

The trade unions signatory to these PLAs have more than 100 local retirees still contributing to the local economy, because the pensions they earned here provide for that. Can the ABC or Shattenberg make this claim? I think not.

We believe that we have served our community's interests well, and further clarify that contrary to Shattenberg's comments; the aforementioned reasons certainly satisfy and fulfill that "legitimate public purpose."

• Mike Notar is president of the Juneau and vicinity Building and Construction Trades Council and assistant business manager for the IBEW Local 1547.

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