Virginia Building Trades Pressure Dominion Virginia Power for Project Labor Agreement

0 May 1, 2009  Uncategorized

A blog reader forwarded the below story about Virginia State Building & Construction Trades Council members engaged in a corporate campaign against Dominion Virginia Power.

Those experienced with PLAs know that the goal of these campaigns is to create a public relations headache for private construction owners such as corporations like VA Dominion Power so they will capitulate to Big Labor’s demands for a union-only PLA on future maintenance and construction.

Complaints from Big Labor’s spokesmen utilizing terms like “fair share” and “local workforce” are parroted by union business agents promoting the use of PLAs.  

The reader made an assumption that the unions were wasting their time because Virginia’s right to work law protects workers, contractors and private construction owners from costly and unfair provisions in union-only PLAs.  This is not the case. Confusion is not uncommon when discussing PLAs and right to work laws.

Union-only PLAs can occur in right to work states, though they are less common.  A right to work state is simply a state which has passed a law prohibiting employees from being forced to pay dues to any labor organization.  Such laws are specifically authorized by Section 14 of the National Labor Relations Act, and 22 states have passed such laws.  A right to work law does not outlaw unions, and it does not outlaw collective bargaining agreements.  There are many unionized employers operating in right to work states.

Although the right to work law prevents unionzed employers from forcing their employees to pay dues to the union, employees of a union contractor (and merit shop contractors that want to perform work on PLA projects) are still required to work under terms and conditions exclusively negotiated by the union, and most employees of unionized contractors join the union due to peer pressure.

Under such conditions, a union-only PLA has been held not to violate a right to work law, so long as the contract does not require anyone to pay union dues as a condition of employment on a jobsite.  The contract can still legally (under labor laws) require employees to work under a union contract.  That is why we refer to it as union-only; the distinction has nothing to do with paying union dues or joining a union.

In non-right to work states, union-only PLAs can go further in that they can require employees not only to work under a union contract but also can require those employees to pay dues to a union while working on the project.  This is obviously even more onerous and coercive than PLAs in a right to work state, but in both cases, the PLA is “union-only” if employees are forced to work under union terms and conditions of employment.

So it is important to remember that even in right to work states PLAs cut competition and increase construction costs.

Fact: PLAs occur in right to work states

I predict that the VA Building Trades will intensify their corporate campaign against Dominion VA Power in the coming weeks.  We will monitor this story closely. 

Richmond Times-Dispatch Published: May 1, 2009

The people who build and repair Dominion Virginia Power plants are challenging the people who own them to hire more Virginia workers for the jobs.

A group of union workers handed out fliers as Dominion employees arrived for work yesterday at the electric utility’s headquarters at One James River Plaza on East Cary Street in downtown Richmond.

More than 50 workers participated, also handing out fliers in front of the Virginia Employment Commission’s headquarters, Dominion’s corporate offices on Tredegar Street and other downtown intersections.

“We just want our fair share of the work,” said James E. “Toney” Rigali, president of the Virginia State Building & Construction Trades Council.

Rigali, who estimates the council represents about 35,000 union-represented workers in a wide variety of crafts across the state, said the message is about Virginia workers, regardless of whether they belong to a union.

The members of the trades council also include elevator and sheet-metal workers, carpenters, electricians, boilermakers, bricklayers, plasterers and cement masons, millwrights, asbestos workers, operating engineers and laborers with Virginia licenses and, in many cases, state-certified training. They say too much work is going to out-of-state contractors at Dominion projects, including a new combined-cycle gas-fired power plant in Buckingham County and a coal-fired plant in Wise County.

However, the protesters offered no documentation of the practice, other than anecdotal evidence that many contract workers live in other states.

Dominion spokesman Karl R. Neddenien said the utility has hired more than 200 local residents for its Wise power plant, or about 40 percent of the project work force.

“Dominion Virginia Power actively works with our construction contractors to promote hiring local residents and make employment opportunities available to union craft workers,” Neddenien said.

“We also need to ensure that projects are completed on time and on budget to the benefit of our customers,” he added.

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