Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Project Labor Agreements under attack by business groups in Harrisburg

02.27.10

MARCH 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Project Labor Agreements under attack by business groups in Harrisburg

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, February 2nd- Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) in Pennsylvania have been under attack and business groups recently assembled in the state capitol rotunda and stated PLA’s should be eliminated.

A PLA is a comprehensive agreement signed by a builder and local craft unions under which a defined construction project is agreed to be completed by workers from local union halls, in return for the union’s guarantee of no strikes, a steady labor supply, and general labor peace. Under a PLA a nonunion contractor could still be hired for a project, however if they are selected, local unionized workers must be hired.

In September 2009, Republican Pennsylvania House of Representative John Bear (97th Legislative District) introduced legislation that would prohibit the use of PLA’s on public projects in Pennsylvania.

The legislation’s biggest supporter is the Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC) construction group. The ABC group is made-up of nonunion contractors and often lobbies for anti-union legislation. The business group was represented at the event in Harrisburg.

The Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council in Harrisburg in January praised a decision of the Commonwealth Court upholding a Project Labor Agreement between the federation and the State’s Department of General Services (DGS). The letter of commitment between the parties was to assure union workers will be hired for the construction of a 4,100 bed, $400 million prison project at Graterford Prison in Montgomery County.

Frank Sirianni, President of the Pennsylvania Building and Construction Trades Council said the decision reaffirmed that PLA’s can be beneficial on government funded building projects because they guarantee on-time completion of construction projects without diminishing community standards for working conditions and quality of workmanship.

Mr. Sirianni stated the ABC group participated in seeking injunction relief from the Court to prevent the DGS from entering into PLA’s for state funded construction projects. The ABC has vehemently opposed PLA’s for economic reasons.

“The fact of the matter is that many non-union contractors here in Pennsylvania and all over the country bid on projects with PLA’s and win those bids. They then go on to complete those projects using local crafts people and still earn a reasonable profit. They do this because PLA’s work. It is clear from this case that the ABC and their legislative allies are not really interested in creating jobs for Pennsylvania skilled crafts people. They are more interested in finding ways to line their pockets with our tax dollars and with little protection of our community standards as possible,” stated Mr. Sirianni.

More than thirty business organizations representing more than 5 million non-farm, non-government private sector jobs assembled in Harrisburg stating the business community of Pennsylvania hopes to work with state policymakers to create a more competitive business tax climate that will promote business growth and job creation.

David McCorkle, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association told listeners there are steps Pennsylvania can take to make the state more competitive, more business friendly and a place where jobs are created. One of Mr. McCorkle suggestions is to “eliminate or reform prevailing wage and labor practices that drive up the cost of public projects.”

Testimony to be heard regarding complaint filed by Union

02.27.10

MARCH 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Testimony to be heard regarding complaint filed by Union

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, February 17th- The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) hearing scheduled for April 28th at the Northampton County Courthouse in Easton to hear testimony regarding the complaint filed by the United Steelworkers Union (USW) Local 2599 against Northampton County is still on despite attempts by the union to reach an agreement.

According to Jerry Green, President of Local 2599, there has been an attempt to settle the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge without conducting the hearing but no settlement has been obtained.

A contract dispute between Northampton County administrators and Local 2599, which represents workers at Gracedale nursing home, has resulted in the union filing the complaint with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board in Harrisburg. Northampton County owns and operates the nusing home in Upper Nazareth Township.

According to Jerry Green, President of Local 2599, which office is located on East Lehigh Street in Bethlehem, the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge was filed because the two parties agreed on a new four-year labor agreement but Northampton County administrators have renege on the contract.

“We spent time and money negotiating the contract, now they want to back out of the deal,” said Mr. Green.

Under the contract negotiated with Northampton County officials the 50 Gracedale employees represented by Local 2599 would receive a wage increase of more than four percent each year of the pact.

The previous contract expired on December 31st, 2008 and the two parties agreed to work under the terms and conditions of the old contract while negotiations continued for a successor pact.

On December 15th, 2009 Mr. Green filed the ULP with the PLRB alleging the County leadership willfully and wantonly knew that they would renege of the new agreement that was thought to be reached in good faith.

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board will conduct a hearing and receive testimony on whether the Public Employer Relations Act was violated by Northampton County before Hearing Examiner Thomas Leonard on Wednesday, April 28th, in the third floor training room at the Northampton County Courthouse in Easton.